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There are a lot of topics, both serious and fun, that are out there to be covered by The Verge, and it falls on our news writers to cover them: from coronavirus and space exploration to YouTube and Super Nintendo World. Mitchell Clark is one of those writers; among other articles, he wrote one of the best explanations you can find of what exactly NFTs are. We took a look (remotely via photos) of Mitchell’s desk and asked him some questions about his stuff.
Tell me a little about yourself. What is your background, and what do you do at The Verge?
Like Jay, I’m a news writer, tasked with keeping The Verge’s readers up to date with news about pretty much anything you could think of. Lately, it’s been a lot of NFTs, but it’s really just a grab bag every day I come into work, which keeps it exciting.
I also literally just got here — I started in December. I previously did a little of everything, from slinging fast-food chicken fingers, professionally fixing people’s phone problems, and doing training, testing, and coding for software the government uses. Basically, pretty much anything not related to my degree in video production.
How did you decide where and how to set up your workspace?
I live in a relatively small and cheap city, so I’m luxuriating in a two-bedroom apartment. I’ve worked at home ever since we moved here in 2017, so as soon as we got all the moving boxes out of the second room, I claimed it as my office. As for where the desk is: it used to be up against the window, but the sun kept getting in my eyes, so I moved it against the wall instead.
Tell me a little about the desk itself.
It’s called the iMovR Energize, and it’s a motorized standing desk. And yes, I do actually work standing up a lot. I don’t often work sitting at it, though — the cat is banned from the office, but if I’m in here he’ll sit outside the door and scream. So if I’m going to work sitting down, I do it on the couch so he doesn’t guilt-trip me.
Half of the reason why I chose the Energize was because it’s ostensibly made in the US, and the other half is that there are almost no reviews of it, and I wanted to do one and have it stand out. As far as I can tell, I’m still the only person who’s done a video review of it on YouTube, the TL;DR of which is that it’s a good desk. If it lasts for 10 years, it may actually be worth the almost $1,000 price tag.
I think that’s the simplest desk chair I’ve seen so far.
Yeahhhh, it’s an Ikea Trollberget. I went with it over an office chair in the optimistic hope that it would help me not slouch so much. The seat part of it tilts back and forth, so it really requires some core strength to sit up straight, which is great when I actually do that, but honestly I usually just put my elbows on the desk and curve my body into some horrible “S” shape. If I lived somewhere I could find a used Herman Miller, I’d probably give one of those a try.
Tell us a bit about your audio setup. It looks like you’ve put considerable thought into it.
Yes, I have. It’s a Shure Beta 87A microphone, mounted on a Heil PL2T arm and connected to a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio interface. The headphones are the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80 ohms, which aren’t super fun for music (hence the fifth-gen iPod with KZ ES4 earbuds) but are great for accurately reproducing vocals.
The whole setup is optimized for one thing: making sure that my voice is as clear and echo-free as possible. I was tired of having to go into a cave of blankets to record voiceovers, so I got a microphone with a very narrow (supercardioid) pickup pattern, and it works great. I also sometimes use it as an improvised video mic, for which it’s only okay. Usually, it just makes me sound really great on Zoom calls (and lets me pretend I’m going to make more episodes of a podcast I made three episodes of and then gave up on).
Okay, now it’s time to talk about your other tech: your computer, display setup, and other tech stuff.
Alright! My computer is a 13-inch M1 Macbook Pro — I went with the Pro over the Air mainly for the brighter screen. When I’m working from my desk and not the couch, I plonk that on a Twelve South Curve stand, and plug it in to a… *checks B&H order history* Dell U2415 24-inch monitor.
It’s 16:10, which is nice, but unfortunately it’s got a 1920 x 1200 resolution. I seem to be especially sensitive to low resolutions (I can immediately tell the difference between YouTube at 1080p and 720p on my iPhone Mini), so my next big upgrade may be to LG’s 24-inch UltraFine 4K (if I can find one used).
I switch between a Magic Trackpad and Logitech G502 Hero for my mousing needs. Changing which device and hand I use helps stave off wrist pain, and I’ve discovered that any mouse without Logitech’s ratcheting / free-spinning scroll wheel is almost unusable for me. For my keyboard, I use the peculiarly named Ducky One 2 with Cherry MX Browns. The main theme is wired: I’ve always run into weird, annoying issues with Bluetooth keyboards and mice.
The final Big Thing on my desk is an OWC ThunderBay 4. Being into video production and photography (Fujifilm X-T3 for digital, Nikon F3HP for film, by the way), I accumulate a lot of absolutely massive files: I’ve currently got 11TB of data spread out across 17TB of drives.
You mentioned that you had a bit of a cable issue.
Yeah, I just up (down? side-to-side?)-graded from an iMac Pro, which had just enough ports to plug in my five bajillion peripherals. Now my computer has two ports, so I have an absolute nightmare of a situation.
Here’s my current setup: I connect my laptop with Thunderbolt to the ThunderBay 4. Somehow that provides enough power to trickle-charge the laptop, and provides a Thunderbolt pass-through, which I currently have a USB-C Satechi Clamp Hub Pro plugged into. Plugged into that are my mouse and keyboard, and my monitor’s built-in USB hub, which has even more devices plugged into it (notably the scanner and Scarlett). Then I use my laptop’s second Thunderbolt port to plug in the monitor (good thing the ThunderBay can charge the computer, I’m out of ports).
I’ve got an OWC Thunderbolt 4 Dock on preorder to save me from this triple-hub chain nightmare, but until then, I’ve just got a mess of wires and am hoping nothing breaks.
I see your keyboard is right near your desk. Do you ever take a break to make some music?
I can’t actually play piano to be honest, even though I’ve literally had this keyboard since I was seven years old. I do have it hooked up to my computer through the Scarlett’s MIDI interface, so sometimes if I find a really cool-sounding synth in Logic, I’ll mash at the keyboard until I get something that sounds good. Its main job, though, is to sit there, guilting me until I actually learn even a drop of music theory.
Looks like a great setup for storing your bikes, but I’d be nervous about crashing into them if I push my chair back too hard…
I’d never even thought about that, but thankfully my chair doesn’t have wheels so I’d really have to try for it. The biggest risk with the bikes is that I’ll look out my window, see the paved trail that runs right outside it (and keeps going for 100 miles into a different state), and not be able to resist the temptation to take a ride!
For any other apartment-dwellers, the bike stand is probably a great option: it’s made by a company called Delta Design. I bought mine at Costco, but as always when I find something I like there, it’s no longer available. Amazon still sells it, and REI has a nicer-looking version, too.
Tell us a bit about your decorations: the great collection you’ve got on your bulletin board, the sculptures on your windowsill, etc.
I always want to have things that, as Marie Kondo would put it, spark joy around me while I’m working. So, I try to decorate with things made by creators or friends, or with art that is associated with some sort of memory. Some of the pins are from webcomics or podcasts that I enjoy, some are from Etsy, and the vintage and Michigan-related ones I got from my grandma, who apparently collected them. I’m on the record as absolutely loving Kentucky Route Zero, so I figured I’d get a poster of it, too.
The coolest story, though, goes with the metal bonsai trees. I did karate for about 10 years (and have missed doing it for six), and my sensei had a friend who would make the trees by hand. He’d give them out every year as awards for people who exemplified certain qualities of the Shotokan dojo kun. I don’t remember which I got them for, but they’re good reminders of some pretty good rules.
What’s on the shelving beneath the bulletin board?
A little bit of everything! There’s an Epson Perfection V550 scanner, which I use for everything from the mundane (scanning documents and birthday / holiday cards) to the exciting only to me (scanning all the film negatives I’ve developed). I also keep all my camera gear there, with one of the drawers having a mishmash of GoPro accessories, a Rode VideoMic Go, Zoom H5, and other video gear. The other drawer has “ancient media” like VHS tapes, cassette tapes, and vinyl records.
Oh, and there’s a label maker, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t have any tape left.
Finally — do you often hide under your desk?
Only in the summer, when it’s hot and I need to get out of the sunlight! But I do work from the floor a lot, either just sitting on it or laying down. I’ve been told it’s weird (usually by my wife, who comes home and finds me laying on the floor, with the cat having sprawled himself across my legs), but it works for me.