Well, if you’ve got to lose, may as well lose to the best. And this means SO SO SO much more to Canada than winning would have meant to the US…
…but SIDNEY FUCKING CROSBY. All the hockey fans in the greater DC area just threw up in their mouths a little.

St. Johnny Cash, 1932-2003

The notion of a saint, by one measure, is “someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like — and of what we are called to be.” If the measure of a saint is that their life is an exemplar of what our morality calls us to be, you could hardly do worse than the Man in Black, as exemplified by the eponymous song – first performed in 1971 at Vanderbilt University.

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,

Why you never see bright colors on my back,

And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.

Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,

Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,

I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,

But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,

Or listened to the words that Jesus said,

About the road to happiness through love and charity,

Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,

In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,

But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,

Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,

For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,

I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,

Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,

Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,

I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,

Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,

And things need changin’ everywhere you go,

But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,

You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,

And tell the world that everything’s OK,

But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,

‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.

We few, we happy few…

I don’t know why I always pick February to get melancholy. It’s not a mid-life crisis. Unless you count the fact that it’s been happening for more than half my life now, obviously…maybe you can trace it back to the time I found out the night before I turned 18 that I wasn’t going to be going to Vanderbilt as an undergrad after all. Which is another long story – I could have, but I couldn’t, but…that’s for another time. Anyway.

I guess in 2007, it was the result of having been away from DC for almost a year and a half and just plain missing my crew. I’m pretty sure that’s part of it this time, because I’m facing some situations not entirely unlike what I’ve been through before. See if this sounds familiar, Rifles of the EUS: manpower cuts, exhortations to work smarter, managers who cover their lack of technical acumen with the mantra of “customer service” and eventually turn into lawyers for the end-users, inexplicable additional project that reek of make-work, and a belief that firemen should be fighting fires every second of the day, even if you have to set them yourself.

Fortunately, it’s not like it was before. For one thing, I’ve been doing this for twelve years and I’ve seen all this before. For another, I’m older, wiser, and probably more senile. There may be some chemical influence, I couldn’t say. Long story short: I stay firmly in what we used to call Phase Five, and everything holds together.

But it’s no EUS.

The name itself was a fluke. We had an NT server running under a desk that we were using as a repository for useful tools and file space to back up over the network if a machine needed drastic treatment. And the infrastructure group – consisting mostly of reclassified mainframe operators who had been handed books on Lotus Notes or Windows NT or Netware, because Towers Perrin decided that they were already making the same money as server admins – decided they should take that machine over. Some quick thinking by our top guns led to the declaration that it was an archive, not a server, so hands off – and we even labelled it EUS_Archive, for End User Services. And just like that, we had an identity.

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s true: we were the fucking lords of the earth. Need Lotus Notes on 1600 computers? And domain repairs on another 1200? And viruses cleaned off all the PCs? And all in a month? Users call the help desk, but the help desk called the EUS. We went through a lot of manpower in the go-go 90s, when you had to staff the help desk with Hooters waitresses hired at $50K a year because everyone more technical was getting $80K elsewhere, but there was that hard core that barely budged for many years. When one of us left, it was always moving up – and it was always with regret at leaving the team.

I’m gonna make the donkey blush, I know, but I’m going to say it anyway: nobody could have managed us but the guy who was our lead. He did a lot of director-level work on a lead-tech salary, he led the charge and held the line straight (just barely, sometimes, but he did; there were times our crew would have looked good on a box of Borax), he was technical to close a bunch of tickets himself and to know whether a tech was bullshitting him or not, and he wouldn’t ask anybody to show up at 6 or stay ’til midnight without he was right there alongside, ripping out token ring cards and cursing people who never vacuumed under the desk.

He also had to ride herd on a lot of egos. More than once, somebody cracked that we would sit five-wide around the table at the coffee shop and not a person sat there who didn’t think they were the greatest tech at the table. Our best guys had a lot in common: technical curiosity, institutional memory, more tenacity than an Oatman jackass, and a dangerous excess of personality. Plus I’m pretty sure we all liked a drink or seven. If we didn’t know something, we’d damn well figure it out, and we’d have a good time doing it.

Another thing, too – after the first few months, we started hiring only guys we knew. If we had an opening, the first move was to ask in the team meeting if anybody knew someone looking to make a move. That’s how we were able to lose guys like the Casman and the Lyon King and Ronny-Ron and replace them with guys like T Banga and EZ-E and the Blockster. Anybody we hired had somebody who could vouch for their skills and would put their own rep on the line that their guy could pull his weight. And it paid out, big time. We sustained a level of excellence for the better part of a decade that most places could only dream of. Most of our guys could cover three corners of the two-by-two matrix of Mac and PC hardware and software, work fast, innovate, charm the users, catch the troublemakers, snuff the fires, and best of all – be dropped down in the middle of a world of horseshit only to ride out on the pony.

For the most part, too, we were all friends. We went to lunch in groups of six or eight or ten – at first for self-defense against users who were facing an average 9-day wait time for PC software support (you try servicing a thousand Windows NT 4 machines with two techs and no domain or admin tools), but later because that was just how we rolled. We went out after work – whether it was prime rib in 1998 or karaoke in 1999 or Irish pubs in 2001 or Christmas parties whenever we could get somebody else to pay for them, we were there drinking other people’s booze (and how we avoided getting arrested a couple of times I’ll never know). We helped each other move. We were in each other’s weddings (and bachelor parties). There are kids in Virginia who know me as “Uncle Donkey.”

That’s the consolation now when the work goes south, when eight problems pile up at once and each is more urgent than the last, and the new boss who should be keeping the trouble at bay is instead asking me to fix his laptop which he broke. By all rights, I should be losing my shit – the way I did in the old days more than I should have – but I don’t. Instead, I lace the Docs tight and go to work, with the memories of a pantheon of demigods riding shotgun. And that shit gets settled.

We may be scattered to the four winds now, but we were stars once. We still are. Just because we’re not side by side doesn’t mean we’re not still shoulder to shoulder.

The distance from Calgary to Vancouver

February 1988 was a busy time. The month before, we’d won county for the first time, thus ticketing me for the first of my many school trips (this one to Jacksonville in April). The Presidential primary train had reached New Hampshire after a series of shocks in Iowa. And the Olympics were in Calgary.

I remember that curling and short-track speed skating were demonstration events. I remember that David Foster song being used in every third movie trailer for years afterward. (“Winter Games” in case you were wondering…you’ll recognize it, trust me.) I remember…not much else, if I’m honest, except that one of the first nights overlapped a birthday party where I made quite a spectacle of myself, and not in the way people have become accustomed to me making a spectacle of myself nowadays.

I also remember that for the first time, Team USA swapped the cowboy look for long wool trenchcoats and fedoras, in either red or white or blue, making for what Time magazine described as “a bit like a jolly bootlegger’s parade.” Beats the hell out of the modern Ralph Lauren look, which is so played out that the old dude is falling off that damn horse.

The Olympics are always a handy marker for how my life is going. Four years ago in Torino, I have to say things were looking pretty good – we had just moved into the house, I had just been promoted to an actual desk job at work, and during the fortnight we found ourselves in New Orleans for a wedding (happy anniversary, Team Black Swan East!) and some good times (Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s and the original Emeril’s in the Warehouse district, all on the same trip, and that doesn’t even include the REALLY fun stuff like Mimi’s in the Marigny or Dos Jefes or the Columns or…God, I need to go back to New Orleans). Four years before that, I was so bad off with flu-like symptoms that I had to take a liter of fluid in the ER before staggering to my girlfriend’s apartment so Team Ploughboy could all get together to watch USA-Canada (damn that Salt Lake Loonie). And four years before THAT meant takeout from Outback in Akron, Ohio, and wondering how much weed one snowboarder could smoke.

Ultimately, I think the lesson of the Olympics is that your life goes further in four years than you think. It’s worth taking time to appreciate the trip.

(Also, I am apparently a natural at curling. I wish I were a natural at snowcross, but you take what you can get, I guess…)

The Die In A Fire Chronicles, Indiana Edition

It shouldn’t need pointing out, but it does: when a single state has two Senators of different parties, and they have a largely identical voting record, one of them is in the wrong place.

Today, Evan Bayh (Douche-IN) retired, saying that “(a)fter all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned. For some time, I have had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should. There is too much partisanship and not enough progress — too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous challenge, the peoples’ business is not being done.”

And not saying a word as to why, when the math is pretty self-evident. His big example? “Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation: our exploding deficits and debt. The measure would have passed, but seven members who had endorsed the idea instead voted “no” for short-term political reasons.” And does he point out those members? Does he point out that the measure had fifty-three votes FOR, and would have passed if the Senate still had anything resembling majority rule? Ax me.

Evan Bayh is the latest in a long line of notional Democrats who have made a career of po-faced proclamations about how broken the system is, how terrible it is that we can’t come together, while simultaneously sandbagging his own party. At least on the Republican side, the likes of Snowe and Collins and McCain invariably come back in line when it’s time to vote. The Democratic traitor caucus almost never does.

The Democrats have 59 notional votes in the Senate. Since it’s not 60, it doesn’t really make a difference whether that number is 59 or 51. So to hell with Bayh. To hell with Nelson, and Landrieu, and Lincoln, and Lieberman, and Harry “I’m Not A Pussy Because That Would Be Sullying The Good Name Of Pussy” Reid. 53 reliable Democratic votes is a hell of a lot more useful than 59 with an endless load of simpering and whining and Broder-misery.

Message to the President: we tried it your way. We tried all this “come let us reason together” bullshit, we went through five committees with health care, we sandbagged the stimulus package to satisfy the whinebaggers and the Republicans who voted against it anyway – no more. I’m not asking for something more liberal, or more conservative, I’m just looking for SOMETHING – put a bill out there, put the hammer down, and PASS THAT SHIT. At the very least get out there and make people understand why there are dozens of vital positions that haven’t been filled for a year because of the arcane traditions of a body that can’t survive the misuse of those traditions.

It’s time – politically speaking – to burn the Senate to the ground. Now. Nut up, or shut up.

Buzz Kill

If anything, you’d think Google would have gone to school on the uproar Facebook ran into with Beacon, and modified their plans accordingly. But it didn’t happen.

Google’s main effort at social networking, Orkut, was an abortive effort to compete with Friendster after the original social networking site turned down a huge buyout offer. Orkut turned out to be a huge success…in Brazil. As best I can tell, Buzz was meant to be the long sought-after holy grail that would be the repository for all social media from elsewhere – Twitter, Flickr, RSS, whatever – into one easy-to-read stream that would be right there in your GMail – and everyone uses GMail, obviously, right?

The problem is that unless you were in the Valley, or a total bithead, you had no idea this was coming. And when people opened GMail last week, they found a new splash page asking if they wanted to learn about Buzz. And if you clicked “no” – well, you were just skipping the intro, because it was live anyway. And you automatically had followers. Culled from your email. Pretty much at random. Including, in at least one now-famous case, an abused woman’s ex-husband. And throughout the Internet, a consensus: for the first time, publicly and indisputably, Google shit the bed. Massively.

The state of affairs has reached a point where every time Facebook rolls out something new, you have to go back and look through the settings and make sure your privacy hasn’t been compromised any further. Buzz has now made that a requirement for Google as well. If a company’s business model depends on selling your information, keeping yours private is taking money out of their pockets – and they can hardly be expected to hold them open for you.

If it wasn’t obvious before, it should be now – you’d have to be an idiot to stake your data on a privacy policy of “don’t be evil.”

Things I wish like hell I’d written

“Junior Johnson Has Left the Building,” by Charles P. Pierce (from GQ, 1996):

From its founding, NASCAR was suffused with the backlash ethos of the 1970s — ambitious people in every field realizing there was money and power to be had in Wallace’s astonishing discovery that (in many ways) the whole country was southern. When the Guv’nah cracked that great secret of the American demographic code, Bill France’s sport was already there on the track, idling heavily. Today, wildly popular and ludicrously profitable, it is nothing like it pretends to be. It is corporate connivance dressed up as populist celebration, careful contrivance masquerading as raucous authenticity. It has become, in short, simply another American sport, and the distance it has traveled is that same distance that got us from Huey Long to Newt Gingrich, from William Faulkner to John Grisham and from Patsy Cline to Shania Twain. How you feel about that pretty much depends on how much you like Gingrich’s thinking, Grisham’s writing and whatever it is that Shania Twain does besides looking like the most popular lap dancer in Dogpatch.

Of sidearms, wands and lightsabers, part 2

The first thing you have to know – and I think this is a major flaw in Google’s planning – is that you can’t figure out the ins and outs of a phone in five minutes in the cell phone shop. But you can certainly get a better feel from it than you do from, you know, the website. I am lucky enough to know a few people who pack a Nexus One, so I’ve probably seen more of it in action than most folks – but believe me when I say that a Flash graphic to which you match your hand size is no substitute for actually feeling the thing in your hand.

And make no mistake, the Nexus One has the best feel of anything to come along since the original iPhone. It’s metal, it’s tangible, it’s got some heft and feels like a solid piece of work. From the time the cellphone fixation began, the phones I always coveted but never managed to get were things like the SonyEricsson T616 or K700i, or the Moto V635 that I eventually bought in 2005 – all metal. (At least I think the K700 was – couldn’t actually find it in this country.) I know the plastic back of the 3G-capable iPhones was necessary to help accommodate the wide array of antennae but dammit, I want the metal back. Hell, the Nexus One’s even got space for engraving.

Thing is, I haven’t had time to really test drive it, not could I…because it’s only got 1700 Mhz domestic 3G capability. Which is only on T-Mobile. (As far as I know, no other carrier in the world uses 1700 Mhz spectrum.) So if you want to use the full capacity of the phone, you’re as locked to T-Mob as surely as the iPhone locks you into AT&T. That partition of 3G space has done more to undo the past few years of cellphone unlocking than any actual carrier subsidy lock – sure, I could jailbreak the iPhone and use it on T-Mobile, but with no 3G coverage, what’s the point? Using a smartphone on EDGE for anything tougher than email or maybe text RSS reading is a misery.

So I’ve been limited to reading online reviews, and I’ve had to scuffle some to find reviews that take place after the person’s used the device for a couple of weeks. So far, most of the Nexus One complaints seem to be down to battery life and 3G issues caused by some sort of networking software glitch that has just been fixed. I guess nobody has good 3G when you get down to it.

(Aside here: the Droid is simply not an option. I won’t have a CDMA phone because even if my GSM phones give me gimped portability, the CDMAs give me none at all. Plus, the Droid’s keyboard is a joke and it’s not worth having the physical bulk and mechanical vulnerability. F that Droid.)

The big thing now with smartphones, it seems, is speed. I read one review of a guy who was trying the original G1 for a month – in six days, he’d given up and gone back to an iPhone because the G1 was so damned slow. The iPhone 3GS started the speed wars, Android 2 bumped it up, and the Nexus One – with its famous 1 Ghz Snapdragon processor – really throws down the gauntlet. And in the last six to nine months, the speed factor is starting to show its face – you’re seeing applications, even web apps, that drag when used on the older iPhone processors. Faster proc, more RAM – that’s the biggest differentiator for the iPhone 3GS over its predecessors, and it’s the thing that makes the Nexus One such a star.

As for apps…clearly, the fit and finish of the Android products is not up to scratch with the best of the iPhone apps. On the other hand, you can find pretty much anything you like in the Android Marketplace without any sort of gatekeeper approving apps. You pays your money (or not) and you takes your chances, although personally, the main apps I would use – things like Facebook or Foursquare – are all going to be there. Really, it’s like Mac vs Windows back in the day – the Microsoft fanboys would bag on how many more applications there were for Windows, conveniently avoiding the fact that 85% of those apps were pigshit or worse. The top stuff you wanted – Photoshop, Office, FM Pro, Eudora – that was there for everybody. I have no doubt the case will be similar here – even the most prominent Android-only app, Sherpa, has made its way to the iPhone under the name Geodelic; if you have an iPhone and don’t have Geodelic, stop reading this drivel and go download it now. Now now now.

Right now, it’s generally assumed that the iPhone has a more elegant media playback system, and this appears to be the case based on current chatter. But then, the company that invented the iPod isn’t going to skimp on that. The Android phones in general and the Nexus One in particular give the impression that they are communications devices first and media players as an afterthought. However, 90% of what I listen to these days are podcasts, so assuming an Android app that will let you directly subscribe and/or download, and sufficient room (say, 4 GB or so) for them, I’d say my podcasts would be fine on the Nexus. As for my music, well, before long all of it will be free of DRM by hook or by crook, so portability of my songs in iTunes is no longer a consideration.

The other thing about the Nexus One – and Android phones generally – is that they are well pledged to the cloud in general and Google’s services in particular. There’s not really much provision for syncing it to your PC, because the presumption is that you’ll never *need* to sync it to your PC – and if you had the battery life and a mechanism for streaming your own music library, you might just never need to. The iPhone really doesn’t quite get there, mostly because of the music and media sideloading issue. You can’t sync an iPhone over a network, and trying to download all your content directly onto the phone routinely isn’t the easiest thing in the world even if you’re not having to re-buy media content.

Ultimately, though, anything that tethers too tight to the cloud is a leap of faith – that you trust the cloud service to be accessible, be reliable, and be secure. Right now, my resource of final resort is a system owned and administered by my brother-in-law, who runs a tight shop and has, to the best of my knowledge, never had meaningful downtime on this site or on my personal email. I couldn’t say that for or Gmail. Nor am I really comfortable with many (if any) of the free services out there – they’ve got your data, and at some point, they may want to monetize it. (Google makes no bones about this, which is a bit discomforting until you realize that a lot of other sources COULD do it and just aren’t telling you whether they are or not.) I realize that asking Apple to make an iPhone with no Apple dependencies is as foolish as asking Google to turn out an Android phone with no Google dependencies – but the first company that can produce such a product, either way, and comparably-equipped, will have my undivided attention.

Postscript: I know Verizon is moving to LTE, and AT&T as well, while T-Mobile is going to try to hang on with HSPA+ and Sprint is clinging to WiMax like a drunk to a lamppost. Given that the iPhone 3GS and Nexus One both support HSPA with a theoretical max 7.2Mbps throughput, and that commercial LTE isn’t going to be widely available before the end of 2011 most likely, and that Apple almost certainly won’t do an iPhone for Verizon until it’s an LTE phone – I say all that to say this: I can probably buy my next phone, on a contract, and not regret it until it comes around again in 2012. I can also say that the notion of buying an unlocked Nexus One and getting the corresponding reduced-rate T-Mobile service is quite seductive, especially since it would mean no monthly contract. If I’m honest, I do want to keep my options open against the day that somebody decided to start metering phone data and charging accordingly – and you’re a fool if you don’t think that day is coming sooner rather than later, after the bloodbath AT&T is taking in New York and San Francisco.

Of sidearms, wands and lightsabers, part 1

In the modern world of Silicon Valley circa 2010, the smartphone is more important than a cowboy’s six-shooter was a hundred-fifty years ago. Many are the technology workers who would sooner wander out the door in the morning without pants than without their iPhones or Crackberries or Androids.

I’m one of those, I hate to admit. Have been for years – a vastly overpriced Sony Ericsson P800 from a shady Chinese cellphone shop in the Bowery was my first effort, followed a year later by a Nokia 6620 and then by trying to squeeze J2ME versions of Opera Mini and Google Maps onto an unlocked V635 – an effort that went pear-shaped only when I reluctantly gave up my personal phone and let my employer pay for my service – which didn’t include data. And thus did I drift, lost and lonely for a year and a half, until the iPhone, which not only led to my employer providing data service again BUT which featured Wi-Fi as well. Just like that, I had service most anywhere…and the iPhone became THE indispensable device.

I have lately been running up against the limits of what the iPhone can do, though. I don’t think these are common to the iPhone, either, as I see no evidence that a Nexus One or a Droid or a Blackberry Bold would get around them (and I carried the Bold specifically to try to thwart #1 for a while, to no avail). These are in no particular order:

1) TEXT ENTRY. There is simply no good way to handle long-form entry on a device the size of a deck of cards. I know there’s Swype now, and Dragon Dictate, and some people seem to think the slide-out keyboard on the Droid is usable, but I’m here to tell you: there is no good way to churn out a thousand-word blog post without a mostly-full-sized keyboard that you can operate with more than thumbs.

This is where the netbook still hangs on: even a Dell Mini10 has a 92% full-size keyboard that honestly isn’t any worse than using the old 12″ Powerbook G4 (and in fact the Atom N450 probably beats it for speed and definitely for battery life). If the putative ChromeOS devices are indeed keyboarded, this is a good sign. I think much of the iPad’s early success will rise and fall over the viability of its on-screen keyboard and whether people are willing and able to carry a Bluetooth keyboard with it for long-form text (although an iPad and that wee Apple Bluetooth keyboard with no numeric keypad? Might fit nicely into a 10″ laptop sleeve…)

2) STREAMING MEDIA. This is a combination problem: bandwidth AND battery life. Even if you could watch Hulu on the iPhone, you couldn’t do it *well* and I don’t expect that to get any better anytime soon. Even people using Pandora don’t seem to be crazy about it as a go-to music source on the iPhone – plus let’s face it, you’re basically back to transistor radio days with trying to get coverage and not lose your signal. Buffering is the new static. Given the storage cost of keeping video on the phone (especially with these phones that only come with 8 GB SD cards or such), I think this is one where the ultimate benefit is with the larger screen (and thus bigger battery on the back side of said screen) – one particularly interesting bit is whether the iPad will have some sort of improvement in YouTube, Slingbox, etc. support – and whether the long-rumored Hulu app will come to pass. After all, the screen’s nearly big enough for proper 720p HD…

3) CHAT. Again, without a reliable means of text input, IM-type chat is a bit of a pain in the ass – not to mention redundant. After all, when you have SMS *and* the ability to, you know, DIAL THE PHONE…AIM and Y!M and Google Talk become kind of pointless. Now video chat is another matter…but there, as with streaming media, you’re back to considerations of battery and bandwidth. After all, video-calling has been out there on 3G networks in Europe for years…but the uptake just isn’t there. Personally, I’m waiting for Star Wars holographic chat, with the full-body blue-tinged thing happening. Video chat, a la Skype or iChat? Better off with a laptop.

So all in all, your move these days if you need something better than an iPhone is the netbook. You can get a Dell Mini10v for about $250, and for that you get a desktop OS, a full browser with Flash and Java (and thus Hulu or similar), a webcam (and thus support for chat via Skype or maybe even GTalk at some point) a physical keyboard for other than hobbits, and hell, even the prospects of VNC and RDP to get some work done back at base in a pinch. Plus, based on the pricing of the Nexus One, it’s difficult to fathom that Google would release a netbook-type device for much less – in fact, it’s more likely to join Ubuntu, Moblin, Eeebuntu, Sugar, and the other slew of non-Windows alternative netbook operating systems. And hell, you can install the open-source Chromium on your netbook right now if you like.

Long story short: the iPad is still an attractive notion, but in the grand scheme of things, if you already have an iPhone, it may be superfluous. Carrying a device that doesn’t hit all those spots may be a bit much – I have a friend with a Kindle that has infinite battery, a great display, and some rudimentary ability to hit the web from anywhere – but she leaves it at home and uses her iPod Touch (and now, her iPhone) for reading on the road. Based on that, the obvious question is: will you take your netbook (or other Tertiary Connectivity Device) with you or is it for sitting at home on the couch? Where, let’s face it, an iPhone is not the best device for checking IMDB while you watch Leverage.

So instead, let’s get through this in a more practical way: to what extent do I need those things, especially given that I now have a very nice Mac mini at home taking care of the heavy lifting computer-wise and serving as my backup system?

1) TEXT ENTRY. This is the big one. I cannot blog “from anywhere” as it were, nor can I work on things like the NaNoWriMo project. If I go to lunch, or sit on the train or what have you, my content creation is limited to what I can scribble in one of a disturbingly-growing selection of small notebooks. This would be kind of handy, to be honest, because my work laptop is a 15″ MacBook Pro and really isn’t suitable for going anywhere. I certainly would hate to take it with me on vacation (and to be honest, it was only the necessity of my fantasy football draft that led me to take a laptop to the Pacific Northwest. Otherwise, I have gone on almost a month’s worth of travel with zippy laptop in 2009).

2) STREAMING MEDIA. I think this is more theoretical than anything – largely because most of what I listen to on the iPhone now is podcast material. I likely couldn’t use streaming media on a plane, for instance, and I think battery life issues make it impractical to consider otherwise.

3) CHAT. I basically never IM anymore except with my wife and co-workers, during the workday, and mostly on a company-hosted secure IM system. I think it’s probably been 2007 since I was on IM on a routine basis. A combination of SMS, Twitter and Facebook have made IM obsolete for public asynchronous time-wasting. =)

So basically, what I’m looking for in a netbook is something to use for blogging on vacation and reading RSS in front of the TV. Well hell, I’m not about to spend $250 on THAT, let alone $500 for an iPad. So at this point, we’re back to analyzing what may replace this iPhone 3G come September…