Thursday, January 5, 2012


Franklin gives the proverb as "Three removes is as bad as a fire." I first encountered it as "Three moves is as good as a fire", where even if we take "as good as" to mean "equivalent to", the proverb suggests at most resignation rather than warning. Stuff has become easier to come by since Franklin wrote, and the prospect of losing some of it is at worst indifferent.

Since last week I have been preparing to move offices, just a few doors down the hall. I found that in the course of twelve years or so I have accumulated about 12 cubic feet of stuff I have no further use for, including
  • documentation of an accounting system abandoned ten years ago, going back to the proposals from consultants who would help us install it, the schedules of implementation, the details of upgrades
  • documentation for the accounting system that replaced that one, and which has itself been replaced
  • many shelf feet of manuals for software we no longer use
  • several shelf feet of books about software that is obsolete or that we no longer use
  • CDs with software that the vendor hasn't supported in years
  • CDs that I probably burned but have no idea why--when did I want to use Ubuntu Linux 8 (Hardy Heron)?--or was that the guy who has since moved halfway across the country?
  • 3.5 inch "floppy" disks (and some mailers for them)
  • tapes for which we no longer have drives--8 mm, 4 mm, DLT
  • lists of employees from events years ago, so that most of those named have moved on
  • enough legal pads, steno pad, and other tablets, mostly blank, that I could not fill them up in six months without disabling myself with writer's cramp
Yet my office was not inordinately messy as offices go. The books for the most part were shelved, the work plans and so on were in files, the software was in a cabinet.

One lesson that I hope I have learned is to be cautious at tech shows.  For a while I had a tech-show mug for every year I had been with my employer; I never drink from them, and use at most one, as a holder for pens and markers. And tech shows will hand out tablets, which I hardly use, but then don't discard.

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