What's in My Bag

What’s in my NOW? — Chris Thompson

issue #172

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A nerdy guy who loves learning and talking about biology and other sciency stuff. I enjoy gadgets and learning new ways to be more productive and healthy (mentally, spiritually, and physically) — Chris Thompson


  • Boox tablet — For my work, I have to read a lot of PDF articles and take a lot of notes. I love eInk for its battery life, flexibility, and ease on the eyes. There are better-known eInk note-taking devices (like Remarkable), but this one runs on Android and requires no subscription. It is easy to write on and intuitive to use. All of my notes and annotated PDFs sync with their cloud service and with my dropbox, making storage and searching easy from the Boox or from a computer.
  • Wen scroll saw — I have always enjoyed working with wood. I read about scroll saws and immediately thought that they looked fun and versatile. I got this for Christmas one year and have really enjoyed making bowls, bookmarks, ornaments, signs, and decor. It becomes almost meditative to use as you focus on the lines of the pattern and the rhythm of the machine. This is an entry-level model, but has served me well for several years now.
  • Amazfit balance — My first smartwatch was the Pebble, and I loved it. I was so disappointed when the company was bought and disbanded. In looking for alternatives, I came across the Amazfit Bip which started my love of this company. They make really good, reasonably priced smartwatches that rival some of the bigger names. (Though they are not as well known in the US, they are one of the biggest players in the international market.) The Balance has accurate analytics, natural language AI, Alexa integration, great GPS, and most of the other things you’d expect from a smartwatch. All of their smartwatches have AMAZING battery life. My Balance routinely lasts 10-12 days between charges despite everything it is doing. With GPS on, of course, that will decrease substantially, but this is still pretty amazing compared to the competition! What sets it apart, though, is its claim to focus on a balanced life; it analyzes all of your metrics to give you a more holistic view of health than other smartwatches in the price range.


  • Mastodon — I started a free website to help biology students navigate the many decisions around graduate education and careers. To promote the website, I reluctantly dipped my toe into social media. I have been incredibly impressed by the diversity, kindness, and positivity I have found on Mastodon. This is a “federated” platform for microblogging – something equivalent to X. I have found it easy and fun to use, and the moderation is top-notch.
  • ChatGPT — I recently dove into the world of generative AI to see if and how it could increase my productivity. Wow! I am very impressed by how well this can give me a good starting point for writing, for analyzing writing I have already done, for quickly summarizing complex topics, and even for generating study aids for students (“Write a song to the tune of a famous Kanye song to help students remember this information.”) Plus, it is really fun to see what it comes up with.


  • A self-question: what is my personal mission in life? (What drives me? What are my values? What do I want my legacy to be?) — When considering a new job, researching a company, etc., I often look at their mission statement to see whether I feel I would be a good fit. I also keep coming back to the mission while working at that company to see if they are truly living the mission and if I feel I am contributing to it. Lately, I have been reflecting a lot on what I want the next phase of my career to look like, what kind of parent and partner I want to be, and what are the most important things in my life. It occurred to me that I should try to determine my own “mission statement”. This has been a very rewarding (and very difficult) process! While I still haven’t figured it out, I have gained significant insight from the exercise.

What’s in your NOW?

We want to know what’s in your now — a list of 6 things that are significant to you now — 3 physical, 2 digital and 1 invisible. 

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