30 Days of Geek #11: Favourite hacking environment – music, light, seating, etc

I’ve decided to partake in Jethro Carr’s 30 Days of Geek challenge, so I’ll be writing a post a day on my geekiness for an entire month! You can find all the posts in one spot here.

First up, music. 99% of the time I have iTunes playing a random mix of songs from my collection. Around 60% of my collection is older stuff like Pink Floyd (the best band ever), The Beatles (the second best band ever) and Eric Clapton (he’s just this guy, you know?). The rest is made up of albums from the mid-90s onwards, most of which has been heard on Triple J at some point. The other 1% of the time I’m listening to Triple J itself via an Internet stream. Normally I just listen to it in the car.

As for lighting, I prefer the evening, but I’ll work during any sensible time of the day. There’s a particular time in the morning where the sun shines directly onto my face through the window when I’m sitting at my desk. This is when I have breakfast. My day is usually spent doing interesting stuff that doesn’t involve computers. The evening is when I get my geeking done.

As for the physical environment involving desks and chairs and beds (oh my!) I have two favourite spots:

My Desk
My Desk. Humble apologies for the awful photography.

The desk is from Officeworks, and is brilliant. The chair is a moderately comfortable loan (I’ve had it almost 18 months now though) from my father.

My Bed. "Lost Ears" is sitting comfortably.

This is where the thinking happens. My fountain pen and Moleskine notebook (I’m a brand whore) sit on the desk just to the right of the picture.

Ten Reasons I Like Writing With A Fountain Pen

  1. It’s shiny. Very shiny.
  2. The pen flows much more easily across the page. It just glides.
  3. You learn quickly not to chew on the end of it. Metal things are hard on the teeth.
  4. If you suck on the end, ink doesn’t go everywhere (though this is countered somewhat by the refilling process, which can cause ink to go all over your clothes if you do it wrong).
  5. There’s less waste. When the ink runs out, I can just refill it. All I have to buy is the ink, which comes in a glass bottle, which is recyclable. Beat that, ballpoint!
  6. It’ll last forever. It’s made of stainless steel and chrome. Unless I care for it very badly, it’ll outlast any other pen money can buy.
  7. It’s manly.
  8. It’s simple. I can understand all the parts. While I also understand all the parts in a computer and can tell you exactly what happens every time you hit a key on the keyboard, most people don’t. They could however have a good guess at how a fountain pen works (or a pencil, but hey, I don’t care about those).
  9. It impresses other people who like shiny things. I’m an egotistic bastard, and I like it when people are jealous of the things I have. A character flaw, but I don’t care.
  10. It just feels good.

The Hobart CBD’s Real Problems

At the moment there’s a bit of discussion floating around in the local papers and on the TV about the state of Hobart’s shopping precincts. In particular, a lot of focus has been on Hobart’s Elizabeth St. Mall, and the crime that happens there in broad daylight. Apparently this crime is killing off the CBD as shoppers are scared away. That’s only a small part of the problem. Here’s what’s really happening…

Firstly, the Internet. 10-15 years ago you needed to go into the CBD to do quite a few of the non-everyday purchases you made, such as stationery, clothing, books and jewellery. There were smaller shops in suburban shopping malls sure, but if you wanted something specific, into town it was. Now, these same purchases can be made online, saving the purchaser time and money. A few days ago I bought a new fountain pen online. I selected from an absolutely huge range (1000+ items), quite a few cheaper than retail price, and I didn’t have to leave home during the cold of winter. A few days later it arrived on my doorstep without any other effort on my part. Seeing as I would have had to do research online anyway, I saved quite a lot of time. There are maybe some things I wouldn’t buy online (such as formal clothing, which ideally would be tailored, and at the very least should be tried on before purchase), but for a lot of items, the Internet will do fine.

Secondly, getting into and out of the Hobart CBD is the pits. There are three main choices. First up is driving the car in. This is bad for the environment, for a start. More importantly however, in this case, parking is just annoying. There isn’t enough of it, most spots being taken by people who drive in for their nine to five jobs. Which leads me in to the second option: catching a bus. There are plenty of buses going along the main routes into the city, but relatively few anywhere else. From my house there are two buses heading into town, and both are before nine in the morning. Which makes shopping a bit inconvenient, seeing as the shops don’t open until nine. There aren’t any buses back again until after three in the afternoon. Metro Tasmania can’t really be blamed for this, as it’s a chicken and egg problem. They can’t put more buses on unless people are already using the ones they have. The only other option is riding a bike, which if you live on the Eastern Shore (as I do) is hampered by the Tasman Bridge, which was certainly not designed with cyclists in mind (I’ll admit I’m slightly uncoordinated, but coming away with flesh wounds is excessive). Hobart is also incredibly hilly. Basically, it’s easier to drive the car to somewhere where there’s lots of parking, which is where land is cheap, which is out near the airport. It’s not difficult logic.

Finally, as more shops keep closing, less people will want to come in to just browse. As there are less people browsing and buying, less shops will be able to sustain themselves. Evidence for this can be seen in the downturn in the CBD after half of the Myer building burnt down.

I love Hobart’s CBD, don’t get me wrong. But unless the Hobart City Council changes policies (which they are starting to wake up to) then there is nowhere to go but out… to the airport.