TITLE: At Least I'm Not Alone
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: January 12, 2012 3:38 PM
One of the things I love about reading professional
blogs and twitter feeds is reassuring myself that I am
not crazy in many of my compulsions and obsessions.
On the exercise bike yesterday morning, I read Matt
End artificial scarcities to increase productivity.
Many years ago I saw my colleague, friend, and hero
do something that I now do faithfully: always carry
with me a pad of paper, small enough to fit comfortably
in most any pocket, and a good pen. When your life is
writing code, writing lectures, writing blog entries,
you often want to write at the oddest of times. Now I
am always ready to jot down any idea that comes into my
head as soon as it does. I may throw it away later as
a hare-brained scheme, but I prefer that to losing an
idea for lack of a notepad.
Our house has pens, pencils, and usually paper in nearly
every room. I have them in every bag I carry an in most
coats I wear. The kind of pen matters some; I hate
splotching and bleeding through. I have a fondness for
a particular older model of Uniball pens, but I'm not
obsessed with them. I do have a box of them in my desk
at home, and every once in a while I'll pull one out to
replace a pen that has run dry. They feel right in my
Like Might, I have MacbookPro power adapters in every room
in which I work, as well as one in my travel bag. The
cost of having three or four adapters have been well worth
the peace of mind. I even have a back-up battery or two
on hand most of the time. (My Pro is one of the older ones
with the removable battery.) I like to have one each in my
home and school offices, where i do most of my work and from
which most excursions begin.
On the bike this morning, I read Rands in Repose's
bag pr0n essay
from last month. Loved it! Like Lopp and many other geeks,
I have at times obsessed over my bag. Back in high school
I carried an attache case my parents gave me for Christmas.
(Yes, I was that guy.) Since college and grad school, I've
gone through several styles of bag, including freebies given
out at conferences and a couple of nice ones my wife gave me
as gifts. A few have provided what I desire: compactness,
with a few compartments but not too many.
One of my favorites was from SIGCSE in the late 1990s. I
still have it, though it shows its age and wear. Another
is a bag I got at one of the PLoP conferences in the early
part of the previous decade. It was perfect for an iBook,
but is too small for my Pro. I still have it, too, waiting
for a time when it will fit my needs again. Both were
products of the days of really good conference swag. My
current bag is a simple leather case that my wife gave me.
It's been serving me well for a couple of years.
Each person has his or her particular point of obsession.
Mine is the way the shoulder strap attaches to the body of
bag. So many good bags have died too soon when the metallic
clasp holding strap to body broke, or the clasp worked loose,
or the fabric piece wore through.
Strange but true: One of my all time favorite bags was a $5
blue vinyl diaper bag that my wife bought at a garage sale
in the early 1990s. No one knew it was a diaper bag, or so
I think; at a glance it was rather inncouous. This bag was
especially useful at a time when I traveled a lot, attending
4-6 conferences a year and doing more personal travel than I
do these days. The changing pad served as a great
sleeve to protect my laptop (first a G3 clamshell, then
an iBook). The side compartments designed to hold two
baby bottles were great for bottles of water or soda.
This was especially handy for a long day flying -- back
when we could do such crazy things as carry drinks with
us. This bag also passed Rands' airport security line
test. It allowed for easy in-and-out of the laptop, and
then rolled nicely on its side for going through x-ray.
I still think about returning to this bag some day.
I'm sure that this sort of obsessiveness is a positive
trait for programmers. So many of us have it, it must be.