The Burning House Project

To those unaware, Thursday night was the Ontario provincial elections. While it will come as no surprise that I – a self-proclaimed nerd and lover of all things statistical – spent the night watching the poll results, and considering what might happen, it should also be known that I spent part of my time reporting said election results on the Twitter.

It was during the reporting on Twitter that I noticed a particular tweet that caught my attention. Specifically, my friend Rob, whom you will likely remember as the guy that sent me this, and these, recently tweeted the following:

The tweet intrigued me. Having known Rob for 25+ years, I’ve learned that when he does something, I should pay attention. The reasons for this are simple; Rob and I share many of the same interests, and Rob has an incredible yet completely understated ability of finding the most amazing things. And because he appreciates quality and attention to detail like no one else that I know, he takes an appropriate amount of time before declaring anything amazing or awesome. Of course, when he has discovered a gem, you can see it in his eyes and on his face. There’s a sparkle in his eye, and this little smirk that tells me that whatever he knows, whatever he has discovered, whatever he has stumbled on is absolutely worth my time. As such, I know that if he has mentioned something, it’s something that I want to know about as well.

In this particular case, his tweet led me to an art project called The Burning House. The premise is simple:

If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question. []

A very simple premise, but one that says so much about the person who responds. The website has many contributions from people all around the world. Some are humourous, some are touching. Some are altogether apocalyptic in nature (for example, the person who would grab their knives and guns – it’s a house fire people, not the end of the world). Regardless, you can see how the answers might speak volumes about the person answering.

And of course, this got me thinking: If my house were on fire and I had just enough time to grab a few items, what would they be?

So, without further ado, I present to you my Burning House collection (in list form, of course):

  • Elliot (not shown – he posed for a while as I set up the items, but then decided he had enough before I could get a picture – go figure).
  • MacBook Pro, portable hard drives (Time Machine), and reinstall disks. Also known as the first half of my life, back up to my life, and lifesaver.
  • iPhone (not shown). Also known as the other half of my life.
  • University degrees (BSc, MSc not shown).
  • Leather jacket (not shown), and sunglasses. One wants to look good at all times.
  • Passport. Hey, if my place has gone up in flames, I’m still going to want to travel.
  • Wallet, specifically Visa, bank card, and $20 cash. For funding travel (see previous bullet).
  • A collection of random offensive cards I’ve received from friends (not all shown). My friends care enough to sent the very worst.
  • Upcoming concert tickets.
  • Medals from running. These are as important to me as the really expensive piece of paper I call my PhD.
  • Artwork from Venice. This makes me smile every time I look at it.
  • Two favourite mugs. These make me very happy, especially when filled with coffee.
  • Nerd dice, and personal infographic (made by Rob).
  • PhD Prom Yearbook. So many awesome memories and sentiment that are not in digital format.
  • Camera. For capturing shenanigans.
  • Bike helmet (and bikes, not shown). As important to me as my running gear (not shown).
  • Running shoes, running shorts, and my yoga mat (not shown).
  • Artwork by Benjamin Murphy. These also make me smile every time I look at them. Partly because they are incredible, but mostly because of who painted them.
So there you have it folks; my Burning House list. I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten something, but these were the first things that came to mind, so I figured they are probably the most important. Of course, if I were in a real fire and time were very limited, I’d likely only grab items 1 through 3. In an extreme bind, it’s just me and Elliot. No sense in going up in smoke over material items. Even those that might have sentimental value.
So what would be on your list?

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Robert says:

    Well, since you asked….

    1. My favorite albums. If this list was a ‘desert island’ music pick – these would be it.

    2. A backup of my digital life. (photos, music, documents, etc..)

    3. Although I would also bring Nami (not pictured), Mushi was the only one who co-operated for this photo.

    4. My favorite jeans because one must look good when they flee from a burning house.

    5. Any and all camera equipment.

    6. Lava rock – A souvenir from Hawaii. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t allowed to take this.

    7. My watch – a recent gift to myself. The watch is the perfect complement to my lifestyle as it does not tell time during the day, only at night.

    8. Passport.

    9. iPhone.

    10. Wallet.

    11. My (current) favorite pen. It’s so hard to find pen that flow the way I want. I admit that I have something of a pen fetish.

    12. Seagull 6 string guitar – a gift to myself when I first started learning to play that I absolutely cherish. It is probably the only material possession that I’ve never wanted the latest-greatest version of. The sound is just perfect.

    13. Any and all no digital pictures that I can grab (I have boxes full of these).

    14. Hanko stamps from Japan design for both my name and business name.

    15. My complete McSweeney’s Quarterly collection. This is probably the only thing I have painstakingly collected since the first edition. However, given the size of the collection and the obscure sizes of each edition, I might not survive the fire trying to save them.

    1. dangillis says:

      An excellent list sir. A few comments:

      #4 – Too true. One must look good as they flee from fire. It’s a law, I’m sure.
      #6 – I too have some of this, and while it’s not illegal to remove, there are rumours regarding a curse on those who remove Pele’s rocks.
      #7 – This intrigues me. I shall have to see how this thing ‘works’ when next we meet.
      #11 – You? A pen fetish? No!
      #12 – This makes me smile.

  2. Robert says:

    I meant to say “non-digital pictures”…. sigh…

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