What's in My Bag

What’s in my bag? – Eric McClellan

Eric McClellan spends his days working with talented people creating advertising for Ford as Executive Creative Director of Content and ...

Eric McClellan spends his days working with talented people creating advertising for Ford as Executive Creative Director of Content and Brand Entertainment at Team Detroit. In his spare time he’s obsessively doodling in pursuit of the perfect Superman symbol, making to­do lists, and communicating with his 14 year old via Instagram and Snapchat. His blog, “Rough Ratio”, chronicling his life with his daughter and dog can be found at ericmcclellan.tumblr.com

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If you’re like me – and as a New Century Techno-­Narcissist like the rest of you, I’m assuming you are – the shoulder bag is more than a personal carry­on item – it’s a multi­functional makeshift pillow-­slash-­storage device and, at times, slash-­battering ram. My current bag of choice is a black canvas Jack Spade Messenger. I don’t particularly love it a lot but it was a thoughtful gift and has become a constant companion in my travels (Now that I think about it a lot of the things I carry around are some form of thoughtful gift and for that I am grateful). The thing I do like about this bag is that I can seemingly keep stuffing it’s 11 x 18 x 6 inches full of all the stuff I want to lug around (or at least all the stuff I want to arrange neatly and photograph for this post ; ) As you can see I travel around with a garden variety grid of laptops, chewing gum, notecards, notebooks, printed pages, pixeled screens, tools, eyewear, ID, and assorted health & beauty products. I like to think it’s the individual selections of the items that make it interesting and by “it” I mean “me” but that’s just the Techno­-Narcissist talking.

Disclaimer: Despite 20+ years as a professional art director, having access to state­-of-the-­art automated cameras (thx LV), and the constant critique of my image-­fluent kid I remain an ungifted amateur photographer. But I do arrange things neatly.

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Big(Ish) Computing
In the dark times before TSA Pre I slogged through life with a 17-inch MacBook Pro. I have since opted for the 64GB 11-inch MacBook Air. Its light weight and super thin profile more than make up for the small screen size and relatively scanty memory. I use it mostly for stuff that requires typing on a larger-than-thumbsize keyboard — work email, messages, Tweeting, Googling, a little bit of ‘shooping and shopping, updating my blog, etc, and it sits smartly atop my sturdy worktable (a mass-produced dining room table from CB2 which they claim to be made of wood recycled from The Darjeeling Limited. I have my doubts about its provenance although the same table is in Cam and Mitchell’s home in Modern Family). The Air is also perfectly sized and weighted for the wobbly, under-engineered trays found on most commercial jets. When not in use, I keep it snugged up inside an InCase 11-inch Neoprene Pro Sleeve. Also, I use the MagSafe charger WITH the AC extension cord as I find the AC adapter itself never stays plugged into the outlet. Never. In any outlet.

Disclaimer Two: In addition to being an amateur photographer I am also an amateur brand taxonomist so I might get lost in the bliss of naming things. Please bear with me (If there are any others out there similarly afflicted find me on Twitter @mctweet).

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Smaller Computing
It almost seems crazy to carry both an 11-inch MacBook Air AND a 128 GB iPad Mini in the same bag but they are different and distinct platforms that I use for different and distinct platform-critical things. Plus my golden Nike Free Powerlines look sick nasty as a lock screen image on the Retina display. One would think my 64GB iPhone 5s would be extraneous in the extreme but, to tell a family secret, I use it more than the Mini and Air combined. That’s where I keep my jams, y’all. Sharp-eyed fashionistas (is that still a thing?) will spot my kid’s Birkenstock Mocha Birkenbuck Arizona Sandals. Who knew? AND she wears them with socks! After my cool friends at Vice News made fun of me as I unspooled skeins of white cable in a meeting, I immediately acquired a Mophie Juice Pack Plus. P.S. They were right to laugh at me. The Anker Astro 6000mAh External Battery was another thoughtful gift. It effortlessly powers the Mini (btw another thoughtful gift) when I burn though its battery while over-admiring my collection of photos of my collection of sneakers.

Disclaimer Three: I have no idea what “Powerlines” means any more than I know what “6000mAh” means.

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The Reddy Kilowatt Collection
In addition to the flock of free-range charging outlet adapters (which apparently migrate regularly to my kid’s laundry hamper) I also carry a snarl of USB-to-USB and Lightning-to-USB cables for things such as the 500GB Seagate Backup Slim. This isn’t just an external backup for me – it’s an external hardrive for my Air, running iTunes and iPhoto and their ever-expanding libraries (I know, I know… Spotify). The Kingston DataTraveler 16GB USB Flash Drive makes the cut for it’s superminimalist approach to life alone. It’s close to being my favorite all-time great looking thing although nothing will dethrone my matched set of vintage Panasonic PanaPoint Electric Pencil Sharpeners (not for travel use). The small Tumi bag was also a gift from Delta I received in exchange for full fare first class ticket. Although it originally contained a sleep mask and footies I now use it for all the EMF-emitting things you see displayed here.

Disclaimer Four: The Anker Astro shows up again because I needed something that color, shape, and size for an optimal composition. Plus I do really like it.

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Eyewear And Earware
I hate my Apple In-Ear Headphones. Not only did I have to Google a how-to video just to rewind them into the triangular case but I can’t keep them in my f#¢king ears. Actually the video was kinda cool but the phones themselves? Ugh. No matter which size tip I use unless I sit completely still they tumble out of my ear. I realize they’re out-of-date and I could get a new pair but I’ve spent so much on earbuds over the years that frankly I’d rather complain. Speaking of polygons, check out that sleek Lindberg eyeglass case that protects my sleek Lindberg sunglasses. It’s unique right-triangle design has stood up to being sat on, stood upon, and crushed. It has the scars to prove it. Normally I’m an aviator type guy but the Electric Knoxville XL Polarized Sunglasses were an impulse purchase made under the influence of UVB rays. At first I felt like I just walked out of a 3-D movie in 1996 but now I like them. And then there are the Beats By Dr. Dre´ Studio Headphones. Unh. I was a Bose Quiet Comfort loyalist but this thoughtful gift dropped the bass in a way the elegant Bose just never could. Plus the built-in mic brings the noize.

Disclaimer Five: I’ve since changed from Lindberg to Mykita eyeglasses but kept the case. It’s just that good.

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Analog Things Mostly Made From From Logs
My very first job was at a stop sign factory. I got it because I could sorta draw (you’d be surprised how much drawing was required back then). Now I can write, too, so I’m really into paper and pencil, and, to a milder extent, pen and ink. My go-to pencil is the wood and graphite Palomino Blackwing 602. It lays down a sensuous, authoritative line that is easily modulated with just the slightest change in pressure (“Half the pressure, twice the speed” as it says on the barrel). The Palomino KUM Automatic Brake Long Point Two Step Pencil Sharpener sounds complicated but it’s not; it’s just two holes. The first hole is used to sharpen the wood, and the second is used to sharpen the lead. Plus it’s orange plastic. The red Sharpie Fine Point Marker is for marking done things off to-do lists with satisfying finality while the black Pentel RSVP Ballpoint Stick Pens are fine for doing crossword puzzles (#humblebrag). The Whitelines Wire Slim Squared Notebook isn’t just a great spiral-bound notebook, it’s a philosophical manifesto – namely that dark lines on paper distract. The perforated 6-inch x 11.625-inch sheets are light grey superimposed with a grid of white lines creating a clean, open space on which to scribble obsessive to-do lists and scrawl Superman symbols. The little East of India Office Clips are from Crate & Barrel (and, yes, another gift – my friends know me so well). The 3.75-inch x 5.5-inch Rhodia notebook contains all my passwords and appropriately sports Boing Boing’s always hard-working Jackhammer Jill. I also carry thank you cards because I find I have so much for which to be thankful. Currently, I love the Kinaloon “thx.” cards I got at Nora Modern in Detroit.

Disclaimer Six: I prefer the fat inky line of most Uniball pens but they don’t seem to be able to withstand pressurized cabins without leaking. Get on it Uniball.

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The Other “R”
I travel a lot. And despite all the gear I use to wrangle electricity sometimes I find my devices fully discharged or that I just need to Dis. Con. Nect. I hoard New York Times Crossword Puzzles and paperbacks for just those times. I try to limit the my crossword selection to Friday through Sunday editions with Saturday being the hardest while Sunday’s is just the longest. I have a theory that not only do the puzzles get progressively more difficult during the week but also more difficult throughout the year. Unfortunately I can’t test that hypothesis now that I do them out of order. I also believe that the more people who correctly complete any given puzzle make it easier for subsequent puzzlers to complete it so it all balances out. The book I’m reading now is Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler which guides the reader through David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technolgy and the hoaxes and head fakes that gave birth to both science and art. The canson paper feather bookmark is a hand painted watercolor from one of the coolest musicians I know. Plus she’s my pen pal. I know what you’re thinking, “A pen pal in 2014? Shut up.”

Disclaimer Seven: To people who claim they can’t do crosswords, I say this: all puzzles want to be solved. The crossword puzzle makes this particularly apparent by printing helpful clues in English. A really difficult crossword would be a grid of white squares with no clues! Plus after you do the NYT puzzles for a while you realize the same answers show up again and again. ELON College? Really, Will Shortz?

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Gettin’ My Drink On
Maybe the single-most jaw slackening bit of technology I carry is the reusable and foldable VAPUR Element 1L Water Bottle. Emptied it’s just a flexible swatch of BPA-free plastic that clips to my bag. But fill it up with water and it’s a squeezable flask that stands stalwartly on its own bottom. Its deceptively simple form conceals a lot of future state plastics design and manufacturing. And I must admit it’s yet another gift that, like all the best gifts, just keeps on giving. The two little boxes of Revolution Golden Chamomile Tea is caffiene — free but not a particular recommendation — it’s just what they were serving at the last hotel I stayed in so I grabbed a couple. I’ prefer green tea myself although I do like PG Tips builders tea.

Disclaimer Eight: While tea is easy to travel with I’m really a coffee guy and have my eye on the travel-friendly, Cory Doctrow-recommended Aerobie Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker.

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Spoiler Alert: TMI
These last few items are, to me, essential for the traveler who gives more than a passing care to personal grooming. Let’s start with the biggie: Preparation H Totables Wipes. I spend a lot of time on the road headed towards strange locations and not all of them come equipped with toilet paper (have you ever been to the San Bernardino Airport?). As an Eagle Scout I’m trained to be prepared for this because hygiene. A mini squeeze bottle of a hand sanitizer and a travel pack of Kleenex tissues (no aloe, no lotion, thank you) help deflect and denature the sneezes, spills, squirts and eruptions one encounters in the great wet world. I indulge another mild obsession by cleaning and caring for the sneakers I travel with with Jason Markk Quick Wipes. This shoeshine-in-a-pouch keeps my kicks clean whenever I’m away from home base. Each wipe is suffused with what I believe to be a magical potion – one side is pebbled to gently scrub while the other is smooth enough to wipe away the filth. The 24-count bottle of Extra-Strength Tylenol contains a few Tylenol along with some pharmaceutical grade zinc capsules which I believe boost my auto-immune system. The tub of Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 is, in my experience, the most effective lip moisturizer and protector in the world. Orbitz Wintermint Chewing Gum is always a welcome breath-freshener after hours of recycled and pressurized shared air. I like the Bubblemint flavor, too. The Hy-Ko Cable Lock Key Ring is something I discovered after losing my ex’s pricey gold keyring and while it does as good a job as expensive imitations it’s here primarily because the orange tab on the key for my Kensington Microsaver Twin Notebook Lock accurately quoted the the color and shape of orange field behind the Kleenex logo. What can I say? I’m an art director who had some time on his hands to arrange things neatly.

Disclaimer Nine: While I was getting the exact name of the Kiehl’s lip balm I discovered it contains pertrolatum AKA petroleum jelly, an ingredient which I had previously convinced myself it didn’t contain. I’m now in the market for a new (and verifiably petroleum-free) lip balm. Thank Glob for obsessive brand taxonomy.

10/14/14

(Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service like Bitcasa to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder — editors)