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Gear Post 2012: Zen Edition

Okay, okay, okay... I'll write the gear post before the year's over! One of the things that keeps me from writing all year is that it never really feels like the stuff in my pack has changed all that much. I switch one item at a time, never thinking I have much to write about. Then the end of the year comes, the citizenry demands a post, and I'm always surprised to see just how much has changed.

I called last year's gear post the Style Edition because although it was 100% functional, I also made a few choices to have slightly better looking clothing. That trend has continued a little bit this year, but I'm calling this one the Zen Edition because my already minimal packing list has become even shorter.

When I first started traveling, the minimalism aspect of it was pure coincidence. I had intended on buying a normal backpack, but Todd convinced me to go smaller. Our first 28L Deuter Futura backpacks seemed impossibly small at first, but after a year of learning what is and isn't necessary, space gradually opened up. My response was to fill it with new gadgets-- eventually I had a portable kettlebell, a full cot with silk sheets, and who knows what else.

As the years went on, Todd continued to get smaller backpacks, which influenced me to get smaller backpacks as well. I would always pack them completely full until recently. Last year I had some empty space, and now my pack is less than halfway full. If I could find a well organized and designed 12 liter pack, I would use it.

Part of the reason I have less stuff now is because technology keeps getting better. My laptop is tiny and light. The camera I have now couldn't exist five years ago when I started all this. Everything charges with the same cable. The other reason I've continued to reduce what I travel with, though, is because carry unnecessary items makes your trip worse. They weigh your pack down, clutter it up, and make it take longer to pack and unpack. The less I travel with, the better my experience is. At this point my pack weighs 10.7 pounds, which makes it trivial to carry it all day, even when climbing through the mountains.

Samsung Chromebook (Review)

On Huan M. Nguyen

I bought the Chromebook a couple weeks ago, not totally sure what to expect.

Chrome OS was a mystery, and it was a split between searching for a cheap Android tablet and buying this. Then, after doing some "research", which consisted of looking at reviews on Amazon and reading opinions about the Chromebook on reddit, it seemed an oft-repeated opinion was that the Chromebook made a great companion laptop, not a primary one, and especially so for students.

I'd also heard about its ability to enable speedy productivity and mobility, with blazing fast boot and shutdown times, as well as a great battery life. Swayed by that, I ordered it.

Hands down, the Chromebook has been the best tangible productivity booster for me.

Upon opening it, the first thing that caught my eye was how great the resolution is. It works extremely well for me. The battery life is enough I can charge it the night before, while I do work or hang out, and work a lot without needing an outlet the next day. The processing power is just enough to play Pandora (which I use to stream instrumental music to help studying) and do my online math without trouble, but it's too slow to handle Youtube and other things in parallel. This is great for keeping me from becoming distracted.

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