I took a trip last weekend. Just before I left, I grabbed a stack of CDs for the journey. I sheepishly admit I’m not yet up to speed with the magic of the iPod. I’m waiting until they come down in price, then I’ll buy one and pretend I’ve hung onto it as a keepsake until I’m sure about the new technology, whatever that turns out to be (it’s possible it has already arrived, but that’s another column).

I took a trip last weekend. Just before I left, I grabbed a stack of CDs for the journey.

I sheepishly admit I’m not yet up to speed with the magic of the iPod. I’m waiting until they come down in price, then I’ll buy one and pretend I’ve hung onto it as a keepsake until I’m sure about the new technology, whatever that turns out to be (it’s possible it has already arrived, but that’s another column).

I no longer put much work into choosing trip CDs. Years ago, music selection was a painstaking process. I took into account the time element, anticipated listening moods, balanced it with my present favorites and so forth.

After I was certain I had the right collection of music, I stuffed a few clothes into a paper sack and headed off.

Today, it’s the opposite. I carefully select my clothing options. I take into account trip length, anticipated clothing moods, current fashion favorites and suitcase space.
After I’m certain I have the right collection of clothes, I stuff a few CDs into a paper sack and head off.

The what-to-take process is a real-world parallel to a popular thought experiment: “If you were stranded on an island and could only have three books, what would they be?”
This assumes you can plan ahead for an island-stranding. But it’s a thought experiment, so don’t get bogged down with details.

Nobody asks, “if you were stranded on an island, what albums would you bring?” That’s because you wouldn’t have a music-playing device along with you (unless you were on the S.S. Minnow, but chances are remote). If you have CDs but no way to play them, all you could do is sit in the sand and stare at the covers, fondly remembering the sounds that once emanated from the shiny disc inside.

That’s why the question usually involves books. But soon — maybe even right now — technology changes the game. A Nook or Kindle in an isolated location has only so much time before the power is depleted. So if you chose to take “War and Peace,” you’d better be a fast reader. This is assuming you can’t generate your own power by innovative use of your natural habitat, but ... come on, this is a thought experiment!

It’s probably best to rephrase the question.

“If you were stranded on an island, and could only have three pairs of shoes, what would they be?”

My answer would involve two questions: “Can the shoes be crammed full of books? And, if so, what books would they be?”

Contact Dennis Volkert at volkert@sturgisjournal.com.