Presents of Christmas past

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Above: The Classic Briefcase from Saddleback Leather. Photo courtesy Saddleback Leather.

BitDepth#1228 for December 19, 2019

As it turns out, I know exactly what’s harder than Christmas shopping for someone who is committed to technology. It’s buying something for a lady whose taste in things she wears or keeps is just so. Impenetrably so.

So we eventually found a detente on bad gifts after some rocky efforts.

There’s nothing quite like the crestfallen smile that follows the opening of a gift and the hollowing statement, “Really, it’s nice.”

Being mature adults, we agreed to declare our desires for gifting and to honour what might seem to the giver to be quite odd choices.

Looking back, that 256MB Compact Flash card seems a puny choice in 2019, but back then it was a game changer, allowing me to really shoot digital captures freely.

When it comes to tech; unfortunately, last year’s invaluable acquisition becomes today’s embarrassment.

Here’s a rather short hit list of items that managed to remain relevant.

The USB keypad.

This turned up under the tree almost a decade and a half-ago, roughly around the same time that most of my work migrated from desktops to laptops and I’d built up a decade’s worth of muscle memory reaching to my right to tap out numbers.

Yes, you’ve got a row of numbers on the top of your keyboard, but it just isn’t the same. There’s a very different experience using a calculator-style layout when you work with numbers that’s quite addictive.

I’ve come to believe over time that the best gift just disappears into your life, papered over by time, not fancy wrapping, immersing itself into the flow of your daily routine.

That it came to you through the intent of someone who cared about you gives it a patina of emotional connection that also wears into it, delivering a fondness of remembrance everytime it is used.

That’s really hard to do with personal technology, which ages poorly and eventually invites a kind of weary disdain when it’s compared to the newest version of itself.

The Bag(s)

So in a way, it isn’t really surprising that the gifts that have really stood the test for me have been bags, bags with ever escalating requirements and demands placed on them.

I am, I have already confessed in this space, something of a junkie when it comes to gear bags, which are absolute necessities when I work as a technology journalist and as a photographer.

The right bag is an accelerant, the wrong one is a straitjacket.

The best gift just disappears into your life, papered over by time, not fancy wrapping, immersing itself into the flow of your daily routine.

There have been quite a few over the years, many of them looked good, but lacked the durability to really last as useful containers. Some went ratty embarrassingly early.

Eventually, I’d come to embrace leather. It’s heavier than ballistic nylon or what’s now called vegan leather, but used to be known as leatherette or phleather.

A good leather bag (and there are few) is a once and done deal. Fewer of them end up in the dump and if they do, they will decompose faster than plastic based products.

My first was from saddlebackleather.com. Their classic briefcase covered an entire year’s worth of anniversary, birthday and Christmas gifting, because it is not cheap.

It’s made from full grain cow leather has a single divider on its interior and two small pockets. That’s it. I added a padded sleeve for a laptop and dividers for the second section and for the last six years, I’ve picked it up every Monday during the school term.

It’s ridiculous, but the bag doesn’t look any different than it did when I got it. Which lends some credence to Saddleback Leather’s 100-year guarantee. They even encourage you to include it in your will.

If I have any regret at all about the bag, it’s that I was so heavily in my black luggage phase that I didn’t consider their attractive brown toned versions.

The Sitka Messenger Bag

The latest addition to the collection is the Sitka Messenger bag from Kodiak Leather. This one’s a rugged weathered brown that the household management absolutely hated for herself, but admires on me. Perhaps because I am also a handsome shade of weathered brown.

The Sitka is lighter than the Saddleback Leather briefcase, and the approach is somewhat less minimalistic, and while they promise an hierloom quality product and a lifetime warranty, they don’t offer that century’s worth of guarantee.

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