My time in the USA: Intro

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You probably noticed that compared to my usual average, I haven’t written much lately. One of the simplest reason why this happened is that I don’t have that much time, but add to that the fact that I’m spending all my day on this computer in this office, and you can guess I don’t want to spend more to write. As I think I said before, I’m planning on getting a new ultrabook so I can write from one of the parks or from the Starbucks downstairs, that should make it easier.

In the mean time, in what little spare time I have, I’ll be writing a bit about what my experience in the USA has been this year. I have, after all, spent most of my year here, even though I went back to Italy for a while, and spent some time in Brussels (FOSDEM), Paris (VDD, FOMS and post) and London (just sheer pleasure). But is it that important for me to write about this? That’s what I was asking myself for a while, and why I haven’t done this before.

Well, I asked that on Twitter last night and a few people seemed interested in hearing from me what it’s like to be here, so I guess I might as well start writing. There are so many topics on this that it’ll actually be a series of posts, thus why I start with this short introduction. The posts will appear under my Personal category, which is set to syndicate over Gentoo Universe only. If you’re reading my blog not from any Planet, but with a direct feed subscription, and you’d prefer not reading about this at all, you can change your subscription to the technical feed and you won’t be bothered.

Now, even though I’m not having the most outgoing lifestyle, so I can’t say I’m enjoying everything that Hermosa Beach has to offer, I have to say that there are many things, big and small, that are markedly different from living in the suburbs around Venice, Italy… so there should be plenty for me to write about in the next weeks.

Time-friendly gadgets and souvenirs

With about four different jobs at my hands right now, my free time tends to be quite limited. Since it is free time that I employ to keep my mental sanity (a difficult task since I’m having more trouble at home than you might dream in a bad nightmare), work on Gentoo packages that I’m not paid to work on, and finally take care of housekeeping, the more free time I have the better.

Of the three main activities, the one that I’d like to cut shorter is definitely housekeeping; even more so since I’m hoping to get a real office before the summer heat becomes unbearable for me and the boxes, in which case I’d be needing to increase the slots given to housekeeping (or is it officekeeping then?). So, how do you reduce the time spent in this activity without having to pay someone else to do it (which is something that I’ll probably do for the office, at some point)?

Simple: you start by cutting down the amount of gadgetry, souvenirs, and general ornaments you have laying around, and replacing them with something more time friendly, to begin with. Especially where computers and electronics are involved, the most time-expensive task you have to deal with is, in my opinion, dusting. Ornaments waste even more of your time by both obstructing the surfaces to dust, and requiring you to dust them properly.

Unfortunately, even though this is not news to me, the task is made more difficult by two issues: the first is that I’m weak and last year, visiting fairs, I bought a “few” action figures (mostly from Monster Hunter games; the second is that my whole family doesn’t seem to like the idea of not having ornaments, and not buying ornaments as souvenirs and presents in general. To the point that I have a whole drawer in my bedroom that is full of souvenirs, most of which I was given by my sister each time she visited Italy or Europe.

While ornaments and souvenirs tend to be generally pointless and just waste of space and time, I reckon that most people, me included, like having a memento of their travels, and give one to their friends and family. At the same time, I like the idea of seeing around me items that link to things I like, such as games and comics. With all this considered, I started forming an opinion about what, as the post’s title already gives away, is a time friendly gadget. There are indeed a few, and they usually are quite good alternatives.

Clothing is probably the most important, time-friendly gadget. But not in the form of things so silly you’d never wear them. But for instance T-shirts, even silly ones, are usually just fine to receive (as long as they are the right size), especially if you are geek enough to consider them a distinction badge, like Adam Savage in Mythbusters. I have followed a similar approach when I visited London a couple of years ago; my main memento of that travel? A flat cap which looks definitely British, but which I use daily when the weather is rainy — but I guess I’m not part of the norm given I also wear a fedora during winter, and lighter hats during summer. And before somebody asks, I’ve been doing that since before watching Mythbusters; it’s a passion I got from my maternal grandfather.

Cups are also a great gadget and souvenir, even though from time to time they are hard to take home, since they are fragile. Not only I’m very happy having bought an FSFE cup (which is featured in an old article of mine iconic as it feels to me) the one time I went to FOSDEM. Mostly because, even though my mother keeps complaining we got too many of them, they never go to waste: at some point you either break some or they get too ruined to use daily… then you just take a few new ones and you’re set. Furthermore, I wouldn’t mind a few more cups nowadays since I’ll have to bring some with me in my office, reducing the availability in house. Which is why I added to Amazon’s Universal Wishlist a cup from The Oatmeal’s Bobcats (might not be entirely safe for work, depending on which side of the pond you live, I guess).

Depending on the final destination of souvenirs, food is also often good enough: tea from London, spices from Turin, and my sister got me (dark) chocolate from the mountains last time she went there on vacation. While it might not be a lasting memory, at least it would be enjoyed, and once all of it is eaten, there is nothing left taking up space and requiring time to clean. Unfortunately there are still issues, as not everybody has the same tastes, and at the same time, enough people, me included, can’t tolerate certain food.

The final nail in the coffin for the problem, at least for me, is prints: you just need some glass to gold them on, and you’re set: they take very little space on a wall, they can be cleaned pretty quickly, and even if you need to store them you don’t have to take care not to break them as much as many other trinkets.

What surprises me, though, is that in the era of digital distribution, I can only buy prints in dead-tree form: no webcomic I follow and care of seem to sell high-resolution images to be printed, probably to avoid somebody to sell rip-offs… on the other hand, I wouldn’t mind having the print even if it had my name all over it (maybe I’d actually like it better that way!). Of course you’d then have to find some way to print the high-resolution image, but luckily, one of my customers is actually a print shop so I wouldn’t have trouble there.