I found this dollar bill outside Hicks Hall the other day. It’s special to me for reasons I won’t go into here; suffice to say that I singled it out from the endless, anonymous flow of our monetary system (or at least that system’s material tags) as meaningful and worthy of preservation — whatever preservation might mean in the digital era. Just as some business owners frame the first payment they received, public sign of their humble beginnings, I post today’s image to mark my own new start.
Or who knows: maybe I am part of the the anonymous flow and this singular object, stamped as it is with its own serial number, chose me.
Behold the newest addition to my little grove of devices: a fifth-generation 32GB iPod Touch. Its aluminum back is a sweet matte blue, if you’re wondering, but I’ve also encased it in a silicone sleeve to protect its wafer-thin body from damage. Oh, who am I kidding: the case is there to protect me, to numb my awareness of the new toy’s ephemerality, for that’s what you get with the latest, smartest gadgets, like a warranty you have no choice but to accept: its precise fit to the niche of today’s needs means that tomorrow (which of course might be weeks, months, or we hope years away) it will be gone. Mayfly tech. But I’ll take those odds, and try not to feel ridiculous about the way my devices are multiplying into a swarm (I believe “ecosystem” is the trendier, more palatable term) whose numbers are less about the complexity of my workflow than about how pampered I have become. I still try, desperately, to iron out every crease and complication that would give me an excuse not to write; in the early 1990s that quest took the form of splurging on a Mac Classic because I liked the way it let me make folders for everything, and now, twenty years later (still beholden to that great brand-god Apple) it takes the form of an iPad 2, an iPad Mini, the new iPod Touch, and a MacBook Air, across which flow the synchronized data of notes, snippets, links, captures, and documents that collectively constitute my “research.” The Touch fills a specific and slender slot in that system, an additional node for Evernote entries and podcast playings, that I hope will make my life perfect. I learned a long time ago that such perfection is an illusory horizon, but that turned out to be only half the lesson. What I’ve figured out more recently — helped along by mayfly technology — is that you even when you know you’ll never reach perfection, you must keep plugging away at it.
Inspired slash horrified by reports such as this, I’m experimenting with a new system of standing while working — in fact, I’m going the whole hog, marching in place around my office and doing a weird constrained form of jumping jacks that I believe I learned from Dr. Smith on Lost in Space. It’s doing wonders for my back, which last semester was sometimes so crimped after a day of hunching at my desk I couldn’t stand up straight; pain multiplied by the occasional task of shoveling snow off our driveway, and there ware days I was basically confined to couch or bed. Anyway, here’s my makeshift workstation on campus, perched on a filing cabinet at just about the right height to keep my spine in line. Close-eyed observers might note the bottle of soy sauce with which I spike my spartan tuna-and-lettuce salads; the biography of Marvel Comics I’m currently reading (and the related blog-post-in-progress on my MacBook Air); the grad-school diplomas I haven’t gotten around to hanging even though I earned my Ph.D in 2006 and am now a tenured associate professor; the hat that will keep my poor ears warm when I leave the office in a few minutes; and, tinily, my wedding ring, which I tend to take off before doing any substantial typing.