Alert the media: RAM implant was a success.

Yes, Dear Reader, it appears I did manage to unscrew the panel on my iMac and install a new hunk of memory.

I did not:

–Get a shock (unplugging devices = good move);

Upset my beloved computer (it was for your own good, baby);

I did:

–Give thanks I have not yet had Lasik surgery on my eyes (turning that tiny screw on the panel requires my extremely-up-close uncorrected vision);

Need a piece of chocolate in order to calm down (organic, at least).

“Cooks Source” is a den of thieves.

People who steal images or words from others on the web will go to a special Hell…where there is nothing to read but outdated airline magazines with pages missing.

And the reading light is too low.

Oh, and no snacks. Or bathroom.

And the only other human is the person who was meanest to you in grade school.

You, word thieves, are scum.

(Click here for “Copyright Infringement and Me,” a blog post about plagiarism by “Cooks Source Magazine” and one editor’s ridiculous response that inspired the above sentiments. The rant against Cooks Source is going viral and the unleashed fury is wonderful to behold.)

Not a vookworm. Yet.

If there is a better definition for “ambivalence” than the feelings aroused by reading about “vooks” (electronic books with interactive video), I don’t know what it could be.

Los Angeles Times reporters Alex Pham and David Sarno write about how iPad-driven vooks make even Intro Chemistry interesting, something that makes me wish they’d existed when I tried, and failed, to like science in my freshman year of high school.

I’m more acquainted with the sentiments expressed by essayist Gary Shteyngart in this week’s New York Times Book Review, in which a vacation outside of cell range forces him to confess misgivings about a Facebooking, tweeting, arrow-driven, iPhoning inner life. The life that used to require only a book and a brain.

Reading a plain old physical (non blinking) book is an act as close to perfection as possible. There is nothing to fix about that experience. Yet I too am hooked on the device that is the gateway drug to vooks: the iPhone.

I am more likely to forget shoes than my iPhone. If I leave it behind by accident, I experience a wave of anxiety similar to that felt when buckling a seatbelt aboard a transcontinental flight, only to remember that the oven is still on.

This makes sense if one works and lives in a world requiring 24/7 connectivity. I do not.

I tap a keyboard most of the time, and almost none of what I write could be called “news” or “timely.” I live with my Best Friend and domestic time is typically spent within an arm’s length of each other. My pre-Best Friend best friend phones across three time zones every two days or so, the norm for much of the 39 years we’ve been acquainted.  The generous soul I consider a life-raft girlfriend here in town is, like me, temperamentally suited to short and intense meetings in person. A GPS-enhanced phone I need not.

So, what’s the allure? I think it must be a variation on a behavior I used to observe in my father. An extremely intelligent man with little formal education, he loved reading, reference books and electronic gadgets. The first two because they served as his ongoing college; the latter because mastering the newest technology was a way to have an edge over some smartass who went to Harvard but couldn’t rewire the stereo.

I managed to get the schooling he missed out on, and I’m not worrying much about keeping up with the smartasses anymore, but the iPhone is my hedge against the (many) gaps in my education and my skimpy pop-culture knowledge. And I have something he did not. The aps in my pocket supply me with English and Hebrew dictionaries; medical reference guide; new-music updates; NYTimes, the Constitution; NASA reports, food-safety database; Revised Standard Bible (loaded in anticipation of a dinner with Very Christian friends and found to be quite handy); Latin vocabulary. (Then there’s weather, the ocean-sound maker; police radio, ESPN scores and a running grocery list. A girl’s gotta take a break from thinking now and then.)

I’m holding out against vooks for now, but I suppose they’ll get me in the end.

Why computer chips will not replace the human brain just yet.

Conscious thoughts upon dropping a hot microwave pizza on the floor, pepperoni side down:

Shit I’m starving that thing cost almost six bucks I should have said no when I saw the price ring up but the grocery cashier was already close to tears because the woman ahead of me had $40 in food stamps and $62 in groceries and had to put stuff back while her kid watched I shouldn’t be eating this crap if I flip it over fast maybe some of the sauce will still be on the crust when did I last wash this floor will the tomato sauce come out of my t-shirt I’m not even sure what pepperoni is could any of that ant-killing stuff I sprayed last week still be on the floor if I get sick I can say it’s from the goat cheese we had last night I’ll run cold water on the shirt as soon as I finish eating

Elapsed time: 4 seconds.

Great minds, lazy butts.

No one can say we Americans are not using our heads. We’re just doing it in a way that requires little or no physical movement.

Sure, we’ve got a moribund auto industry, sieve-like leakage of jobs to China, rocketing unemployment. But when it comes to selling domain names, we’re hot-hot-hot.

Searching online for a new iPad at a discount, I couldn’t find any cheap Apples in the Ebay barrel…but I did discover the many enterprising souls already auctioning and selling the likes of “www.TheIPadShoppe” and of course, “www.TheAppleIPadSucks.”

The worst part about this kind of armchair sales world is how contagious it is. It was a certainty that I would then spend the morning glued to my computer, searching for domain names that might yield big bucks in the future.

Bad news: IPaddedRoom.com is taken.

e-ponderings

David Pogue, possibly the only person on the planet who can write about using the shift key on your iMac and make it sound fun, raises provocative stuff in a recent blog post. Pogue of course is the genius behind the books, blogs, articles and podcasts on Apple products and other goods in the computer world.

In “Should e-books be copy protected?” he mulls the rising storm around Kindles, Nooks, and the like. If you have a Kindle library of books, should you be able to switch to another e-book gadget and drag all your literary luggage along with you? And, what about passing that book to a buddy who then doesn’t have to pay for it?

I’m fine with moving an e-book from one e-reader to another. It’s like moving a book to a new shelf. Should I be able to pass it on to a friend without paying again? Well, yes. How is that different from lending a printed book to a buddy?

But what about the enterprising folks who pirate and sell the book online for a fraction of the “official” price? Those people we need to send to the electronic woodshed for sure. Of course, we all learned some lessons from the music-piracy mess. Controlling media sharing is pretty much a joke. It’s like catching a greased pig–possible, but laughably difficult.

Here’s what I’m waiting for: Some big macher in this debate to jump up and yell, “Hey! A lot of book-loving, round-the-clock readers are willing to pay for titles! Let’s ask some of them how they’d like to do it!” We rabid readers will rise to the occasion.

I imagine a future in which I make regular PayPal-like payments for increments of reading material — a kind of electronic punch card. Yes, the impoverished student next door will still download pirated stuff for free, but so what? She’s been standing in the aisles at Powell’s reading the stuff without buying it anyway.

Bookworms turn and unite! Pay for your pleasure!

Scheherazade would plotz

I’ve just returned from the Online News Association’s annual conference in San Francisco, and my head is crammed full of new technology.

Any fantasy I’ve entertained about going off the grid has now been dashed. A pile of remarkable tools exist to track the preferences and whereabouts of we humans. A Google Map looks quaint by comparison.

The only hope we have for privacy is to live a life of such dullness that no one will look for us.

What interests me most about this rise in tech-tools that track movement and behavior is how resolutely we want to ignore them. A piece in yesterday’s New York Times pondered the rise of book piracy, a trend that is closely following the Napsterizing of music not so long ago.

A Swiss site called RapidShare is singled out in the NYT piece by author and business prof Randall Stross. RapidShare offers offshore accounts where users keep all types of files safe. As it turns out, it is also the equivalent of a big, big pirate ship that sails through bookstores. Nothing stops me from loading an e-book onto the site, then sending the URL to friends so they can download the book free of charge.

A few months ago my reaction to this news story would be undiluted indignation. Thieves! Sleazeballs! While I still hate the idea of any writer or other artist getting fleeced, the conference on online journalism and a provocative book I read recently have made me sharply aware that the rules have changed. The cash-per-comma publishing model is on the way out, and the sooner we face that fact, the better.

“Free: The Future of a Radical Price” by Chris Anderson is a thoroughly fascinating book on the crumbling of old business models. Anderson is overly glib in the way of most futurists, but he still does a great job of explaining how products like Google’s “free” web searching service make money. The days are over when available shelf space dictated the size of your inventory and a large number of paying customers absorbed the costs of the few who didn’t pay. The limitless real estate of the web has turned the rules of the marketplace upside down.

I’ll wager that as I type this someone is developing software that tracks what we’re reading–in real time–and can shut off the e-book right as things get exciting. With a name like PlotKiller 2.0, it will ensure that readers pay writers their due.

Does Romeo die? What happens to that big white whale? Does the Da Vinci Code ever make sense? You’ll need to hit that PayPal button to find out.


(The photo accompanying this post was taken by travel writer Davia Larson somewhere in Spain. Why doesn’t America have punctuation zones?)

The Young and the Textless

Inspired by “They’re Old Enough to Text, Now What?” in The New York Times, I slipped into a daydream about what my now-distant childhood would have been like if we’d had texting. The first few scenarios that popped into my head had to do with my parents catching me at stuff:

Mother: WRU ?
Me: TOP BG PINE TREE
Mother: GT ASS DWN !

Father: MATH TST ?
Me: C-
Father: NO TV

Sure, texting would have allowed me to head off some of the decidedly un-warm-and-fuzzy moments of family life:

Sister: DAD FIRED !
Me: HIDE BOOZ !

Dad: SCOTCH ?
Me: OUT! (LOL)

But it would also have meant getting bad news even faster:

Me: CAR ?
Mom: REPO !

I wonder, would I still have been a bookworm if I’d had a cellphone?
I like to think I’d have still spent that summer reading all the Nancy Drew mysteries and pretending to be the intrepid girl detective:

Best friend: WHUP ?
Me: SLUTHNG. U ?

At worst I would have learned to type faster, which would come in handy now. Or maybe I’d have made a zillion dollars developing an ap for my iPhone that mapped all tall pine trees within a two-mile radius that were ideal for climbing. With little red flags marking any that were out of cell range.

You clicked on me at 3 a.m. Don’t deny it.

Like every other self-involved blogger on the planet, I have Sitemeter. This may be the best bargain since gas stations gave away free dishes. Even a techno-spaz can load this thing on and get a running tally of blog hits.

Thing is, it counts more than hits. Way more. The summaries show me where people are located, what time they clicked on, how long they stayed, what page they entered/exited; and referral sources. (Thanks, Cyndi! Your Facebook praise pushed my numbers up!)

Unfortunately, Sitemeter is also a lot like early puberty–you know, that time in life when you checked key body parts every few hours to see if anything had changed, preferably for the better?

I check this thing so often that I’ve come to feel that I actually know the people behind the numbers. Like that reader in Hong Kong who clicks on in the middle of the night. Surely this must be someone homesick for America, right?

I’ve not seen any Hong Kong hits for 43 hours now and I’m imagining the worst.

Do you have any idea how easy it is for a Westerner to get run over in that city? If you see this, Hong Kong Reader, please remind yourself that the vehicular traffic goes the other way in this city, and do so before you step off the curb.

And would it kill you to click in on time tonight? I’m worried sick here.

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