the journal


My First Journal

Filed Under entomology, graphic design, photography

Do you remember your first notebook?  The first time you kept a journal or diary? Notebookism.com asked their readers to share the roots of their obsession of notebooks.  This has inspired me to find my first notebook/journal and rediscover what interests I had when I was much younger.

It didn’t take long to find the dusty book and when I sat down and perused the pages, I was surprised to discover that many obsessions I have now took root in this 13-year-old journal:  astronomy, zoology, entomology, travel, exploration, art, to name a few.

I’d like to share a few pages and talk about them.


I bought this notebook from Barnes & Noble in the summer of 1995. I would have been 19 years old at the time. The bookplate in the rear of the book tells me that the type of notebook is a “Wire Bound” by Michael Roger Press, Inc. out of New York and it was printed in 1992.


I glued on a collapsible folder I’m pretty sure I designed and made myself to hold the newspaper clippings, postcards, letters, and other papers I thought might be interesting to hold on to.

The first entry, from August 8th, 1995, starts with:

As you can see, today I decided to start a diary or journal. I wanted to actually get onto paper my goals, plans, thoughts & feelings of archaeology and the role it will play (or how I would like it to play) in my life.

Although I didn’t finish my studies as an archaeologist, it did open the door to related fields I pursue today.


August 5th, 1995, I wrote:

I, Kolby Kirk, plan on being out of the Continental US by the summer of 1996. I will be able to send a postcard back to my parents showing that I am on an archaeological dig. Signed: Kolby Kirk

I eventually made it out of the country and visited an archaeological dig… in 2001.


In 1995, before the Internet and instant knowledge, I invented something I called the “VRchaeology”. According to the entry, it would be able to translate any language, “lost, dead, ect.”, with the help of video equipment and virtual reality. I based the prototype off of a Nintendo Gameboy. I wonder if the technology exists yet to make this thing?

The page on the right is a drawing of Mount Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD, an event that I read about at an early age and started my fascination with archaeology. I fulfilled my childhood dream of visiting the ruins of Pompeii and hiking to the top of the volcano in 2001.


The page above is a record of my first trip to Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It looks like the map on the right page is of the museum’s multi-building campus, and the map on the left is of the Egyptian exhibit on display there at the time (November, 1995).


I wrote very neat and small at nineteen years old. If you’ve seen any of my more recent journals, you can see that I still write this small (but probably not as neat).


I obsessively collected National Geographic Magazines in my late teens and early 20s, which I’ve talked about here on this blog before. I wrote about my bookstore discoveries like I just found some ancient artifact in the jungles of Peru. My obsession with the magazine peaked around 1997, when I owned all but sixteen issues from 1913 to 1997. Now I just own a few shelves of just the oldest ones, but I still subscribe to the magazine’s sister publications (NG Traveler Magazine, NG Adventure Magazine).


To help figure out how rare a National Geographic Magazine was, I graphed out the number of NGS members. Looks like I made a graph with Microsoft Excel for Windows 95. I was such a geek! Wait – I still am, but the only difference is now I get paid to graph out stuff in Excel.


The history of National Geographic maps during World War II in one page. Looking at the size of that writing, I could have made some money writing people’s names on grains of rice.


I’m surprised to discover in this journal that I followed the war in Bosnia pretty closely. Here, on the right, is a sketch of the Dayton Peace Agreement signing, ending the three year war in Eastern Europe. I did a quick search and found the photograph I used for the sketch.


On the left, a newspaper cutout from November, 1995 of the estimated number of Bosnian refugees per 100,000 population in Europe. According to the map, there’s over 500 in Sweden, more than any other European country. I commented, “Only one thing I want to know: WHAT’S IN SWEDEN!?” I have since visited Bosnia and I’m sure one day I’ll see what’s in Sweden.

The left shows a representation of how much potable water there is in the world based on a fact in National Geographic Magazine: “If all Earth’s water fit in a gallon jug, available fresh water would equal just over a tablespoon.


I loved bugs all my life, it seems. Here on the left, in December of 1995, I drew a cicada and a Jerusalem cricket I had found on an archaeological dig. (More on this over at my other site, bugshutterbug.com.)

On the left is a sketch of Mount Pinatubo erupting in The Philippines. It had erupted in June of that year. A few facts I wrote down about the eruption:

  • It was one hundred times more powerful than the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in 1980.
  • Typhoon Yunya was just starting to hit the island at the same time.
  • The release of the volcano will lower the temperature of the earth one degree for the next five years.
  • It was so big, it created its own weather, including lightning.
  • 1.4 million people were dispursed, 50,000 homeless, 560,000 jobless, and 900 dead.


A page dedicated to the Galileo spacecraft, which had arrived at Jupiter in December, 1995, completing it’s 6-year journey. According to Wikipedia, it lived another seven years orbiting the planet.


On the left, a drawing of an ad for a National Geographic television special on sharks. I wonder, what year did Discovery’s “Shark Week” begin? On the right, an entry on the “weather weirdness” that occurred that January (1996). Apparently, it was unusually warm in Los Angeles while New York was experiencing “the worst storm of the century.”


I met a family from Perth in late 1996, starting an interest in the eastern Australian city. On the left is a map of the city I drew, most likely based off of a map produced by the National Geographic Society. (This was still a time before the Internet). On the right is a something I drew based off of a Fox Trot comic strip. I looked forward to reading Fox Trot when I read the newspaper. I think I drew this based on the recent news that the comic’s creator, Bill Amend, was retiring.


An ode to Stonehenge. I don’t know how I had the patience or the skill to draw everything on this page in negative with permanent marker.


Speaking of things that I did for fun that I’m now being paid to do: here’s a map of the languages in the Caucasus Region (Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Chechnia, Azerbaijan). I’m creating a similar map for a project I’m working on today!


4-year-old Sonam Wangdu recognized by the Tibetan Buddhists as the Reincarnation of Lama Deshung Rinpoche III, a beloved scholar and teacher, who died here (in Seattle, WA) in 1987 at the age of 81. Before he died, Deshung told two students he would be reborn in Seattle. And on November 12, 1991, according to dreams and other auspicious signs, he was. The boy was born as Sonam Wangdu to an American mother and Tibetan father. He leaves for the Tharlam Monastery near Kathmandu, Nepal, for a life of celibacy and study.


I remember my Mom let me stay home to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. It was so devastating to see, on live television, the explosion of the shuttle and the deaths of seven astronauts. On this page, I drew the sequence of events leading up to the tragic event.


Giant Squids! Still a major fascination of mine. There such mysterious creatures. If something so large could “hide” from scientists for this long, imagine what other creatures are out there that has yet to cross paths with humans?


During the summer of 1996, I taught archaeology and astronomy to children at a YMCA camp in the local mountains. The idea of teaching astronomy came in a pow-wow meeting earlier in the year, but little did I know at the time that I’d be the one teaching it. I knew nothing about astronomy beyond the introductory class I took in college, but soon I could spend an hour pointing out constellations and telling stories of their name’s origins. I still love sitting out under the stars any chance I can get. Even though some of the names and stories have slipped from memory, the vastness of the sky is awesome to look upon.


On the left here is a map of the camp I worked at. This was the summer of Comet Hale-Bopp, the most famous comet since Haley in 1983. I was lucky enough to live in an area without light pollution, allowing us to see the fuzzy comet (with the help of a telescope).


My first night at camp and I was almost attacked by a mother raccoon protecting its four kits (babies). They had broke into the cabin where I was sleeping on the living room couch. I woke up to see the big mama staring me down just 2 feet from my face. I fell in love with the Great Outdoors that night.


More astronomy-related entries during that great summer living in the mountains.


A page spread dedicated to meteors and the damage they cause when they strike earth. There’s nothing like learning to appreciate life by scaring the bejesus out of kids with stories of mass destruction and possible human extinction.


Sunday, September 1st, 1996: A journal entry dedicated to the recent eruption of the twin volcanoes, Vulcan and Tavurvur, in the South Pacific.


Sunday, September 2nd, 1996: A journal entry dedicated to “space weather”, which some believe caused the blackout of 1996.


Sunday, September 3rd, 1996: A journal entry dedicated to Easter Island and its mysterious statues.


Some information on the volcanic activity in Yellowstone National Park.


Have you ever heard of the stratosphere balloon called The Explorer? If not, you should read about it in the October 1934 issue of National Geographic. If you don’t happen to have that issue laying around, take a look around the web for more details. It’s really fascinating stuff! I thought so and it inspired me to draw this picture.

Also drawn based on a National Geographic story is the tarantula. (More on this over at my other site, bugshutterbug.com.)


I got to witness a lunar eclipse while living in Irivine, CA. This spread records my viewing of the phenomenon. I still take time to watch lunar eclipses, but now I usually record the event with my camera rather than with a notebook.


In the Autumn of 1996, I worked as a security guard at a computer chip company in Tustin, California. Across the street from the company’s campus was a large field where hawks would sit atop light poles or trees, intently watching the strawberry fields for prey. I was fascinated with these intelligent birds and their amazing eyesight and spent many days at work watching them survey the ground or soaring gracefully over the land, occasionally picking off rabbits and mice with their sharp talons. In this entry, I write how I rollerbladed to this field and watched the hawks armed with binoculars and a disposable camera (my camera of choice for many years). Although I didn’t write about it here, reading the entry brings back a thought I had about the future of the birds. I wondered how long they would be winged kings of this large swath of land before the city covered it with more buildings. I haven’t been back to Tustin for many years, but I do think these strawberry fields have been replaced by buildings. I wonder if the hawks have adapted to the change or have they moved away. On the map above, I highlighted in blue the range of the hawks, according to my observations.


When the English Patient came out in November of 1996, it quickly became my favorite movie of all time. I ended up seeing it over six times in the theater, read the book, met the author, and owned it on VHS and DVD. I saw it recently and it still holds up as a great film about archaeology, geography, romance and adventure. I still listen to the soundtrack from time to time on my iPod.


I walked into an old wooden bench and was impaled by the largest sliver I’ve ever received. It took thirty minutes for a nurse to remove it. She showed no mercy in doing so. I don’t know if I had intentionally taped up the actual sliver on the same spread as a photo of a rhinoceros, but the coincidence is humorous.


Photos from my days as an archaeologist. Again my camera of choice is a disposable Kodak camera. I didn’t start using a “real” camera until 2001 and purchased my first SLR in 2006.


The collapsible pocket I attached to the back of the journal has an eerie resemblance to the (much smaller) pocket found on Moleskine journals. Maybe that’s a subliminal reason why the notebooks became a journal of choice since 2004?

To see more scanned pages, head on over to my other site, bugshutterbug.com.

  • http://sowritealready.blogspot.com paperback writer

    :) It’s always fun to see the first journal/diary that we ever wrote in. Mine was an ultra girly diary with a lock. I believe by the time I reached 19 – a few months after you, I was on my…sixteenth? Anyway, I will have to stroll over to Notebookism.com.

  • Nancy Patterson

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful pages!

  • Laura

    Gosh! You were much more ambitious than I was at 19. At 19 I was just praying to finish college with repectable grades and a decent degree. You started a journal at 19? If I hadn't started mine at such a young age (9) I don't think I would have been able to start one at all. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.daveterry.net dave

    This is absolutely awesome. Thanks.

  • http://www.artyvelarde.blogspot.com Lydia

    thank you for sharing your book. The pages are a treasure

  • MikeM

    An inspiring entry. Thanks. A couple of questions: 1) Can you comment on how long you spend on an entry? Some of those drawings are so awesome, you must spend a lot of time finishing them? 2) How do you “use” these journals now? Presumably they are not just curiosities of a time and place in the past, so how reelvant are they to you today, so, how do you use them?

  • kahunna

    Hi MikeM,

    Thanks for the note. It's been over 15 years since I last wrote in the journal, so my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember spending quite some time on each entry, especially if I added artwork. Most of the drawings were based on some newspaper or magazine article that piqued my interest, usually the drawing was a copy of the diagrams or photos in the article, so I can't say I used much creativity. How do I use the journals now? Mainly as a way of peering back into my life and the interests I had. Until I was curious about it, the book has been stored away, but never too deep in case I'm ever in the mood to skim through it. I find more relavance in my travel journals (found at kahunna.net, if you're interested). Those journals are more about who I am at the moment while this journal tended to record what I hoped to be. I'm happy to know that some hopes recorded in this first journal became realities in my life and recorded “for real” in my travel journals.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane Linda Lane

    The Sonam Wangdu you found on Flickr is not Dezhung Rinpoche. Dezhung Rinpoche IV is a student at Sakya College. This Sonam Wangdu is a Chinese initiate at Tharlam Monastery in Boudha, Kathmandu, which is owned by Dezhung Rinpoche. Might be a good idea to remove the link or clarify it. Thank you,
    -Linda Lane

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane Linda Lane

    The Sonam Wangdu you found on Flickr is not Dezhung Rinpoche. Dezhung Rinpoche IV is a student at Sakya College. This Sonam Wangdu is a Chinese initiate at Tharlam Monastery in Boudha, Kathmandu, which is owned by Dezhung Rinpoche. Might be a good idea to remove the link or clarify it. Thank you,
    -Linda Lane

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  • http://www.articlesbase.com/travel-articles/teaching-english-in-taiwan-experience-life-in-taiwan-as-an-english-teacher-1423243.html Teaching English in Taiwan

    Nice one. I have stumbled and twittered this for my friends. Others no doubt will like it like I did.

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