Monday, September 29, 2008

Talk Like A Real Pirate Day

We've got actual pirates in the news today: a group of Somali pirates hijacked a Ukranian freighter hauling, among other things, a pile of Russian tanks. They're asking a $20 million ransom for release of the ship, cargo, and crew. I know it's technically a tragedy -- one crew member died during the hijacking, and the hijacking problem has gotten out of control. (Paul Allen reportedly has a crew of ex-Navy SEALs as onboard security for his worlds-largest yacht.) Still, the first thing that struck me as a bit funny about this is that the Associated Press said that all of their information about the pirates' demands came from a "pirate spokesman". I wonder if they've also got an official Pirate Ombudsman and a Pirate HR Department.

I also can't help but think that this is exactly like the beginning of a few dozen espionage/action movies and novels. The pirates have seized the ship, and warships and planes are circling. Then, at night, Dirk Manly and his team of spec-ops commandos will board the ship. He'll have a Meaningful Moment with one of the hostages, or possibly he'll realize that one of the hijackers is his old college love. The action moment comes, they'll kill most of the hijackers, but a few will escape and take the love interest with as a human shield.... Yeah, we've all seen this movie.

I wonder if we'll actually see military action to liberate the ship. I wouldn't be surprised; the cargo is military, and governments (unlike corporations) tend not to negotiate with hijackers and terrorists. I hope the civilian and military body count is low when the hammer drops....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More silver linings

I'm doing my best to be optimistic about working too much this week. Today took a sudden turn for the even-more-work when our event manager called in sick; I'm doing double duty today, covering both jobs for the last 2/3 of my 16-hour work day. But I'm looking at all the bright sides. The big one: the caterers brought a tray full of candied walnuts for the dinner salad, and I'm eating pretty much all the leftovers myself. Candied walnuts: even better than cake frosting! Since I became an actual grown-up (sometime in my mid-30s, I think), I can no longer wolf down icing by the can. But I can still eat a functionally unlimited amount of candied walnuts....

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sound-guy truism

Some days, you value performers for the quality of their performance.

Some days, you value performers for the ease of their set-up and tear-down.

Guess which kind of day I'm having today....

Working Too Much (again)

I'm in the middle of One Of Those Weeks. I worked 12 hours Tuesday, 18 hours Wednesday, normal days yesterday and today, and I'll be working a 14 on Saturday. I'm noticing that I'm not as good at this as I used to be; long days didn't bother me when I was in my twenties, but now I'm feeling a bit wiped out already. I'm planning on going home after work and doing nothing other than napping and sleeping; I might not even read.

I think part of my lack of coping skills with long days might have something to do with being on salary. When I was paid hourly, I at least had the comfort that my extreme overwork would land me a big fat stack of cash on payday. Now, I semi-regularly pull long days or long weeks for which I get no real compensation at all. I get home too tired to write, too late to work in the garden, sometimes (like today) without even the minimal amount of mental energy required to read a damn book, and my paycheck doesn't change at all. I theoretically get comp time, but realistically, when will I ever get the chance to take an extra 20 hours off to make up for this week? As it is, I only got one day off last week, because there's too much going on and my part-time help has odd availability. Realistically, the comp time's just gone. Coupled with the fact that I never take much of my vacation or sick time anyway, I get the short end of this deal.

I know I'm conflating two issues here a bit: working so much that I'm too tired to do anything else, and working extra hours without compensation. If I got paid an extra 40 hours to make up for my extra time worked this week and last, I'd presumably still be tired. But I'd definitely be less grouchy....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fortune smiling on me, a wee tiny bit

We had a wedding at the Artsgarden last weekend, and it was a late one. I ended up finishing around 2:30am, and I was feeling pretty wiped out. The wedding party arrived around 10am to begin assembling the centerpieces and the cake in our green room, and it was pretty constant between then and when I finished. As I wandered downstairs, I was feeling snack-ish, and trying to think of a place on my bike ride home that was open and had something sweet and dessert-oriented. I opened the green room door, and guess what was sitting on the table in front of me:

Yesss! a 25-pound tub of buttercream cake frosting! I didn't eat much, just enough to make myself extremely, extremely happy and to get a bit of a sugar rush for the bicycle ride home. But I'm always happy when I get evidence that the universe hears my little unspoken prayers....

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happily married

Laura and I got married seven years ago today! Congratulations, us!

I've been thinking about our wedding a lot recently. We've started doing weddings and receptions at work, and we're turning into a popular venue. So I see a lot of soon-to-be and newly-married people at a pivotal time in their lives. And I'm constantly amazed at how unbalanced or crazy a lot of people are during and after the big event. It all serves as a reminder of how blessed I am to have married Laura. Ours was a low-key event, and our chief goals for the day were to have a good time and to be with our family and friends. We didn't obsess about any details, and every step of the process was actually a lot of fun. Sure, we had some stress -- but it was entirely situational. We got married two weekends after September 11, and we had friends who couldn't come to the wedding because they still weren't flying planes out of their local airports. But it was also good timing; everyone we knew was at least a little shaken up by September 11, and some of our friends were downright traumatized. And getting together for a friendly social event did a lot of people -- us included -- a lot of good. Plus, we really did have a great time.

We're celebrating our anniversary by spending the entire day together, and not doing anything other than being together and enjoying each other's company and talking. No movies, no checking e-mail (this doesn't count; I'm writing this while she's teaching class), not even reading. We might do a picnic lunch in the park where we got married; we might go out for a nice dinner. But we're definitely spending our day together. I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Too Much Metallica

Here comes some grousing, be prepared. If it helps, picture me reading it in a nasal, whiny voice; I'll stop after a paragraph, so it'll be over soon.

I'm tired of Metallica. I don't actively hate the band; it's not like they've ever done anything personal to irritate me. But I wish I heard a lot less of them. We've now got an all-Metallica station on XM Radio, which I never listen to, but its presence in the radio spectrum doesn't mean the other rock stations are playing Metallica any less than they were before. I was hoping that a never-ending constant loop of Metallica music would reduce their feculent presence on the rest of the stations, since people who feel like catching some "Enter Sandman" now have their own station; this was wishful thinking. Our XM radios have a neat feature that lets you flag a song (by title or artist) while it's playing, and if that song or artist comes up on another station in the future, it'll automatically jump to it. I wish they offered a matching feature that let you ban music; it would be nice to never hear Metallica on the radio again....

I should note we've also got an AC/DC station on XM, too; I'm perfectly happy to know I can always catch some Angus in the middle of my day if I want.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

semi-close call on the bike

So, I almost got hit while cycling to work this morning. It was totally not my fault; I was on the sidewalk at the time. A delivery driver hit an orange barrel at a construction site and bounced it up onto the sidewalk at me, and I had to do a complete dodge-duck-dip-dive-dodge to avoid getting smacked. The driver hit two barrels, apparently paying more attention to navigating than driving. On the plus side, he stopped after he hit them. I didn't stop or stick around, but it looked like the construction workers (also narrowly missed) were completely ready to kick the guy's ass. They looked pissed off....

Linkage: Kung Fu Monkey

I don't have enough time in my day to read many blogs. Every time I start blog-surfing, I keep getting mostly imaginary pop-up windows that say "You Should Be Writing!" or "So, How's That Novel Coming?". That being said, however, I just rediscovered a blog I used to read but have since forgotten about: Kung Fu Monkey. I think it's one of the things I stopped reading when I realized how much time I was spending online (answer: more time than I was spending playing video games, by more than a factor of two). But I just rediscovered it via a link to the 27% crazification rule in a Scalzi comment thread. He's a funny guy, and he writes with authority about subjects on which he's an expert (movie and teevee writing, amongst others). If you've got time to burn online, check him out!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Movie: Burn After Reading

Laura and I snuck off to a movie today: Burn After Reading. She enjoyed it much more than I did, though I didn't actively hate it. It was totally not the movie I expected from the trailer. The trailer makes it look a bit like a wacky comedy, and completely glosses over its extreme Coen-Brothers-ness. It's a very dark comedy, and I really think most of the comedy comes from the trailer -- from the fact that you're expecting comedy, so you see it. And Brad Pitt is genuinely funny; he alone of all the cast doesn't seem like he's taking himself too seriously, and his doltish character's low-grade slapstick makes the movie watchable.

I found the movie oddly distasteful, in truth. We don't get a hero in the picture; the story moves along on the backs of selfish jerks and selfish philanderers, with no characters whose heads I could really comfortably slide into. Sure, you feel pity and sympathy for them -- for most of them, at one time or another. But I didn't really respect any of them, I didn't actually like any of them, and the movie they make together is a dark pit of loathing and paranoia. I can't really say much more about the film without venturing into spoiler territory, but I will mention that the movie doesn't finish, as much as it grinds to a halt and rolls credits. If you're a Coen Brothers fan, give it a try; it's got Coen all over it. If you're expecting a vaguely slapstick comedy, look elsewhere. But if you're in the mood for a bleakly dark movie with a few funny moments, you might give it a try....

Days off together!

Laura and I have had two days off together -- two days in a row, during which neither of us had to work or be anywhere. It's been nice, and this almost never happens. Ours isn't a life with a routine schedule, and it's in the nature of what we do that we rarely have many days off, and that they rarely coincide. There's a running joke about doctors being happiest marrying other doctors, as laymen can't fully understand what they do and don't understand the odd demands of their profession or calling. I suspect this is the same for theatrical people; people who aren't in the biz have trouble wrapping their heads around the odd demands of life in theater. Laura and I understand the scheduling to which our business subjects us. If she's in production, I know it's a week when I'll never see her by daylight. If I've got shows and events all weekend, she knows what that's like. And it's never a source of stress for us.

So having a pair of days together is a treat. We didn't plan any activities; we went grocery shopping, we made pasta together for dinner last night (I made the pasta from scratch, she made the world's yummiest meat sauce), we went to a movie, and we spent a lot of time lounging and reading and talking. It's been nice.

Friday, September 12, 2008

That which scares me

Okay, I've kept pretty quiet about politics recently. Frankly, I'm a little burned out about it; regardless of your politics, this is the season for endless yammering. I pity the folks running for office on both sides of the race. You're expected to talk knowledgeably for hours every day, you're never sleeping enough, and if you make some slight gaffe, it's paraded around for days. It's not pretty and often crosses the line into actively distasteful territory.

But I recently ran across two bits of utter lunacy that I thought I had to share. The first was sent to me by a friend who's a hardcore Republican (I would say "Republican apologist", but I'm fairly certain she's convinced the Republicans have never, ever done anything that warrants an apology or explanation). It's a long-ish rant proposing that Obama is actually a plant by fundamentalist Islam, and that if he wins the election, we'll be handing control of the country over to The Terrorists. My friend wanted my comments, but I don't felt it warranted any; rather, I sent back this link. The scary part is, there are apparently a lot of people completely willing to believe this, including (apparently) otherwise intelligent friends of mine. I wonder if our electoral lunacy has produced a matching theory about McCain -- maybe that he was brainwashed during his five years in Hanoi, and if he's elected it'll be like handing the presidency to the hardline Vietnamese? Either way, it's incivil, demeaning to the candidates, and enfeebling the minds of those gullible and stupid enough to believe it.

The other bit of craziness involves Sarah Palin. I know she's been getting slammed a lot, some of it extremely undeserved. But some of it's also a bit deserved. Here's a clip from NBC in which we learn she doesn't know what the Bush Doctrine is. This is scary. I wouldn't expect everyone to know what policy "the Bush Doctrine" refers to, but she's running for vice president, and it's been the core of our foreign policy for the last six years. This would be like asking your doctor if you should be on beta blockers, and having him say, "what are these beta blockers of which you speak?" We're used to a certain level of idiocy from our elected officials, from Reagan's "ketchup is a vegetable" to Clinton's "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" to every single word uttered by Dan Quayle as veep. But we generally don't get the idiocy until after they're elected....

Signs of aging, #3364

You know you're officially getting older when you realize yours are possibly the only text messages on the planet that follow all the rules of grammar, punctuation, and capitalization....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New iPods out today!

Apple just released the new line of iPods today, and I'm cyber-drooling over the new iPod Touch. As predicted, they're bigger and cheaper and come pre-installed with the 2.1 software update and access to the app store. I was also hoping for Bluetooth and a camera, but no luck there. I also expected them to be cheaper; the 8gb iTouch is actually more expensive than the 8gb iPhone. But they're still a shiny kind of cool.

I suspect I wouldn't use a lot of the features of a Touch, though. I like the idea of a portable web browser and text reader, and I'd like a video iPod, but I'm really not interested in a lot of the apps and games that run on a Touch. My ideal is to simplify my life, not add extra crap to it. And a lot of the toys you can find for a Touch and iPhone are exactly that -- toys. And I know I'm happier avoiding anything that gives me so many new interesting ways to waste my time. If it had Bluetooth, I could use it with an external keyboard as a portable text editor, and I could therefore justify it as a writing tool; I'd add it to the pile of other portable writing tools I own but rarely/never use, but it's a good rationalization. So, I'm not planning on getting one anytime in the foreseeable future, but it's a nice toy to look at.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

And yet I'm keeping my day job

So, I just won a whopping four dollars in the lottery. Which is a net of three dollars, after factoring in the dollar I spent on the original ticket. Just to show I'm not letting my winnings go to my head, I'm planning on keeping my day job at least a little while longer. I generally buy a lottery ticket a few times a year -- either when the jackpot is huge, or when I'm feeling particularly down about our financial situation. I don't actually expect to win; rather, buying a ticket is the price of daydreaming about what you'd do if you won.

It's a good question. If I won the current jackpot ($105 mil), I'd get to keep about $35 mil of that; even if I invested poorly, I'd end up with a million dollars a year to spend. I don't know how easily I could realistically do that. Unless I wanted to start buying property or get a huge house, I don't think I could comfortably spend a million bucks on goods and services in a year. Spending money is a habit, and it's one I'm not in and wouldn't particularly want to develop. Sure, I could buy toys. But I've already got too much stuff. The best I could do would be to replace my current pile of stuff with a newer, shinier pile. I suspect we'd travel more, and do it in style, and give a lot of money away. Oh, and there would definitely be one of these in my future....

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Guy shopping

At work, we end up making a hardware shopping trip every month or two. It's nice having an actual budget for parts and techie-toys; I've worked enough places where it took six weeks and three layers of approval to buy paint, that I appreciate being able to spend money when we need to. Since we've got a bit of extra money in the budget this year, I'm planning on a shopping spree in the near future. I use a lot of my personal tools at work, which means they're not available at home when I want/need to do projects. As much as I'm always happy to have an excuse to do No Work, projects are piling up. And, since my transportation has two wheels and no motor, it's problematic to get tools back and forth when I need them. So I'm buying an identical set of tools and leaving them at work. They'll be official Artsgarden tools; they'll always be here when I need them, so I can leave my personal tools at home.

At first I thought this would be a smallish shopping trip, but now that I'm starting to collect tools to take home, I'm a bit surprised by how many tools I have here, and how many I use on a regular basis. I found that I need to make an actual written list of everything, so I don't forget anything important. And the list is getting long; I'm working on it today, when our evening event isn't keeping me otherwise occupied. I'm in no way complaining here. I get to go shopping with a real budget and buy a large number of nice tools. In previous jobs, when I had no budget and too much bean-counter oversight, I would daydream about this kind of thing. I might even buy really nice tools....

Friday, September 05, 2008

Reading in Bulk!

One of the disadvantages of trying to fit writing into my schedule: I've often got the choice of either reading, or writing, but not both in one day. So now that I'm treating the writing more seriously, I'm reading less than I'd like. Still, as I was just looking at the books I need to return to the library, I realized I've had four days in the past three weeks in which I've started and finished an entire book in one day. Before I was trying to write seriously, I almost never did this; I think I might be managing my time better now. And, two of them were while Laura and I were on vacation, and reading a lot was one of our goals for the trip. So, even though I'm reading less than I'd like, I'm happy to see I'm shrinking the book pile at least a little.

Oh, and -- the four books. The Probability Broach, from L. Neil Smith: an extremely libertarian sci-fi novel from 1980 or so. It's not at all shy about its politics, hinging on the sci-fi trope of an alternate Earth -- an idyllic utopia, ruled by libertarian principles which render all men truly equal, poverty nonexistent, and society nearly perfect. It's not a great story, with the characters and plot inconsequential next to the setting. And even the setting gets shorted here, with a lot of real questions dodged or ignored, this perfect world merely a paean to objectivism and libertarianism. And, in the end, the politics of this alternate world almost lead to its destruction; when its ideals fail to protect it even in the face of threat, the world is saved by our "hero" causing an explosion which levels a dozen city blocks (deserted except by the bad guys, conveniently keeping our protagonist firmly on the side of the good guys). In his favor, the author manages in 1980 to fairly predict not only the internet, but also the Department of Homeland Security. Still, I wouldn't recommend the book. Unless you share its politics, in which case you'll probably be able to overlook all its shortcomings in favor of its message.

Next, Janet Evanovich's newest Stephanie Plum novel, Fearless Fourteen. Our favorite clueless bounty hunter has more wacky adventures, this time involving a pile of stolen loot (clues to which may or may not be hidden in her sometime-boyfriend Joe Morelli's house), a bodyguard detail for an over-the-hill, over-sexed pop singer, Worlds of Warcraft, and a reality-TV show. If you've read the previous books in the series, you should probably read this too; if not, start at book one and read until the series gets numbingly repetitive. Given that I'm still reading at #14, I haven't hit that point yet -- but I could see it happening soon, especially if you read them all back-to-back. Also, noticed this is an extremely short book. I'm guessing it at 65,000 words (The Bibliophile says 77k, but I doubt it) -- long novella, or very short novel. But you can apparently still sell these for twenty-eight bucks if you're Janet Evanovich.

Also read Anton Strout's debut novel, Dead to Me. I heard the author at GenCon this year, and he sounded interesting enough that I was curious to read his book. It's urban fantasy, set in a New York City where the city government operates a paranormal office (picture the Laundry, but less technically inclined and staffed by much less competent people). Our main character is a psychometrist -- when he touches an object, he can see its history in odd chunks. Amongst other things, this makes relationships difficult in interesting ways. I liked the book, and I also liked the fact that the main character is a petulant, immature asshole. He matures as the book progresses, which is something series characters rarely do; it was nice to watch. On the down side, I was a little irritated by a plot twist near the end of the book. It was, essentially, "here's Mr. Evil's business card. Let's have our psychic see if he can get any readings from it; this will doubtless provide more information than actually going to the address printed on the card!" The plot develops nicely to keep our main character central to it, but, really, he and his gifts could've easily been unnecessary to the story's last 100 pages. This is a minor point, though; it was a fun, well-written book, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

And, last: Marjorie M. Liu's The Iron Hunt. I really liked our main character, and I like her world. She lives in the company of four demons. By day they become her living tattoos; by night, they are her hunters and her army. The interactions between her and her companions felt extremely real; I need to flip back through the book and see how this works on a mechanical level. As for the story, it's a huge, confusing mystery. Some of the questions are answered by the end of the book, but not all. Unnatural confusion is one of my biggest irritations in fiction -- where the plot is moved forward because people aren't telling the main character things they should be. This book spent most of its pages looking like it was doing this. Everyone was keeping important information from the main character, even her demons; she'd meet characters the demons knew, but they wouldn't tell her who the new people were. It turns out, Liu came up with a really good plot justification for the secret-keeping (at least for some of the secrets). I was impressed. This also looks like the start of a series; it had better be, given the huge number of loose threads. And I'm looking forward to reading the rest. The A minor pet peeve: our main character's name, Hunter Kiss, grated on my nerves. It sounds like a hero name from any b-list Stephen Segal movie, possibly even a step below Mason Storm or John Cold.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Amusing things for the day:
  • Manfred Mann of 43 Folders lists his tongue-in-cheek criteria for whether or not he should read a non-fiction book from the promo pile he receives daily.
  • Wired Magazine's list of Five Gadgets That Could Get You Arrested. I like the knife, but the laser-based graffiti toy is pretty cool too....
  • Of the cool, DeputyDog's picture show of the world's coolest gargoyles and grotesques. My favorite: the glow-in-the-dark dragon in Munich. If you're not reading Deputy Dog on a semi-regular basis, you should start.
  • In honor of Don LaFontaine's passing, an article about another of my favorite voice actors: Frank Nelson.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Work-related stress (for a change!)

I don't normally feel a lot of stress at work. I'm good at what I do, and my job is well-defined (it's observationally true that poorly-defined responsibilities are the root cause of most people's job stress). This week is the exception. The Arts Council's annual kick-off-the-arts-season luncheon, Start With Art, is tomorrow. It's a bit stressful, mostly because there's always technical trauma associated with the event. And it's never (okay, only once) been my fault, and it always makes me look bad. I've already whined about last year, which might be the worst we've had. One year, we had a speaker forget he was wearing a wireless; he insisted we mic him before lunch, and when he got on stage to talk, he never turned it on. He completely forgot he was wearing the mic, and we had to run a completely different mic to the guy on stage during his talk. Another year, I was on a ladder focusing lights during what was supposed to be the keynote rehearsal, because nobody on the house crew knew how to do it (and, it ain't rocket science). But there's always something wrong.

This year, I'm anticipating no additional trauma. We've already had some, but it came during setup. The house crew never got (or never looked at; it's hard to tell which) the stage plot, so they focused the podium lights in the wrong place. They also hung the logo crooked; when we straightened it, it was also out of the light. And there's no good (cheap) way to fix this. Even though the mistakes are theirs, they still need to call in a crew to open the wall to get the lift in (the decorating union), call a separate set-up crew to move the banquet tables out of the way so the lift can get in, and have another guy with a different union (stagehands') focus the lights, then repeat the process in reverse to get the lift out. So I think we're going with a general wash instead of the specials.

The other bit of comedy: they use 8" fresnels with barn doors for their specials. It would be pretty easy to just fly in the electric, tip the barn doors a bit, and fly the electric back out. But this isn't an option, because the electric in question doesn't fly. I asked if it were dead-hung, and their tech said, "if 'dead hung' is another word for 'broken', then yes."

I'm also not happy that Laura's not going to be at the luncheon this year; she'll be at Clowes Hall, kicking off an actual arts season. But I've always enjoyed seeing her during the event, and I'll miss having her there.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Recipe file: Mac and Cheese

Normally Laura cooks dinner, but I wanted to give her extra spoilage tonight, so I announced I was going to cook. I also announced my menu choice: hot dogs and mac-n-cheese. Laura doesn't care for the KraftMac, so I made homemade macaroni and cheese. I've been fiddling with the recipe for a while, and I've finally hit upon a variation I might stick with. It's in no way a fancy food product -- it's extremely basic Midwestern mac-n-cheese, but it's highly yummy. Feel free to give it a try.

Jeff's Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 lb penne pasta
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp vegetable (or olive) oil
1 medium onion
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
1 3/4 cups skim milk
2 cups (8oz) shredded 2% mild cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 2-quart (7X11 or 9X9) glass baking dish.
Start boiling water for the pasta. When the water's ready, add the pasta and cook according to package directions; drain.
While the water's warming up, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the bread crumbs to the melted butter, stir until the bread crumbs are coated. Set aside.
Chop the onion medium-fine. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan, and saute the onion until it's soft. Add the flour, pepper, salt, and mustard, mix well. Add the milk, bring just to boiling, and simmer until it thickens a bit. Remove from heat, add the cheese, and stir well until the cheese is completely melted.
By now the pasta should be done. Pour the pasta into the bottom of the baking dish, cover with cheese sauce, and top with bread crumbs. Bake 20 minutes.

You can substitute a lot: you can saute the onions in butter instead of oil, you can add a little minced garlic with the onions, you can use any tubular pasta (penne's what I had handy), you can use crushed croutons instead of bread crumbs (in which case, skip the step with the butter), you can use corn starch instead of flour. You can also use any cheese that melts well, and combine cheeses if you like. If you're not feeling cheddary, you can mix gruyere and asiago, or soft manchego and cheddar and a little goat cheese, or any other combination that you like. Personally, I don't like the consistency mozzarella brings to the finished product. And very dry cheeses (like parmesan) make the sauce a bit grainy. But feel free to play around.

Signs and Portents from Apple

We considered getting Laura an iPod Touch a few weeks ago, so she could check her e-mail on the road without lugging her laptop everywhere. One of the main reasons we didn't: Apple is borderline evil about announcing upgrades and new products. When Laura bought my my iPod Nano for my birthday last year, she bought it on Thursday, gave it to me on Saturday, and the new 2nd-generation Nano (more capacity, shows video, and cheaper) came out Tuesday. And Apple never actually tells you when they're going to do this. Apple's so bad about this, entire web sites have sprung up to warn people unofficially about upcoming new product releases. We hit MacRumors, and they warned us that we were just a few weeks from a new iTouch, just like the old one but cooler, with piles of extra features. The other sign that the iTouch was about to undergo a serious revision: an iTouch is essentially an iPhone, minus the camera, GPS, 3G data network, and phone, but an iTouch is actually selling for $100 more than a comparably-sized iPhone. This means things are about to change in AppleLand. Apple never offers sale prices on anything, and its authorized resellers aren't allowed to discount the retail price either, so they won't put the old iTouch on sale; they'll just keep selling them at the current too-high price until they come out with the new model, which will have its own pricing.

All this is a complicated lead-in to me saying that I want a new iTouch when they come out. They're rumored to have built-in GPS and a camera, and to cost roughly what the current generation of iPod Nanos cost. Cool! Anything that reduces by one the number of gadgets I have to carry around is automatically a good thing....