On occasion, the ProfHacker contributors collaborate on posts ranging from professional advice and software tips to…some that are a little more fun than that. Take, for instance, last year’s Holiday Gift Guide. In that post, each of us listed three or four items we thought would make nifty gifts for others (or for ourselves, even).
Now that summer is winding down and most of us are heading back to school very soon, it’s time for another fun collaborative post, one that discusses the five things that helped us survive summer. While it’s perhaps a little late for you to make use of these things during the summer, we think that there’s a good chance they could prove useful in the fall as well. And if not? Well, summer is only 10 months away!
We hope that you enjoy this post as much as we enjoyed putting it together; this post more than any other gives you a clear sense of our individual personalities. Also, where else are you going to read about HeadBlade HeadLube SPF 30, World Cup soccer, Old Navy, and smartphones all in the same post? We also hope you’ll let us know your indispensible summer items in the comments.
Not surprisingly, two of my items are things that helped keep me connected and productive. The other three fall into the “little things that make life more pleasant” category.
- A smartphone: In my case, this means an Android phone. It was a godsend to me when I was on vacation and really didn’t want to lug my laptop along, but had to be in touch for a few things. It’s not all about work, though. The phone also lets me keep up with the Twins for relatively little money. (Seriously, I live in baseball wasteland. The local newscasters seem to think that the only major league teams that exist are the White Sox, the Cubs, and the Tigers.)
- Sandals: I’m not kidding. In the heat and humidity of a midwestern summer, socks are evil, except when needed in running shoes.
- A water bottle: This is admittedly a simple thing, but I tend not to drink enough water if I have to go down to the kitchen and get a glass. And if you’re going to run in the aforementioned heat and humidity…
- Twitter: It’s been a great way for me not only to keep up with people, but also to collect links that may be useful later (I use the favorite feature like a bookmarking system, and clean it out periodically).
- Starbucks: Though I enjoy the local shop as much as the next person, here I mean the coffee itself, which I brew at home. I’m really not a morning person, and the caffeine boost from a cup of really good coffee as I take a bit of quiet time in the mornings gets the day off to a more pleasant start.
An overarching theme for me this summer has been health. OK, health and creativity/productivity. Without the health, the creative/productive side of me wouldn’t have accomplished very much.
- Air Conditioning, Zyrtec and Sunscreen: Living in the heat and humidity of South Texas? Enough said. Zyrtec is the most effective at alleviating the intense allergy symptoms I’ve acquired. I can now go outside without sneezing and wheezing. I added the sunscreen in this category because it is, well, South Texas. No sunscreen? Burned and crispy skin.
- Smartphone: I’ve really appreciated my Android this summer. Along with Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook, I’ve found applications that aid in my productivity (Book Catalogue, ScantoPDF/Mobile app, Documents to Go app, etc.). I’ve also found applications that allow me to have a little fun when I find extra time on my hands (Mahjongg, the Vignette Camera App, the Kindle Reader for the Android).
- My Camera, the Nikon D-90: I love(d) my camera, and since I had some time this summer, I photographed the geography of South Texas, particularly the Gulf Coast. I enjoyed the creative outlet the camera provided. However, after the great Nikon Disaster of 2010 (the one in which I dropped the camera on the concrete and broke both the camera body and the lens), I couldn’t have survived without music (Sirius radio and my iPod).
- 750words.com: I wrote about this tool a few months ago, and using it has helped me get into the habit of writing daily. I don’t always meet this goal, but I strive for it.
- Sonic Drive-In: I love their Diet Cherry Limeades and the fact that Sonic has a happy hour (2:00 to 5:00 each day), drinks are half-price. For the win! Caveat: go to their website at your own risk, as they have a “see yourself at Sonic” campaign in progress. It’s a little scary.
- The World Cup: I’m not a huge sports fan. But once every four years, I’m glued to the Internet (and occasionally television) for a month’s worth of amazing soccer. And the fact that The Netherlands—where my wife and I each lived for a few years and met—made it to the finals made it that much sweeter. Of the final itself, we shall not speak. Instead, let’s just remember the vuvuzela.
- My iPad: I’ve only been using my iPad for about a month, so I’m not sure if I should be as enthusiastic about it as I am. That being said, I’m smitten. Reading long files on it is a breeze, despite my worries about its not having e-ink. There are at least five apps I can’t live without, and I’ve even become pretty fast at typing on it. Lastly, it’s just fun to use: I even forget how miserable a 20-minute trip on a park-and-ride shuttle with no air conditioning is in Atlanta.
- Digital Humanities Conferences: I attended my second THATCamp in May (and wrote about it here!), and as was the case last year, this 36-hour conference gave me a chance to get new ideas about teaching and research and meet several colleagues that I had only known previously via Twitter. (We love Twitter, yes we do!) Two days later, I was up to my eyeballs in fascinating projects at University of Virginia’s NEH-sponsored Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship. Three more days of great conversation and hands-on work later, my scholarly batteries were completely recharged.
- Google Docs: With my batteries recharged, I tackled a collaborative writing project with a friend and colleague. While we had originally begun work using Dropbox as a base, our need to work simultaneously on the pieces of the project had us shifting to Google Docs. The new, see-while-your-collaborators-type and improved comments update that Julie discussed in May made our work feel much more effortless than it would have otherwise done.
- The YMCA: Five and a half years ago, my wife dragged me into our local YMCA to get a membership. I thought I was too busy to work out, as I was studying for oral exams. I quickly discovered, however, that regular exercise was really important for my thinking. My commute and teaching load made it difficult this year to be as regular as I like to be with my workouts; but with the summer, I’ve been able to get in as often as I’d like (and need). The community of people at the Y is just a bonus to how good I feel after working out.
- iRain Laptop stand: Summer is my time to write, so I love this laptop stand (which I am using right now!). Unlike most laptop stands, this one is convertible: it works as a lapdesk as well as on an office desk, kitchen counter, or surface. No more overheated lap and no more computer fan in overdrive!
- BullFrog SPF 30 with Insect Repellent: Both sunscreen and insect repellent belong on my list, and this product combines them both. I live in the South, and the mosquitoes are especially plentiful this year, so spending much time outside without some kind of insect repellent is not an option. Plus, I try to wear sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher every day.
- MBT shoes: As I mentioned in Thank Goodness For Walking My Dog, I go for a 45-60 minute walk just about every day with my dog (who might also belong on this list save for the fact that I can’t bring myself to call her a “thing”). I started wearing MBTs this spring, and they’ve made a world of difference in my walking. They were rather expensive, but they were worth it. Not only do I get better exercise when I wear them, but they have also led to a marked decrease in lower back pain and better overall posture. I am kind of dreading going back to wearing work shoes in the fall.
- BlackBerry Pearl: I think I’m the sole BlackBerrying ProfHacker. I don’t have a fancy model (though I am awaiting the new designs with bated breath!); I have a starter smartphone largely because at the time I didn’t want to spend a small fortune on the hardware. What is most important to me is the ability to check my email and a few basic applications like BerryWeather, Viigo, and UberTwitter. I like having a keyboard with actual buttons (I really can’t stand typing on a touch screen), and I especially like being able to check my campus email without having to log in to Microsoft Exchange. The Pearl is fine for these functions.
- LaCroix Sparkling Water: I drink a lot of sparkling water. I used to drink a lot of diet soft drinks (especially Diet Coke), but I gave them up last fall after reading several articles on various health sites. I drink plenty of “regular” water too, but LaCroix is a nice way to jazz things up a bit without artificial sweeteners or other additives.
- A Department Change (and the People Who Made it Happen): Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I was offered the opportunity to trade in my rather complicated appointment at MSU (the Department of Telecom, Information Studies, and Media owning 25% of me, The Department of History owning 75% of me, and living at MATRIX: The Center for the Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online) for something a little less complicated (and a hell of a lot rewarding for me personally). As of August 15th, I moved over 100% to the Department of Anthropology. In addition, I became the new Associate Director of MATRIX. I won’t go into the details as to why and how this happened (you can read about that here). The long and short of it is that this change is wonderful for me. Just the thought of it kept me going through the summer. Just as important as the change itself were the people who facilitated it—three people in particular. First was Dr. Lynne Goldstein (Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Campus Archaeology Program). In the grand scheme of things, Lynne was the one who made this happen. She saw value in what I do, and championed my move both at the department level and the college level. The second person was Dr. Jodie O’Gorman (Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chairperson of the Department of Anthropology). Like Lynne, Jodie saw value in what I do, and made sure the move happened (and sweetened the move with a radically reduced teaching load and extra resources to pursue some projects I hadn’t had the opportunity to do previously). The third person who bears mentioning is Dr. Dean Rehberger (Director of MATRIX and Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Culture) who was the one who offered me the Associate Directorship of MATRIX. Working with Dean is great (except when he’s regaling us with stories about pole vaulting, that is).
- Steam for Mac: While I’m not nearly as much of a gamer as I used to be (just don’t have the time), I still play a fair amount. I’m not much of a PC gamer any more (partially because I’m completely a Mac guy now—and Apple is not really known for game computers—and partially because I don’t have the time, energy, or funds to keep up with the tiring and expensive cycle of PC gaming hardware upgrades). My primary gaming platform is my Xbox 360. However, the summer saw a return to PC gaming for me. Valve released Steam for Mac, which made me really really happy. Now I can take a short break from working while in my office and play a round of Team Fortress 2 to blow off a little steam (get it, steam…har har).
- Summer Science Fiction on TV: I’m a science fiction junky. Novels, movies, games, television, you name it—my first genre choice is always science fiction. The summers are always a good time for me as the SyFy channel (formally the SciFi channel) runs its summer schedule. This means the return of two of my current favorite sci fi shows: Eureka and Warehouse 13. Both shows are wonderfully written, with great characters, actors, and stories. The SyFy Channel also premiered a new show this summer: Haven. I’m enjoying the show quite a bit (helped along by the fact that its filmed in one of my favorite places on earth, Lunenburg). Beyond SyFy Channel programming, the return of Doctor Who (with the premiere of the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, who I’ve generally enjoyed) was great. I’m a Doctor Who fan from way back (I’ve been watching the show for a little more than 25 years), so the start of the new series brought me great joy.
- Wednesday Comics: Anyone who knows me (even remotely) knows that I’m a huge comic nerd. The Wednesday trip to my local comic shop (21st Century Comics and Games) is always a highlight of my week (especially during the summer). For me it’s not just about the comics, it’s also about heading into the store and hanging out a bit with the people who work and shop there—nerding out about every comic related topic under the sun. This is especially so in the summer when I generally have a slightly more flexible schedule in which to do the aforementioned nerding out.
- My iPad: I’ve already written a fair amount about my recent purchase of an iPad on ProfHacker. However, this summer it served me another way. You see, myself and my family took a rather lengthy road trip, driving from Michigan to Saskatchewan and back. All told, we ended up driving about 2800 miles. The iPad played an indispensible role in keeping my 7 year old son entertained. I loaded up a bunch of movies and episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (yes, he’s a Star Wars fanatic…c’mon, what 7 year old boy isn’t), and he was a happy camper. And you know when Apple says the iPad has a 10 hour battery life? They really mean it.
- Collaboration: Summer can be a time when the 9-month camaraderie of working with others on campus turns into a somewhat isolated 3-month stretch of research and writing. I’m grateful for the opportunity to collaborate over the last several months with a diverse array of people on both ProfHacker and BrailleSC.org. Collaboration boosts my enthusiasm and my momentum.
- My neighbors: Luckily, I live in a neighborhood that’s both quirky and homey. People actually know each others’ names, and it’s not too hard to find something interesting to do on a summer night either on somebody’s front porch or downtown (which just happens to be within walking distance).
- Music: I had the opportunity to see a few good live shows this summer, and I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of new releases from Band of Horses, Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse, Local Natives, Macy Gray, and the National. (Yes, I know: “One of these things is not like the other…”)
- Streaming online video: Netflix and Hulu. ‘Nuf said.
- My pocket camcorder: To capture interviews with various people for BrailleSC.org, the Kodak Zi8 Pocket Video Camera is just about the perfect tool. It’s easy to set up, so I don’t have to waste time assembling parts, plugs, and cables. It records HD video direct to an SD card, allowing me to quickly transfer high-quality video onto my laptop (which has an SD card slot on the side) for editing. With a jack for an external microphone, the audio quality ends up being much better than if I were to use a pocket camcorder with only a built-in mic. And, finally, because it’s so small and unobtrusive, people are not as self-conscious in talking with me as they have been when I’ve used much larger cameras.
There’s an underlying theme for me here: these five things were invaluable as I moved to a different region of the country, started a new position, and traveled a lot.
- GPS: Our GPS has been invaluable for helping us get around while we were house hunting and learning our new area.
- Legal pads: Maybe it’s leftover nostalgia from my high school debating days, but yellow legal pads help me think and map out plans and ideas. These legal pads are my favorite; the holes are pre-punched and the heavy duty backing makes them more sturdy.
- The Cloud: I think I’ve used 5+ different computers over the summer. “In-the-cloud” programs like Google apps and Syncplicity have allowed me to keep my digital self in order no matter what hardware I use.
- IKEA: IKEA has been very helpful for furnishing the little things (and the not-so-little things, like my new home desk) for our new home.
- My credit card: This spring and summer, I’ve had to float a lot of money in anticipation of reimbursements. I could not have done it without my American Express Blue card.
This summer has been more stressful than otherwise, but there have been some bright spots:
- Most people know that my son got a boxer puppy for his 7th birthday. She’s been great, mostly because we put in a fence and bought one of these no-pull harnesses. (This idea came from either Billie, Erin, or Natalie—at any rate, it emerged from discussions with those three sage dog owners!) Before the harness, walks were a bit of a nightmare, as the puppy was perfectly content to pull herself hoarse against her collar. That’s not possible with the harness, and she now walks side-by-side us.
- HeadBlade HeadLube SPF 30: Shaving your head introduces a new hazard: Highly visible sunburn. HeadLube SPF 30 is HeadBlade’s aftershave lotion with the sunblock built right in. It’s probably not as effective as a dedicated sunblock would be, but it has the advantage of living quietly in my morning routine.
- Internal Drive’s Video Game design camp. We sent the 7-yr-old there for a week of daycamp this summer. I’ve already written about the experience, so won’t belabor the point here, but it has had long-lasting effects on his interests in programming and on game design.
- I mentioned this in the holiday gift guide, but, in all truth: The Eye-Fi memory card for your digital camera, either with geotagging or without, is the best accessory, for any product, of any kind, that I’ve ever owned. The way it works in my house is that, any time it detects our wireless network, the card automatically transfers pictures both to iPhoto on my wife’s computer, and to my Flickr account. We take hundreds more photos now, and there’s real incentive to carry the camera around. Not to use one of the Eye-Fi cards is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening.
- Finally, I stand by every word of this review. You should definitely give Heaven Is Whenever a listen—especially since the MP3 album is $5 in August!
- Call forwarding : As a department chair, summer is hardly a break from the administrative life of the university. Call forwarding is not a new technology but being able to have my office phone forwarded to my cell has meant this summer that I don’t have to worry about missing important work calls while I work (or relax) elsewhere.
- And when I work elsewhere I’ve been using two devices to get stuff done and stay connected. One I’ve written about before, my 32 GB iPod Touch: How do I love thee, let me count the ways? And having to deal with none of the iPhone 4 antenna worries or the AT&T data plan is priceless. [Don't miss Brian's recent post on iPod Touch apps (including the comments with many more suggestions).]
- The other device that I’ve been using for more substantive writing is a Dell Netbook, the Latitude 2100. This netbook from Dell’s Education division has more options in terms of processor, OS, and memory than most netbooks, including the more-consumer-oriented Dell Mini. To get that you give up some of the sleeker looks, but you get a reasonably powerful machine (for a netbook) that is still eminently portable, and has great battery life. Part of what makes both of these devices so useful is the free wifi now at so many locations (Starbucks, Panera, McDonalds, Chick-fil-a, train stations, and many local coffeeshops, etc.)
- I’ve done a great deal of swimming this summer to prepare for a couple of Super Sprint triathlons (don’t be too impressed) and not being able to see is not just annoying, but it’s actually dangerous. Prescription goggles have solved the problem of swimming with bad eyesight and they’re surprisingly inexpensive.
- Finally I rediscovered Legos this summer at the terrific Constructing Modern Knowledge conference, specifically the Lego Robotics and PicoCrickets sets. Although they’re great fun to build with and program, the process has been a good reminder of what it means to be a learner and how simultaneously frustrating and exhilarating that process can be.
- Bonus: I’ll echo: Heather on the value of cloud apps (especially Dropbox for me this summer); Billie on AC (106 degrees with Virginia humidity is dangerous); and several ProfHackers on the value of our Twitter networks of friends.
To say that this summer has been a whirlwind would be an understatement (and in one instance, quite literally true). I defended my dissertation on April 14th, then began several cross-country and cross-border traveling adventures over the next two months. A few weeks in May looked like this: Washington to Virginia, to Washington, to Indiana, to Virginia again, then back to Washington, then to California, before packing up all of my belongings and moving to Canada. Or, trying to move to Canada. That didn’t work out so well the first time: I had to turn around at the border, go back and dump my stuff in a storage unit on the Washington side, then cross without anything that made it look like I was “settling” in order to attend grown up nerd camp. After camp, I had to finish up the summer class I was still teaching (hybrid style!) in Washington, and while there circumstances took me on a ten-day detour in my car to Boston and back before finally getting across the border—twice: once to get my papers and a second time to go back and get my belongings to finally “move.” All of this information is important to understanding why my indispensible five things were indeed indispensible.
- My Droid: I’ve been known to discuss at length my productivity with my smartphone, but that’s only because it’s so very true. Swype is a big part of that productivity, and I would call it an indispensible addition to my Droid-ed self. Other important apps on my Droid (for various reasons ranging from productivity to general physical and mental well-being) include: doubleTwist, Documents to Go, Find Starbucks, FlightStats, GMail, Maps, MLB At Bat ’10 (go Giants), Twitter for Android, Gowalla, and PDANet (more on this one, below).
- My Verizon voice and data plan, and the Verizon coverage in general: Given I currently live on Vancouver Island but spend a fair amount of time back in the States (see story above, and the six different trips between the end of July and the beginning of November), it was more cost-effective and I have better voice and data coverage just to keep my Verizon account. My Nationwide Plus Canada voice plan, plus Global PDA CDMA Roaming plan, means I have unfettered access to the Verizon network. In all my travels so far, there have only been a few instances of complete lack of coverage: a 25-mile stretch of (lonely) highway in Wyoming, and a 25-kilometer stretch of highway on the western side of Vancouver Island (Port Renfrew area). That’s pretty good. My plan also means that I can tether my Droid using PDANet whenever the wifi goes out in my apartment in Victoria, or when I need to make some sort of editorial change to ProfHacker at 5am while standing in the light rail station at Sea-Tac (did that a couple weeks ago).
- Old Navy: When I had to quickly dump my stuff at the U.S./Canada border in order to keep on schedule and carry only those items that made it look like I was just visiting for a few days, I didn’t have time to figure out which bags had, say, a week’s worth of shorts, jeans, and t-shirts. I managed to grab the bag of fresh laundry I had just done a few days earlier, but it was only sheets and towels. Not helpful. So, when I got to Victoria, with my bag of sheets and towels but not much else, a trip to Old Navy was in order. Two bags of shorts, jeans, and black t-shirts later, I was set.
- My AAA membership: During my epic drive from Washington state to Boston and back again, I happened to drive through the middle of a serious weather system. The driving rain, plus the extra 1500 pounds of stuff in my car that I was moving for a friend, meant that I did a bad job estimating mileage in relation to my gas tank. I pulled into a gas station while driving on fumes only to find the gas station without electricity and all the roads closed for the time being after a tornado ripped through the town. After an hour or so, while everyone else at the station tried to figure out what they were going to do, I called AAA and got an emergency can of gas brought to me. That was enough to get me to the next town, where I filled up the tank and went along my merry way (through a tremendously scary lightning storm toward Des Moines, IA). Who’s to say how the rest of the summer would have cascaded had I found myself stuck for a few days in Minnesota.
- Twitter (or, more to the point, my friends in the computer): When you’re traveling and lack consistency or stability in your lodgings, it helps to know that your community—virtual though it may be—is out there. There’s nothing more heartening than driving through big sky country in the middle of the night and having conversations with friends in other far-flung places, keeping you going and keeping you sane. Enough said.
Some of this will show things about me that are less than savory, in a class-politics kind of way, but here goes anyhow…
- Elite Frequent Flyer privileges: I’m platinum on my favored airline, which I’ve gone way more than out of my way to devote my travel to for the last ten years. As I have both personal and professional reasons for a rather inordinate amount of travel, it makes sense for me to confine my miles to one carrier, not least because said carrier makes free with the upgrades, so I wind up flying in the front of the plane far more than is actually warranted. And if you’re going to work on a plane, as I often do, it makes a huge difference. But the other thing is:
- Club Lounge privileges: I have a fancy schmancy credit card that gives me access to the club lounge of my preferred airline, which I keep, despite its high annual fee, for exactly that reason. Between flights on my all-too-frequent trips, I get a comparatively quiet place in which I can grab a drink and a snack and check my email free of (further) charge.
- My Friends on Twitter: These are folks who helped me get through a particularly rough travel patch by being inordinately sympathetic even when it was clear even to me that I was just whining.
- Old Navy: Like Julie, I had a moment this summer of winding up somewhere—well, not just without anything appropriate to wear, but without anything to wear that I hadn’t already been wearing for 24 hours. Old Navy not only got me through the period until my stuff showed up, but did so in utterly inexpensive style.
- iPhone Maps: I had to find that Old Navy somehow. Also a drugstore for basic toiletries, and whatever else the basic needs were going to turn out to be. Happily, I found myself without supplies in a venue in which all except for the very personal were taken care of, but if they hadn’t been, Maps would have gotten me through.
- My Treehouse: Summer began with a week-long treehouse-building experiment, in which my father-in-law and I constructed a 10′ high fortress in the sky, protected by trapdoor and rope ladder. It’s become a great place for the kids to play, and in the evening, for the adults to hang out, up in the breeze, above the bugs. Plus, it was great to, you know, build something.
- Summer Camp: Not for me, but for my kids. It was absolutely essential that our 3- and 5-year-old have a few weeks of camp. Good for them, and good for their parents, who are both working on a million different projects at once.
- PDANet: It’s always a boost to my productivity to work somewhere other than my home or office, and it’s also usually a boost to my productivity to have a reliable internet connect. PDANet lets me tether my Android phone to my laptop and work online virtually anywhere. Perfect for getting work done at out-of-the-way coffee shops, shady (I mean, shaded) parks, and even on the road while someone else is driving.
- My blog: I strive to make as much of my thinking and writing as public as possible, and as quickly as possible. My blog is where I fast-track ideas, test out grandiose theories, and generally have fun experimenting with different styles and voices. I don’t have a chance to do these things as frequently during the school year, so I treasure having a bit more open-ended time during the summer.
- Amazon Prime: The giant online retailer’s 2-day shipping service is indispensable year-round, but it came in especially handy this summer, when I could easily get a book I needed quickly, no matter where I was in the country.
- Bikram yoga: I’ve practiced Bikram yoga regularly (4-7 times a week) for several years and this therapeutic sequence of postures performed in a heated room has calmed my mind and healed old injuries. I have a modest daily vinyasa practice as well, but Bikram really helps me hit the reset button on an overwhelming day and keeps my knee in running shape—both very important this summer.
- My new Pur water filter: I’ve used Pur faucet-mount water filters for many years, and when it was time to replace our old, cracked filter mount this summer, I was skeptical of the new one-click design touted on the box. Boy, was I ever wrong. I am happier about this purchase than almost anything else I’ve bought this year. Not only was it simple to attach to my non-standard faucet, but the one-click feature means that you can remove the filter mount whenever you want. This makes scrubbing vegetables and washing dishes so easy! This summer I’ve successfully installed the habit of always carrying water in the car with me using a Raya insulated cooler tote. Mine is big enough to hold several .75 liter water bottles (I’m partial to Camelbak’s BPA-free line) plus food and some blue freezer blocks to keep everything cold. Yet it looks like a tote bag, can go over your shoulder, and doesn’t announce “I’m carrying my lunch.”
- ElectroMix: If you live in a warm climate, exercise for more than 60 minutes a day, or sweat profusely (or, like me, all of the above), you may need an electrolyte supplement. This is by far my favorite. ElectroMix is a powder you add to water—it’s made by Alacer, the same company that makes Emergen-C —but contains no vitamin C, so no stomach upset. It’s just potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, and chromium.
- Movinghelp.com: If, like me, you’re no longer at the stage of life when you can carry all your belongings yourself, but you don’t have the funds for big-chain professional movers, this site offers a great solution. You rent and drive the moving truck yourself (and take on whatever insurance costs are necessary) and hire labor help through this site at very reasonable rates for loading/unloading. Payment is all taken care of through the website. I’d recommend reading the reviews of selected movers carefully, but I’ve used the site several times and have been very pleased.
- My Android phone has been a huge help while travelling. In addition to Gmail, Twitter, Evernote, and maps, this summer I’ve been enjoying Kindle for Android quite a bit.
- My LL Bean 1912 Chino Cargo Shorts: I tend to wear t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops each and every day during the summer, even to meetings with our interim provost (just ask him). These shorts have deep enough pockets to hold my keys, wallet, cellphone, and iPod without feeling heavy and cramped. And they can handle almost daily use.
- True Blood: I grew up in world where summer television meant reruns, and it sometimes feels wrong to have so much new television going in the hotter months, but True Blood is the perfect summer series. It’s campy, goofy, and weird, but it’s also incredibly well-written and well-acted. On Sunday nights, it’s the perfect start to each week.
- Connecticut State Parks and Forests: After trying to buy a new home and sell our old one last summer, going to Russia the summer before, and dealing with my mother’s death the summer before that, my partner and I declared Summer 2010 as the summer of as little as possible. But that doesn’t mean sitting in our new home all day. I’ve made several hikes in local state parks and forests, enjoying the solitude and silence much more than I expected.
- The 27-inch iMac: In 2007, I suffered a hemorrhage in my right eye. It left behind some permanent scaring, which is why I wanted a computer with a huge screen. I bought this right after turning in grades in May and love how big and bright it is. I can make most screens big enough to read without getting a headache even if I still can’t have two documents running side-by-side.
- Mario Kart Wii: All last semester, I had students telling me I had to get this game, that I would love it and play it constantly. Yeah, yeah, I nodded along, but buying it in late May proved my students right. I’m addicted to racing Japanese kids and Australian teenagers. DK Summit is my favorite track, with GCN Waluigi Stadium a close second.
- My Spencer Fedora: I usually don’t leave the house without a hat, whatever the season, and I usually mark the beginning of summer with the purchase of a new straw hat. This year I wore a Spencer fedora (color: Natural). It kept the sun out of my face and sweat out of my eyes as we trekked across the midwest and southeast US this summer. It’s also still in remarkable shape—so I might not have to replace it at the beginning of next summer.
- Things: I’ve made my devotion to Cultured Code’s to-do list application very clear on ProfHacker. This was a particularly busy summer for us, though: I finished and submitted my dissertation (and the reams of accompanying paperwork), moved with my family halfway across the country, and started a new job. Without Things helping me keep track of the hundreds of items on my many to-do lists—one for moving, one for the diss, one for summer orientation at the new job, &c., &c.—I don’t know how I would have remembered, much less finished, them all.
- Navigon MobileNavigator US MyRegion Central: Whew! That’s a long name for a wonderful iPhone GPS app—in our family we call her Navi. We choose Navi because 1) we didn’t want yet another device for our cars when we always carry our iPhones, 2) Navigon’s reviews were much better than the TomTom app, and 3) Navigon offers local “MyRegion” versions of its app that are much more affordable than most iPhone GPS apps. MyRegion Central is a full-featured GPS app for the Midwest US and costs only $14.99. When we drove back to Virginia for vacation we purchased the Eastern maps from within the app for only $9.99. There’s another benefit to buying GPS apps on your phone. My wife and I share an iTunes account, which means we can download apps to both of our phones but only pay for them once. So, for $14.99 we actually bought two GPS devices—we both have Navi on our phones should we need her.
- Trek 7.5 FX: We only brought one car to Wisconsin. Our new house is a mere two miles or so from my new campus, so I can walk in a pinch, but I resolved to start biking (in order to nurture my mind-body connection). After all, the weather here is gorgeous during the summer and there are bike paths all over town. I shopped around for awhile, knowing I wanted a reliable commuting bike but not wanting to spend too much money before I knew how committed I’d be to biking. Eventually I found a barely used Trek 7.5 FX advertised on Craiglist. I tried it out and bought it the same day. I’ve been thrilled with the choice so far. I soon added the Topeak Trunkbag DXP to my rig, which makes it a formidable commuting machine. I pack my lunch in the middle compartment (conveniently packed in my Laptop Lunchbox), stash my briefcase in one pannier, and I still have another pannier free for books, papers, my hat, or the occasional watermelon.
- My new colleagues: In all seriousness—when our moving trailer arrived in De Pere, my entire department showed up at our house to help unload it. When we’ve had questions about anything—from the way to order paper for my printer, to the best grocery store for produce, to recommendations of babysitters and piano teachers—they’ve been available and willing to help us out. I’m still a little nervous about the new job; I’ve yet to have a class of SNC students, after all. But I’m far less nervous than I could be, and that’s largely due to the support my new colleagues have given us through this summer.
Well, that’s us. How about you? What are some items you couldn’t have lived without this summer? Please leave suggestions in comments below.
[Image by Flickr user Todd Baker << technowannabe and used under the Creative Commons license.]