Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Packrats Beware
Walter Salm, Editor

I have a confession to make. I am a packrat. This can be dangerous because we live in a small house with very little space for storage. We have a storage shed behind our carport, but that's for things like the lawnmower, some yard tools, power tools and hardware. It's full, very full. It is supplemented by four Rubbermaid storage closets and bins, also all full. One is filled with an emergency generator that is useless because of a problem with our electrical supply panel, and we'll be dealing with this in the near future. We also rent a storage room three miles away from our house for some of our necessary excess and items that fall into the category of "a shame to throw it away".

The office I share with my wife and associate editor is a total disaster area. The floors and the tops of every piece of furniture are covered with papers — piles of papers — that threaten to topple at the slightest provocation. Many of them deal with U.S. Tech, while others are for Medicare and our supplemental ("Medigap") insurance. Many of these papers need to be filed, others shredded, and the rest simply tossed. During one productive week, I filled several large brown paper bags with recyclable paper from my office, and now I can actually see the carpet in a few places.

Why so much paper? Isn't the computer supposed to alleviate that problem? Yes and no, and the answer to that question depends on how committed we are to using the computer for everything. I do like to have hard copy of some things, as do so many "old-fashioned" people out there. A case in point is the print edition of U.S. Tech which seems to get a little bigger with each issue. I also get the Sunday New York Times print edition delivered to my front door each week. There's enough reading material there to last me for a month, but I have to recycle the papers when the next Sunday rolls around, otherwise I would have stacks of newspapers that I hadn't yet finished reading, and would definitely never get around to reading.

My wife and I are both avid book readers, but she prefers a "real book" to reading one on her e-reader. I on the other hand, prefer the convenience of my e-reader, and thereby contribute to a vast reduction in accumulated volumes. My wife gives away her books after she reads them. But there are some books that we both want to read, and in most cases, I have to surrender and pick up those "real" books to read the old-fashioned way.

On my recent return from the IPC APEX Expo, I had to empty out my luggage which, in addition to dirty laundry, yielded a number of "souvenirs" stamped with company logos. There were about 25 pens, 1 mechanical pencil, several eyeglass wipers, a ratchet screwdriver, a sample box of 2-part epoxy, two rulers, several booklets of Post-It® notes, a keyboard brush, 4 thumb flash drives (two containing press releases), a tiny tin of sugar-free Altoids, a squeezable plastic "stress reliever", plus four copies of U.S. Tech, one of our printed Media Kits, two canvas tote bags, an insulated travel coffee mug, and a rubber-banded packet of assorted business cards. Also in the mix was a hard-cover copy of "A Sliver of Light" signed by Josh Fattal, one of the three hikers who had been imprisoned in Iran for more than two years. Josh and Shane and Sarah were on a nationwide book tour during APEX, and our publisher presented me with a copy soon after I arrived in Las Vegas.

What is truly remarkable about this tally is that it is so short. Once upon a time, I finished trade shows with so much "junk" (not really junk, it was all "good" stuff) on hand that I would go to a Fed Ex office and ship home a carton (sometimes two cartons) full of the stuff — usually bulked out by stacks of printed press releases that today are distributed electronically. Now I am under mandate from my other half to fit it all into my "normal" baggage, "or else," and somehow, I manage. After the Expo closed, I saw other, less-fortunate souls shipping their own excess at the Fed Ex office at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. In fact, this problem is so endemic that Fed Ex had set up a temporary shipping counter just outside the store. I feel confident that many of those boxes were not personal, but were shipped in the normal course of doing business.

Now that the show is over, I am under the gun to finish editing the next issue of U.S. Tech while taking time out to toss papers into recycling. It's a never-ending problem, and doesn't ever seem to get any better. My resolution for today: I will do my best to save a tree.  

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