I decided to try and join one of the many blog carnivals and the September Scientae carnival asks “What are your favorite school supplies?”

So my favorite school supplies:

Reams of paper– I may be an observational astronomer that uses digital images but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a desk covered in dead trees.

Brightly colored pens – Ummm, I have a pen problem. I’ve kinda always had a pen problem (I seem to recall hoarding skinny Crayola markers in elementary school). My current favorite pens are Stabilo point 88 pens (which I found at the bookstore of University of the Frozen Tundra when I was back there in June), Uniball Vision Fine points (which I have in pink, blue and green) and an assortment of Zebra Sarasas.

Buying in a broad assortment of colors means a lot of my work is color coded- when I code or troubleshoot printout of code I do so in the color purple. Manuscript edits I do in pink. Greens and blues are assigned to current working manuscripts, so that notes in my lab book about what I’ve done or references I ought to use in the manuscript are all the same color (I tend to work on two projects at a time so I can swap when I get stuck and think about things).

But though I love pens- I hate the Sharpie pens. They’re quite colorful but they bleed like a mofo.

Moleskine Cahier Notebooks– I use the big 7.5 x 9.5 inch notebooks as lab books. And I only use the the ones with blank pages- that way I can write extra wee if I want, and can sketch diagrams without any graph paper or lined background. The notebooks are softbound, so they nice and flex-y when you find yourself needing to put them on the scanner to email some math to your advisor so he can double check it 😉

National Brand Chemistry Notebooks– these are lined and are hard bound. I wind up using these for notes at seminars and conferences and notes from random articles I’ve read. The pretty blue covers make them easy to find on a disaster desk.

A Mac– my dissertation is being written on a MacBook and an iMac, both of which are mine, all mine. The ease of installing software is important, but I still haven’t reformed the advisor to the cult of Mac yet (hell he just moved to buying Linux boxes rather than Sunblades this last year, so I think he’s more comfortable with a computer system he needs to pay someone else to maintain).

IDL– praise cheebus for IDL licenses. Originally in undergrad I learned Fortran and while that was great and all, Fortran77 was quite clunky. Rather than move to Fortran 90 or 95, I’ve gone to the land of IDL. The use of pointers has been awesome when sorting gigantic data files. I think I may be an anomaly these days though, as an astronomer I don’t use IDL to do fits image processing, rather I use it for a lot of numerical crunching.

IRAF- the name we used in undergrad was “Incessant Rambling and Fumbling”. That may describe the IRAF experience well for an astronomer who is just starting to use it, but as you get older and use it more, you learn where all the packages are hidden. I guess one day I may have to move over to PyRAF which is IRAF with a python wrapper, but I just think that’s dumb and poorly documented, so I’ll stick with IRAF thanks.

TeXShop– This is Mac specific and I find myself loving TexShop everyday. And every journal article I write and my dissertation are written in Tex, so I love having the Typeset button where it compiles and shows me the pdf rather than having to sit in X11 cursing at latex and then dvipdf (or dvips and then ps2pdf).

External Hard Drives– handy for backing up data (I have 3 terrabyte harddrives in my office for backing up dissertation data in triplicate) and for taking home data from the telescope. I’m going to have to buy another darned external in October because a week at the telescope with an imager at prime focus (with something like 64 megapixels per image) results in more data than I ever could have imagined ten years ago when I was a wee undergrad.

Small white board (or 5)- good for writing checklists of stuff that need done, lists of job applications (Ack it’s almost that season again), random bits of code I’ve been thinking about or even to just display handy printouts (like diagrams of the main belt that mark the regions for all the dynamical families).

Hair thingies– having hair somewhere between waist and classic length, my hair flies around a bit, especially when I’m frustrated. Keeping my hair out of the way is a good thing. Right now I have a claw clippy and some grabby ponytail holders on my desk.

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