iPad 2: Should iBuy?

ipad 2It was obvious from the beginning that the iPad should have at least one camera.

There were a lot of reasons I wanted one from when they were first announced. There were a lot of reasons I didn’t need one, also.

So I let the camera be the deciding factor. It’s obvious it should have one. It seemed just as obvious to me that the next model would have one. I knew if I got one without a camera I would regret it when the ones with cameras were released. So I waited.

And now there are iPads with cameras.

So the factor I used to avoid having to make a decision last year no longer applies. Meaning I’ve got to make a decision based on other factors.

My short review of the iPad 2 is as follows:

• It eliminates every shortcoming that kept me from buying the first iPad.

• It adds no new killer app that makes me feel like I have to have one.

I’ve heard rumors about features that might be in the iPad 3, but none of them are anything that I feel like I just have to have, the same way I felt about the camera the first time around, so this seems like a device I could be satisfied with.

That second bullet is where I’m hung up, though, and it occurred to me this morning that I may be thinking about it all wrong.

Right now, my thought process is this — if I had an iPad, I would use it, without question. But I really don’t know much I would use it for that I couldn’t do right now with either my iPhone or my MacBook. It’s not really adding functionality, just making existing functionality more convenient.

BUT — when I bought my first iPhone, I could have said the same thing. I had a phone with internet and camera, and I had a computer. The iPhone did, theoretically, little that either of those didn’t do, it just make them more convenient.

The reality, however, is that the iPhone is so much more than the sum of its parts, and lets me do things that a regular cell phone and computer wouldn’t; things I didn’t fully understand until I had one.

And many of those things have nothing to do with the features listed on the Apple website, a lot of them are capabilities added by apps; I use third-party apps on my iPhone at least as much as the Apple on-board software.

So, I put the question out there for current or prospective iPad users — what am I missing? What features or capabilities does the iPad provide that you really don’t get until you experience one?

The e-Book Reader: Hot Chocolate Versus Sunsets

From a Plinky prompt: “Would you ever get an e-book reader?”

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader

Imagine if hot chocolate got in a fight with sunsets.

Or if you had to pick sides between the laughter of small children and tender hugs from loved ones. Imagine if great music somehow became the archenemy of tasty food, and you had to choose which one wins.

Can’t we all just get along?

And yet, that sort of quandary is where we are, thanks to the e-book reader.

In this corner — Cutting-edge technology. Oh, how I love you. Oh, how you make my life better. Words cannot express to you my gratitude for my iPhone, which makes me happy in countless little ways. I can’t imagine life without you. You make everything better and faster and shinier and usefuller and awesomer.

And in this corner — Words, printed on paper. Ideas incarnate. Facts and fantasies, information and imagination, captured in physical form. So delightfully visceral. So comfortable. So comforting. So familiar and yet so exciting — my oldest friend, continually taking me to unexplored realms.

How does one choose? How could one be asked to choose?

Yes, I love the idea of an e-book. I love the idea of being able to carry a library in this small portable form; of reading several books at once and always having the one I want to read with me when I want to read it. I love the idea of technology transforming reading; I love the idea of relating to written words in new ways I’ve never been able to before.

But at what cost? At the cost of not owning a physical copy of a book? Of not being able to hold it in my hands, to leaf through it, to feel its heft and know its dimensions? Of not feeling the texture of the dead tree pulp on which its words are printed? Of not having it on a shelf in my home, a proud sign for visitors that this volume is a small part of who I am? Of not being able to go into my library and pull down the perfect volume that a friend simply must read? Of not being able to skim a bookcase for that one book that has exactly what I’m looking for? Of not having a pile in my bedroom of books queued up to vie for my time and attention?

As an author, am I willing to pay the cost of no longer having the overwhelming thrill, the victory, of lifting a bound block of paper, and knowing — like Joyce and Faulkner and Dickens and Hemingway and Dostoevsky and Miley Cyrus before — that I made this?

May it not be.

I imagine it is inevitable. I imagine that in the not too distant future, enough people will have readers or tablet computers or whatever next-generation device they come up with by then that electronic books will gradually become the default, so insidiously that we don’t even notice that printed volumes have joined vinyl records in intriguing obsolescence.

And I imagine that it will be convenient and delightful, and make reading more enjoyable than it ever has been before. And I imagine that when that day comes, I will be happy, and will love reading books electronically.

But, so help me, I will miss real books.

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“For Hate’s Sake” — Angry Birds Fanfic

If you haven’t played the Angry Birds game, you’re missing out. It’s very fun, and rather addictive. That said, it strikes me as the Moby Dick of the modern generation; a tale of an obsession with vengeance so deep that it no longer considers the cost.

From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.

“We die.”

Red Breast and I watched as Yellow Wing was flung toward the fortifications; the horror that we had once felt now replaced by a dull, shell-shocked emotional aching.

The canaries had proven during the conflict to be the bravest of us all, or at least the most dedicated. Not content with the momentum imparted by the terrible catapult, Yellow Wing mustered the last of his strength, driving himself with all the velocity he could find faster and harder into the walls protecting the pigs. There was a crashing, a shattering, of wood and glass and stone — and bone — and with that, Yellow Wing was gone. His life had been exchanged for that of the mother pig, helmeted and protected deep in the protective structure with her baby before our attack had begun. Earlier sortees had claimed the life of her husband and torn down the walls that were to keep them safe.

And now, it was but Red Breast and I, and the piglet that remained alive in the shattered ruins, protected now not by the walls that had been erected to keep him safe, but by the debris that had fallen during the attack, landing in such a way not to crush him but to shelter him.

The two of us, and a baby pig. Our leaders would say that it was only fair; the life of their young in exchange for ours, the eggs that they had stolen from us that had launched this conflict. But the truth was, it had long since stopped being about the eggs, we had paid a far higher price in our own eggs than they ever had taken from us. My own beloved had dropped three of our eggs, three of our unborn children, on the pigs, using them to knock down walls, to kill our porcine foes, before she finally sacrificed herself bringing down a fort. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

The general said that she chose to give her life because she thought it was the only way to take down the wall. I suspect she could no longer go own killing her own children for the sake of this war; a war she, like so many of us, fought not out of belief in the cause but purely out of loyalty.

This was no longer a war.

This was genocide.

The pigs’ initial attack had been repaid in their blood and our own a hundred times over, and yet still we persisted. The pigs had stopped fighting back, and had turned purely to defense, and yet still we persisted. We killed, and continued to kill, and died in the process. Our generals sent teams that were poorly equipped for the tasks they were given; blue birds died en masse bringing down walls that would have been simple for one blackbird to take down. But the generals didn’t care; they were far more interested in haste, in fighting a war on a hundred fronts than they were in our lives. If they could have shed enough of our own blood to drown our enemies in it, they would have, and gleefully. They would not be content until either all of the pigs were dead, or until we were.

“We die,” Red Breast repeated in empty monotone, as he climbed into the dreadful catapult himself. He launched himself toward the rubble, and toward the piglet hidden inside.

I heard the sick thud and snap of his neck breaking as he hit the wall, splintering it with the force of impact.

As the dust settled, I surveyed the results. The piglet was still alive. Red Breast was dead.

But with his death, he had shattered the last of the debris that protected the baby pig, leaving him exposed.

A child. An orphan. An innocent. A child, not unlike the eggs that had been stolen to start this conflict.

My squadron was eliminated. It was only me. I could leave. Go home. I’d lost my beloved, our children, but I could go home with my life. And in doing so, refuse to take the life of the innocent child before me.

I loaded myself into the catapult.

“Aye, we die.

“But we take pigs with us.”