This week I have mostly been dissertating and engaging in social activism. I might have reason to get into the latter in more detail, but perhaps not yet.
I have also been shopping, however -- well, I purchased two things that have made my week.
The first was a Possum umbrella. I have a fraught relationship with umbrellas, as I am prone to abandoning them on the bus after setting them on the floor; and umbrellas are likewise prone to betraying me by turning inside out or simply snapping a rib or two at slight provocation. The fact that I am in the habit of buying cheap umbrellas does not help, so the abandonment and betrayal is an endless vicious cycle.
Possum's design is brilliant in that the umbrella comes contained in a small zipper pouch. Lots of umbrellas do, of course -- but this pouch, after you take the umbrella out, also contains a small canvas tote -- dimensions about 10" x 10". The zipper part, which is still its own pocket, and which can be closed, is at the bottom of the pouch.
This means that when I'm running errands in the rain, I can unzip the umbrella, and then, as I go into buildings or onto the bus, collapse it and stow it in the tote bag, which stays safely on my shoulder.
I can also stick 4 or 5 books in the tote, and zip the umbrella into the bottom, and trundle off to the coffee shop, safe in case of rain. (But this is only a good solution when I'm only going to one destination; otherwise I might be in a situation where the tote bag was the only carrier for both the books and the wet umbrella.)
I'm extraordinarily pleased. I've also tested the umbrella in a storm with 36 mph gusts, and though it reversed a couple of times, it snapped back just as quickly, and apparently with no damage.
Most people wouldn't think of the future as heralded by an umbrella that's harder to lose. I do.
The other purchase was a Livescribe Echo Smartpen. I'd heard of smartpens before, but somehow I imagined that they were strictly smart because they had a convenient tiny recorder in the head of the pen. Only in the last week have I found out more about what they can do, specifically that they allow your handwriting to be easily digitized, and with an additional application, transcribed into plain text.
I don't think I've written here about my ongoing dilemma regarding iPhone vs. iPad, and which one will meet my needs better. I won't go into that, because it's mostly personal minutia, but one of the issues that's kept me off the iPad bandwagon is that I think best by writing in longhand. On paper. Ideally with BIC mechanical pencils, but pens will work -- the important thing is the feel of the paper, as opposed to a stylus on a flat screen. I've thought about whether it might be possible to become comfortable thinking through typing with my fingers on the iPad screen, but I'm not certain, and one of the major issues that's bugged me in regards to the iPad is that I'm worried that I still won't be able to think as clearly typing on it as I can when I write things out.
I write things out all the time, hence the massive stacks of paper that make up each dissertation chapter, and through which I often scrabble, searching for the paper on which I made notes on any given date. It's not entirely messy, because I can almost always remember the color of the ink, the style of script I was using -- but it's not especially efficient, either. And if I want to do something with the notes, then I have to type them into the computer. Sometimes that creates an opportunity for revision, but often, it just adds a delay that I don't especially appreciate.
And yet, though I've adapted tremendously to the net in so many ways, I've never stopped feeling like I can think better through writing things down than I can by typing them. I spent most of today being increasingly frustrated, feeling like my argument was unraveling as I tried to integrate ideas from Jameson's Political Unconscious into it. It took less than 30 minutes of working with the smartpen to regain my footing.
I'm annoyed that the transcription application is separate rather than being included, and I would love it if the pens were rollerball, rather than ballpoint, but that doesn't dampen my enthusiasm in the least. This solves all sorts of problems, not least making it easier for me to go off to the coffee shop without taking my laptop and the temptation of the whole internet in large screen format with me.