his dork materials

The title of this post came to me in a conversation about Sir Phillip Pullman, only to have it pointed out that a nice Canadian fellow called Thomas had long since beat me to it. And furthermore, had written about some of the very things driving my interest lately, like the iPad and the Apple Watch.

The iPad is a late addition to my Apple Glee. I had my retina iPad, my Dynabook, in March of 2012 – and then passed it along to my father-in-law and replaced it with an iPad Mini 2 at Christmas of 2013. Then time happened, and the iPhone X happened, and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite proved to be the horse for the course, and I basically have barely used the iPad in two and a half years or so. Its battery is nearly shot, the screen prone to weird white streaking at diverse times, and it can’t be upgraded past iOS 12 (not to deny credit for patches up to 12.4.5 as of this very day). It’s still broadly feasible as a device, but there’s nothing it can do at present that the iPhone X doesn’t do almost as well.

And yet. If I haven’t had a new iPad in six-plus years, I haven’t had a new personal laptop since…well, I haven’t had a personal laptop at all since I handed my Dell netbook to my father-in-law and finally gave back the black MacBook I’d had on indefinite loan from my old colleagues, sometime in…2010? Maybe? The last time I laid down money of my own for a Mac laptop was an iBook SE in the autumn of 2000. We’ve had a desktop Mac more or less continuously since 2005, a sort of home furnace for all media content and doing income taxes and a workstation of last resort for when we don’t want to use the ubiquitous work laptops. But I haven’t had – or really needed – a laptop to call my own in I don’t know when.

So why would I consider an iPad now as a laptop replacement? Possibly to stop myself using my phone all evening. An iPad could be used for 90% of what I do at work, but I wouldn’t use it for work – I’d use it mostly for reading and streaming, occasional note-taking and blogging, maybe movies on planes? Not enough to make it worth the investment; that’s at least $800 for one with sufficient storage to be of broader use, and the line for handing money to Apple starts with a new phone and a new watch, both almost certainly in September. Late rumor has it that the 5.4” iPhone 12, so-called, will only have the regular and super-wide lenses, no telephoto, so not that big a jump up from the notional iPhone 9 – but the 12 will still have a newer processor, a bigger display in the same size device, (allegedly) more RAM, and dual-SIM capability with an eSIM, opening a world of flexibility around travel or personal service. Barring calamity, I don’t see how I can avoid waiting until fall.

At which point the Watch will (allegedly) be up to Series 6, with (allegedly) newer lower-powered display technology and (maybe) sleep tracking, the thing I’ve needed most all along. If it’s going to be a question of throwing $450 at a problem, better to throw it at a newer solution, right? Even if it means nine months to wait.

Which gets back to a bigger problem. I look at the ridiculous pile of stuff I accumulated in 2019, everything from an M-65 jacket to a pair of Allbirds (hereafter referred to as Allnerds, even if they are as comfy a sock-less shoe as I’ve ever owned) to a lightsaber to Yet Another Nerf Pistol to AirPod Pros to to to…and I’m starting to get the sense, as I notice my Amazon page signed out and the absence of any new hats at the Vandy bookstore, that I may well be self-medicating through retail. It’s been a long time since I deferred anything; the footwear and Yeti bottles and calling cards and it’s reached a point where if it costs under $50 and I want it, I just buy it. Part of it may be that whole “we could be nuked tomorrow, why defer joy, you can afford it” sense – which at least is a change from spending six months mulling over a $20 Nerf pistol like ten years ago – but I think part of it is just chasing that dopamine hit of giving myself a present, of indulging myself. I honestly think that wanting to duck into the pub for a cheeky pint on the way home is less about the pint and the Guinness than it is about that indulgence, that urge to treat myself. 

It’s a dangerous rabbit hole to find myself sliding down. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with alcohol. I’ve used opioid painkillers without ever developing a problem, because I was vigilant and judicious about not misusing them. But looking back on the year, I think I’ve skated too close to the thin edge of expecting stuff to be my panacea. I’ve tried to be judicious about one-in-one-out, especially with hats and Nerfs, and I could probably give away at least one Yeti tumbler, and I do a pretty good job of shopping my closet now that the Friv-o-list is basically exhausted, but it’s something I need to be cognizant of.

Whatever ails me, it’s never going to be solved for good with dork materials.

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