Chris Blattman

These are a few of my favorite things

I am not a particularly material person, but there are a few items in my life that bring me great joy. This occurred to me yesterday while using #1 below.

It made me wonder where my consumer surplus is greatest; where (other than books) I’d be willing to pay a much higher price that the market demands.

1. My folding bike. I have a Dahon Speed, which I can carry into my office (no bikes otherwise) and fits nicely into the overhead compartment on Amtrak.

2. My stovetop Moka pot. Home espresso makers are a waste of time and money.

3. Sleeping mask. I sleep five times better.

4. My PicnicMaster 4000. That’s not actually the name. It’s a small carry case my mom gave me that has little plates, cups, utensils, blanket, cooler, cutting board, etc. Jeannie and I use it at least once a week in New York summers.

5. My Kindle, though I say this only because I travel and now save a suitcase full of books. Otherwise real books would win. Also, I could always read e-books on my beloved…

6. iPhone. I know this item is cliché, but it’s true. It helps that I jailbroke mine, and can use it on travels. (Q. How do you know if someone has an iPhone? A: They show you.)

7. My Garmin Forerunner. It’s too soon to say if this is infatuation or a true love affair; I’ve only had it two weeks. It’s a watch and timer with GPS, altimeter and heart monitor, for runners and cyclists. Mainly you can geek out about your exercise, which for some of us is an important determinant of perseverance. (Speaking of geeking out, Owen Barder deserves all credit for this purchase. He recommended the 305, because it is half the price but basically the same as the new model, and I agree. He also recommends the SportTracks software. I endorse the velcro wristband that is also a bike mount.) Review here.

My laptop is not on this list because, while indispensable, and while less troublesome than any previous computer, laptops bring grief and struggle as much as joy. Plus it calls out to me: “Chris,” it says, “don’t go outside and interact with real people, come read 43 mildly uninteresting news articles on the interwebs, then blog something inane.”

What’s in your consumer surplus?

11 Responses

  1. 1) folding kick scooter, cheaper and more robust than a bike, effective range is a few km
    2) stovetop moka pot
    5) Thinkpad X-series with 3G internet
    7) Garmin GPS for running
    8) a spreader-less hammock

  2. Keep us posted on how you get on with the Garmin Forerunner. Can it interact with websites like (i.e. pick up runs you’ve mapped, automatically fill in details of your run on the site,…)?

  3. I definitely agree with you regarding the stove top coffee maker — for home and travel.

    This year I have set myself a challenge that gifts I give will be home-made, re-purposed, artisan, creative, hand made, second hand/vintage, etc, etc. It’s a good thing my partner hasn’t taken the same vow — I think there’s a Kindle coming for my birthday! I’m tempted but ambivalent — will I like it? Will I give up paper books or will the Kindle end up re-gifted? I’ll know in a couple of months.

  4. I’m so happy you said your bike. This would easily be my number one; since I started cycling over 2 years ago all other material possesions seem to be less important. I’ve found new friends, places, and happiness through cycling! I couldn’t agree more about the laptop. Great, yes, but life enhancing? No.

    The only other thing that gets close would be food, but I don’t really think that counts…

  5. I have had the Garmin 205 (no heartrate monitor) for 5 years now. Between my wife and me it gets used at least once a day, on average, and we’ve never had a problem with it. It’s a bit clunky to have on your wrist when you run more than just a few miles, but that’s a minor annoyance.

  6. I second you on the Bialetti caffetiera, it is irreplaceable and ageless, and our local coffee vendor can replace the rubber when it gets old, for fifty euro cents, so it is a great and they are not expensive at all in the first place.
    I don’t know how I made it through the night before my first sleeping mask. Earplugs are a must for me too, especially in Africa, where there is all kinds of noise, from the local maquis, the stray dogs barking at night and early morning prayer calls (or all night sessions from Ethiopian churches).

    I am tempted by the Kindle for practical reasons, but I love holding the book, from the lovely covers to the pages and the font (are all the kindle fonts the same, or do they correspond to those of printed versions?) and piling them on my shelves, both at home and when I travel.

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