Hey, you, Apple: I’m getting off-a your cloud

Feeling an impending darkness over all this cloud business.

Feeling an impending darkness over all this cloud business.

Apple is in 700 billionth heaven. But all I see are clouds ahead.

On Tuesday, the visionary tech leader broke through the market ticker tape to become the first American company valued at $700 billion or more — $710.7 billion, precisely, nearly double the worth of the next-closest contender, ExxonMobil, trailing at $385.4 billion.

On one hand, I’m proud, because I picked Apple eons ago — back in the naïve Nineties — to win the war over Microsoft. I’d always been a Mac-head: I bought in to the original Macintosh toaster; my 20GB click-wheel iPod was an answer to a prayer; and the iPhone is more than my personal assistant — we’re attached at the hip.

Still, I have a nit to pick.

Over the holidays, I decided to upgrade my decade-old, dual-core PowerMac G5 with a sleeker, faster machine. I had been feeling a bit caged in, still running Tiger OS on the beast.

hqdefaultI hadn’t kept pace with the leopards and other big-cat platforms because, despite my tech prowess, I guess people of a certain stripe have a hard time changing their spots.

I’m certainly not one to put the drag on the sails of technology. After all, I was an early adopter of the Super Betamax, lugging that wonder machine into my college dorm long before there was a Blockbuster on every corner. And it was only last year I tossed my combo clock-radio-rotary phone, which worked fine but was crowding out my iPhone, iPad and Kindle Paperwhite on the nightstand.

You get my drift.

So I was stunned to discover, having missed a few R&D cycles, that the new MacBook Pro laptop I brought home had no disk drive. Where were they hiding it this time? I mused. I felt like someone on “Star Trek” encountering a new life form, pressing everywhere for a hidden button, using crude sensors and probes. After a few days with it, fussing and fuming over the insistent logon for “the cloud” — we just weren’t bonding — I decided to return it in favor of a 27-inch iMac. Again, the internal disk drive was missing, but I figured a desktop would better support an external burner, three external drives, the VCR and my assorted cameras and peripherals.

Truly, I’m the one feeling peripheral, thanks to Apple’s grand designs.

My hobby is videography, so my primary aim in getting a new workstation was to produce DVDs or Blu-rays — not illegally, but as a service to clients, theater people, family and friends.

Yet here was Tim Cook declaring: no more disks, or even discs. Such technology is going the way of the dinosaur, just like credit cards (Apple Pay) timepieces (Apple Watch) and passwords (Apple’s TouchID). Your 3,000-plus CD collection? Toast. Let it go. Want to share your stuff? Introducing Apple’s virtual theater, where the world theoretically could have access – it’s all already in the public domain, even before you and your copyright expire. Plus, extra virtual space is going to cost you. Oh, and you’ll need a compressor to even upload or transfer, conveniently available for another coupla hundred at the Apple Store.

I’m certainly anti-clutter and pro-decluttering. That’s why my vinyl collection is stored off-site in a storage unit — outta sight, outta mind, outta pocket. Each month another $200; I keep repurchasing my stuff.

I’m all for keeping things “safe” — yet, thanks to whistle-blowers and alarming data breaches, it’s no secret there are no true hacker-free zones online.

I'm hungry not for more technological support but respect.

I’m hungry not for more technological support but respect.

My beef is: How does Apple get off thinking it can reprogram ME? Is this monolithic corporation Big Brother in a palatable disguise?

The erosion of my confidence in Apple — maybe technology in general — started with iTunes and the proliferation of MP3s over albums. In sync with its logo, Apple took a bite out of music quality, as MP3s merely “sample” sound, using a compression algorithm roughly one-eleventh the size of the original audio source. I never could abide those musical “dropouts” in MP3s, the tinny, tiny experience.

Now the heirs to Steve Jobs are applying more “Air” pressure to turn my personal data or creative handiwork into vapor. I resent anyone making that decision for me, and I refuse to pay twice for what I buy – first for “fair use” privileges that aren’t fair, and then for storage in a place where I can’t keep tabs on it.

Problem is, someone else sure would be keeping tabs on the data I access, filing my tastes and marketing more “items like that.” In Apple’s all-white, ethereal Zen puffy-cloud world — less hardware, more software — nothing feels like ownership anymore. I happen to find my peace in alphabetizing my discs and admiring the cache of colorful spines.

Not to mention, I hear horror tales about syncing and compounding (confounding!) digital clutter and incompatibility between “the cloud” and various programs, like QuickBooks. Although technology moves quickly, troubleshooting is never quick. And because there are competing clouds, with all-consumer-ing interests, no single omnipotent tech force is looking out for us.

Like leprechauns bowling in the sky, there’s bound to be a major cloud battle someday or unnatural data disaster, then poof! All the precious … up in smoke.

To paraphrase Joni Mitchell: I’ve looked at the cloud from both sides now, and I really don’t like clouds – at all.

Don’t mean to rain on your parade, Apple — but this cloud thing is where I get off.

5 ways poetry doth rock

Clostridium-difficile_456pxA friend this week shared a poem as her Facebook status, resolved that 2014 would be the Year of Viral Poetry. The game went: “Like” it and she would assign you a poet. Thus tagged, you must plunge into this master’s work, like unstopping a brain clog — getting down and dirty, because contemporary poetry has fewer rules than the augured couplets of ninth-grade Honors English. Next, share your wonder by pasting in a poem as your status. So non-status-quo!

Then, as others glom onto you with “Like” petals, you’ll divine, assign, entwine, and this rivulet of streaming consciousness become a swollen wave to displace the dreariness of insipid trumpery.

That was the plan.

c-diff-photo-300x225.jpgSo I dove, cannonballed, belly-flopped into the source material, hoping to dislodge a pearl from the sandy, stingy depths of complacency. But that poem seemed just words randomized, a word cloud, a fluffed pillow of broken dreams, alphabet soup. This poem didn’t speak to me. Another poem sabotaged itself with quirk. The famous series — mere postcards to a celebrity. I rifled, like a picky eater with a shellfish allergy, through the digital poem links, downloaded mp3’d poems, YouTubed and buzz-fed for a Great Poem, one that itself might be shared exponentially. The more I typed “poem” the more it didn’t look write [sic]. A tiny voice started whining: How did she get to be an acclaimed poet? Who is she to pout and ponder? What makes these word choices arranged this way art, and others but utterances? And isn’t “WordPress” so aptly named — we’re all just slaving in a word mill of meaninglessness, churn, churn, churn.

light-virus-1I begrudgingly posted one — of course about death, too obvious — stating I didn’t really like this one, but it’s published, it must be worthy … and waited for the thunderous clap of “Likes” and my turn to pick a pack of poetic, pickled, plucking peckers. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … Hello? … … … … … … … … … Is this thing on? … … … … … … … Turned out my friend had assigned me one of her poetry teachers, ouch, and I had probably offended everyone in the room.

Tonal2

The word cloud I created from the poem I chose to post, “Tonal,” by Julia Bloch.

‘Course I think that I’m halfway smart and thoroughly understood this poem. Then my friend analyzed the poem … and in the process psychoanalyzed me. She showed me I had been applying my editing skills, and a poem is not necessarily built to withstand the acid tests. I had been reading it wrong, trying to sniff out the person behind the pen, legitimize her, case some logic or crack some code. Worse, I had been reading just the words.

Here is what I discovered about poetry through this fanciful Facebook exercise:

1. There is no “About Me” in poetry.

What was all that we learned in school about the id, the ego and the super-ego? Well, writers have ego. Writers-editors, super-ego. But the poet knows only the id, and that’s not spelled “I-D,” as in construct a Gravatar and share a little something about yourself in three pithy sentences. The poet dissolves amid the fluid exchange of lucidity.

2. Poems have an “interiority” complex.

This goal of “going viral” with a poem? Ridiculous. It’s already viral in the smallest and largest (universal) sense of the word. It connects like a unicellular predator inside of you and eats at you and decimates your defenses. You can’t put the experience “out there.” It’s like “E.T: The Extraterrestrial,” both outlandish and “right here.” It is of creation. A fabrication of the fabric of life. So there’s little point in sharing. That would be redundant.

3. To appreciate poetry, you must reject authority.

As puzzling as a poem might be, and as clever as you think you are in unlocking its meaning, there is no answer sheet. As my friend pointed out, “Is the poet the ultimate authority of her work? I think not.” You aren’t, either, because the next time you attend to it, it may strike you differently.

4. There’s death in every poem.

Writing may bring some immortality, but an immortal poem confronts death as the life-affirming force it is. What is life but the absence of death? When we write poetry, we are, in the most reductionist sense, tangling with mortal measures — and that’s why I’m writing this at 3 a.m., praying someone will hear, or care.

5. We are all poets.

What’s really happening on Twitter, Facebook and the “Like”? A percolation of delineated and concentrated thought that congeals — like the creation of a Facebook status or that guy’s blog post, “Marriage Is Not for Me,” going viral — it was really his headline that did it. Yes, a certain twist on words, or something that connects, strums, makes inner music that others dance to. Our accidental choices mixed with nail-biting deliberations produce a form of condensed poetry, every time. We blindly follow the rules while cloyingly obliterating them. Technology is the platform for us to rise to the next stage, to one-up ourselves, but we stay above it, hovering, waiting for that next burst of creativity or clarity.

And that’s why I sat agape watching this commercial the other night, pondering: Is 2014 indeed the Year of Viral Poetry? “That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.” — Walt Whitman, taking flight on an iPad Air.

Powerful play, Apple.

Oh, and jk about the “5 ways.” There are hundreds more, but I’m clearly no authority.

5 out-of-fashion terms that somehow still fit

Design and fashion shape language in ways most people don’t stop to notice. Here are a few dated concepts that somehow have survived the test of evolving styles and technology.

MonopolyHat

The Monopoly guy has pretty much cornered the market on hat-tipping.

1. Hat tip. On the Intrawebz — among social-media socialites mostly — this has been condensed to “h/t.” It’s what we in the real media biz call sourcing: a nod to the person or organization providing whatever scoop, meme, funny video, scintillating blog post you’re sharing. My suspicion: Its recent popularity was inspired by the “Tip of the Hat / Wag of the Finger” segment on the The Colbert Report — but I don’t have that sourced. Or maybe it’s bad economic times reminding us how hats are held out to collect tips.

What strikes me as odd: The style of hat that men once congenially tipped was in vogue all the way back in the Edwardian age. With this usage, it zooms into the digital age. Although some men — primarily cowboys — still flick their brims in a kind gesture of recognition, respect, gratitude or greeting, hat-wearing has been in decline since the end of World War II.

ManTipHat

Side note: In American Sign Language, the “hat tip” gesture signifies “man,” while drawing a bonnet’s chin strap across the chin signifies “woman.” Today’s deaf kids must be durn-tootin’ confused by that one.

2. Powder room. Doing lines in the ladies’ room aside — and I refer to both kinds of lines — powdering one’s nose seems a somewhat outdated rite. Refreshing her makeup was always a subterfuge for “meeting in the ladies’ room,” anyway, and what happens in the ladies’ room, stays in the ladies’ room, amiright, m’ladies? But day and night, as I watch endless episodes of whatever comes on HGTV — the modern gal’s counterpart to ESPN — I’m reminded that “half-bath” may be correct, but “powder room” has more polish.

Another take on "powder room."

Another take on “powder room.”

3. Duck tape. When Ace Hardware stores started stocking all those decorator rolls of “duck tape” — sports teams, camo, tie-dyed, floral patterns — I chortled. Isn’t that cute? They are changing the spelling of duct tape! Joke’s on me, because the original spelling of this jack-of-all-trades tool is, in fact, “duck tape.” It was developed in 1942 using a cotton duck-cloth backing. It assumed the “duct tape” spelling, along with the gray sheen, only in 1950, when the Melvin A. Anderson Co. bought the rights and started using it primarily for sealing air duct systems. So what’s old definitely has some sticking power. (Who said blogging wasn’t educational?)

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My only issue: Why penguins and not ducks?

4. QWERTY. There is poetry in this shorthand reference to how keys are arranged on a typewriter — or “a keyboard,” for those born after 1990. (Yes, Virginia, I have friends who have not only never used a typewriter but have never seen one. There may even be some youngsters who would need a dictionary to get through this bullet point.) But the beloved 1873 layout is not universal. As technology advances and we find a need for more control keys, panic buttons, what-not, the QWERTY is as endangered as those quick brown foxes jumping over the lazy dogs. For instance, the Dvorak keyboard, patented in 1936. Muyah-ha-hah, if it gained traction, then you’d ALL be hunt-and-peck typists, like me.

kbdvorak

The simplified Dvorak keyboard.

A more complex arrangement in the Dvorak keyboard by Maltron.

A more complex arrangement in the Dvorak keyboard by Maltron.

This is a typewriter.

This is a typewriter.

SGH-t469 008

5. BUtterfield 9 and PEnnsylvania 6-5000. Gone are the days when such obscure cultural references as these mean anything to those who text using predictive text. When texting was new, I pondered why phone designers clung to the arrangement of letters on numbers that once formed the genomic sequence for reaching out and touching someone. That is — arcane phone exchanges spurred the design of touch-tone phones, even though exchanges pretty much went out with rotary phones and a boom in urban population (too many land lines to maintain limited combinations of letters).

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you probably weren’t as frustrated as I was trying to spell-text on flip phones, especially when my “3” and “6” buttons would lose their paint from overuse. Predictive text SOMEWHAT eased this problem. I no longer had to type each letter. And now touchscreens mirror the QWERTY schematic, although the numbers still appear on the flat-screen keypad. WHY?!?!?!

Can’t help wondering: If the designers of touch-tone phones knew how much communication would be based on actual touching today, would they ever have arranged the letters this way?

get your digitsIt gives “Can I get your digits?” a whole new meaning. Can I BORROW someone’s else’s digits so I can manage to stay in touch in the digital age?

(Cross fingers this post doesn’t make me seem so out-of-touch.)

5 ways modern technology steals our humanity

Let’s start with the obvious.

1. Automatic flush toilets (and soap dispensers)

Yeah, that's EXACTLY what I was thinking about the misdirected shots of soap.

Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what I was thinking about those shots of foam.

Not everyone overflows with creativity, but one masterpiece (‘fess up) that anyone is proud to admire is that morning dump. Don’t mean to be crude. Part of the enjoyment of “going,” though, has gotta be reviewing where you’ve gone.

Pooh on automatic flush toilets for stealing our glances. Meaning: Neither my doctor nor my mother gets the information they need at routine check-ups. You have to be gymnastic and quick on the uptake, or downtake, as it were.

It’s even more annoying when just a shift in your seat prompts a premature flush (some toilet designs double as bidets, in those cases). I’m left feeling: What?! Am I invisible here?!

The automatic flush also trains people not to flush; when suddenly encountering the rare hand crank, they then neglect to clean up their business, which is just wrong and leaves the next person thinking: “Animal!”

Automatic soap dispensers (also known as “hands-free” — ah, the irony!) are simply toying with us. It’s like the bully at recess who takes your cap and won’t give it back, raising it higher and higher … we keep swiping in the air — c’mere sensor … where are ya’? … ahhh, gotcha! … oh, crap, on my sleeve. Embarrassing. You end up talking to the sink, or yourself, or worse — some waiting stranger not in the mood for discourse who might decide to just leave without washing her hands.

2. The DVR

Sure it was a marvel when it first came out. Just like in the Seventies, when VCRs were replicated everywhere and, upon receiving the monthly cable movie guide, I would start with the A’s, cross-reference each movie airing against my AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies of All-Time tome (a book) and then set the must-sees to record so I could knock them off my bucket list then transfer them WITHOUT COMMERCIALS to a pristine tape to keep FOR ALL TIME (until the tapes disintegrated, which they now have done) and decorate each tape spine and load them into the bookshelf sorted alphabetically and by genre to admire.

I’m sure you all can relate. A very human thing to do.

Looking forward to the next time Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert take their synchronized vacations so I can catch up.

Looking forward to the next time Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert take their synchronized vacations so I can catch up.

Problem with the DVR: You can’t see or touch your stash. And you can’t possibly “save until I delete” all of it. You must constantly choose what to part with, or set it to “save until space is needed,” in which case things get recorded over each other that you never even see, and before you know it, you are missing “American Idol” Season 12 Audition No. 3, or the entire week of Feb. 18 Daily Shows and Colbert Reports. You just can’t see it all. I repeat: You can’t see it all.

Moral: If you don’t have time to watch a show in the first place, chances are you don’t have time to watch the accumulation of shows you’ve missed, unless you sentence yourself to sucking up all of your “free time” with “West Wing” marathons and “Game of Thrones” binges, in which case … you are left with no worthwhile life with which to live.

3. Speech-to-text tools

Yay, now everyone on the street can hear your texts!

Yay, now everyone on the street can hear your texts.

Rewind to when predictive text was new and we were all carrying those phones with the alphabet clustered by threes on the number pad keys. That design dates to the mid-20th century when people memorized phone number exchanges by province (like the old Glenn Miller hit “PEnnsylvania 6-5000” or the Liz Taylor movie “Butterfield-8”), giving rise to the 1960s touch-tone phone. We bravely attempted to tap out texts based on this arcane schematic, which never would have been designed this way if They could have seen the future and spaced out the most frequently used letters more logically. And we would hit the wrong keys and have predictive text predict the wrong words. This also emitted big chuckles and sometimes, yeah, we sent it with the typos because we knew the recipient would be perplexed — superfunny.

Speaking into a phone to coax it to text seems even funnier, not only due to the warped results but the image of everyone talking into their wrists like special agents … then raising voices louder when it doesn’t work. WHY NOT JUST CALL THE PERSON INSTEAD?!?!?!? ‘Nuff said.

4. Keyless entry

Feeling password strong!

Feeling password strong.

This includes push-button car ignition devices and such. If, eventually, no one carries keys, what clue will we have that we are experiencing “senior moments”? The “where are my keys?” routine is eliminated. Instead it’s “What was my password?” repeated 50 billion times across America every nanosecond. Or “Can I have your digits?” in the case of a car-jacking and other crime.

What’s funny is that with an average 2,738 passwords per person per lifetime that we are forced to recall, we end up keeping the passwords mostly from ourselves. Reset, reset, reset, reset, reset ….

Remember in preschool when the password was simply: “Please!”?

5. Drones

Drones really bug me. They make me miss the bees.

Drones really bug me.

This inhumane advance is possibly the most devastating strike against humanity. We live in an age when video games have gotten too real and virtual reality stands in for actual reality.

Whether spying or killing, drones are the height of impersonal.

And with them, all of the apocalyptic artificial-intelligence specters and sci-fi plots about the robots we create turning on us and imprisoning us are finally coming true. We are the drones, and we’re the ones pushing the red buttons, mostly because it’s easy and makes us callous … and I’m not talking just our fingertips.

Enough with droning on already.

Someone should make an app for Oscar marathoners

The Washington Post does a pretty good job rounding up locations for me -- despite the fact its redesigned print movie grid is utterly unreadable.

The Washington Post does a pretty good job rounding up locations for me — despite the fact its redesigned print movie grid is utterly unreadable.

I’ll bet there are a lot of us out there: movie die-hards who cram to see all of the Oscar-nominated films in the six weeks between January announcements and the gala February date — the same time period when nominees are getting fitted for gowns and tuxes and writing and rehearsing and rewriting their ad-libbed reactions to their awards.

Does anyone else appreciate how hard it is to plan out the times and routes to various theaters, often in other states, working around one’s work and social obligations?!?!?!? Not to mention incorporating On Demand and other avenues of scoring. Fandango and MovieFone are of no use when all you have is an iPhone 3, one tiny screen on which to map both showtimes and compass points, and you’re in a strange city (Chicago, for me), and half the phone numbers listed for theaters are disconnected or centralized at Regal headquarters, and you aren’t sure which theaters are worth their salt in concessions.

I spent a few hours last week in Chicago literally chasing movies — first figuring out which theaters were showing multiple titles that I still needed to see, so I could squeeze in a double feature on my one night free, then figuring out if it was close enough in rush-hour traffic, then trying to determine parking and how far I needed to walk. I missed several start times literally by 10 minutes, trudging through snow, and had to start again from square one, Googling and mapping. By the time I made it to a legit theater for a legit movie, I had time for only “Skyfall,” scratch the double feature.

We’d pay good money for such an app.

My old-school app that I keep folded up in my purse.

My old-school app that I keep folded up in my purse. Requires a peripheral called a “pen.”

Today, my plan is to see “The Master” and “The Impossible” — thus completing the “Top 6” categories that most movie fans aim for. Of course, I aim for more — 37 feature-film nominees, in every category, excluding “Ted,” which I refuse to see. Tomorrow it’s “Anna Karenina.” I’ve heard that one’s just as bad as “Ted.” Perhaps there’s time also for foreign film nominee “A Royal Affair,” playing at the same theater.

Would be heaven if I could just type these titles into an app and see ALL my options in the D.C. metro area. I also want to plug in my work schedule, commuting times and other commitments to block out the entire next week, fitting them in like puzzle pieces to ensure I can make it from one theater to the next in time for previews, and also know which theaters are changing up their shows next Friday, and to what. Like an old-fashioned newspaper grid. Plus a score card showing what I’ve seen and what’s left to see. Plus reminders on what awards the movies are up for before the titles begin. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

App-arently.

My status, with checkmarks on what I’ve seen, as of this moment: 16, not even halfway, but I got a really really late start. How is your score card / dance card filling up?

  1. Amour
  2. Argo
  3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  4. Django Unchained
  5. Les Misérables
  6. Life of Pi
  7. Lincoln
  8. Silver Linings Playbook
  9. Zero Dark Thirty
  10. The Master
  11. Flight
  12. The Impossible
  13. The Sessions
  14. Brave
  15. Frankenweenie
  16. ParaNorman
  17. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  18. Wreck-It Ralph
  19. Anna Karenina
  20. Skyfall
  21. Mirror Mirror
  22. 5 Broken Cameras
  23. The Gatekeepers
  24. How to Survive a Plague
  25. The Invisible War
  26. Searching for Sugar Man
  27. Hitchcock
  28. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  29. Chasing Ice
  30. Ted
  31. Kon-Tiki (Norway)
  32. No (Chile)
  33. A Royal Affair (Denmark)
  34. War Witch (Canada)
  35. Marvel’s The Avengers
  36. Prometheus
  37. Snow White and the Huntsman
  38. Moonrise Kingdom

And I am “done” (fit to judge) these categories:

Best Picture

Directing

Film Editing

Sound Editing

Sound Mixing (same thing? c’mon.)

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Seeing three more movies mentioned will give me seven more categories by tomorrow.

Actor in a Leading Role

Actor in a Supporting Role

Actress in a Leading Role

Actress in a Supporting Role

Cinematography

Costume Design

Music (Original Score)

Still not good enough, not until I get Writing (Original Screenplay). My kingdom for a “Moonrise Kingdom” showing!!!

Light reading: Why my new Kindle lights my fire

The first time I fell in love with technology was that last Christmas I pretended to believe in Santa Claus. I had confided in brother Andy, two years my wiser, that I knew it was our parents doling out the year-end bonuses. He persuaded me to keep quiet about it as they’d probably already sewn up that season’s shopping; we could always break it to them gently later.

I later calculated it wasn’t fair that we both “came out” as non-believers at the same time, as he had accumulated two extra years of goodies. But what I found gleaming under the tree that year made up for any petty score-keeping: a Japanese-made, sleek Craig tape recorder model No. 2603, with “Solid State Automatic Level Recording.” This was my version of the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, aka coveted BB gun, from the now-storied A Christmas Story.

craig2603My Craig tape recorder and I were inseparable. I taped everything in sight.* (*Awk. construction.) Dinner conversations, birds out back. I would position it by the radio with a mini-mic and fresh cassette, typically TDK brand, and trigger the play lever while holding down the red record button at the start of every song, preferably after the disc jockey had stopped jabbering. If I didn’t like that song, I’d navigate to “stop” and engage the rewind toggle to cue it up again. Eventually, I’d acquired an entire 30 minutes of my favorite 1972 chart-toppers. Included on that first mix tape, I recall, were such gems as Alone Again, Naturally by Gilbert O’Sullivan and I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash.

Ever since, mix tapes have been my calling card. They are audio journals, spanning every technological platform that followed, from the Sony reel-to-reel to the LightScribe CD burner, whose products I dub “Byrnished Memories.” These mini-soundtracks plot the high, low and medium points of my life. Still, I wasted a lot of dollar-a-dozen CDs getting the song order and transitions just right.

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RIP my engraved “TEB tunes” iPod 20GB Click Wheel, December 2004-January 2011.

That’s why my second love affair with technology came in 2004, with my late-to-the-party adoption of the Apple iPod 20GB Click Wheel. I could rearrange songs to my heart’s content and even stretch the playlists beyond the 1.2 hours that fit on a typical 700MB CD. That iPod, outdated as it quickly became, lasted me until last year, when it suffered the click of death. I have not had the courage to fall in love again.

Until now.

I had been bedeviled by technological flings. My reluctance to spend money on the next big thing had kept me sorely behind on cool gadgets. My husband tried to keep me in the game by gifting me an iPad 2. But something about the iPad only fed my discontent. The glare and eye strain irritated my dry-eye condition. There’s no curling up with an iPad, unless you count bicep curls, which is what it took to read in bed. As much as such Apple products resemble the universal device presaged in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I couldn’t feel the love, and just couldn’t fake it.

The problem with today’s Apple products — yeah, problem, you got a problem with that? — is they aim to be the end-all be-all solution. If technology is dominating your life, distracting and detracting from the act of living, then you’re doing it wrong. The best of technology comes in the form of the right tool for the job, like a corkscrew or an apple corer.

In terms of reading, I have found one good purpose for the iPad. It is the perfect paperweight to hold open your place in an actual book.

IMG_1089[1]Yesterday, I fell in love at first sight with a Kindle Paperwhite e-Reader that showed up, surprisingly, at my door in a smiling box. This device took my breath away. In its unassuming simplicity, it fills a technological void.

Compared with the iPad, it is not a burden but featherweight, even next to such actual tomes as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Its pages look like a book’s. It reads like a book. Doesn’t hurt my eyes with piercing light rays nor does it overstimulate my brain. Doesn’t beckon to me to check my e-mail or Facebook notifs or to play another round of Angry Birds. It lets me escape and focus on an actual book.

Of all the e-books I had downloaded onto my iPad in nearly two years, I managed to finish only one. For me, the famous “i” prefix stands for “incomplete.” But taking my night-light Kindle Paperwhite to bed last night gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I’m no Luddite, but this device combines the best of both worlds — the old and brave-new.

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IMG_1097[1]

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Thanks, Santa Andy. iOU. i♥U.

Takes me back to those good ol’ days of Christmas past, when FaceTime (TM) meant something else entirely.