Sunday, August 29, 2010

Staycation: You're Doing It Right

Gantry Plaza State Park

"Staycation" is one of those neologisms that rubs me the wrong way and makes me cringe, visibly, rudely, at parties. And yet when Boy and I decided to take one (a stay-at-home vacation, not a neologism), I started not just saying it but embracing it. We're staying! And 'cationing!

We'd had dates picked out for some time off for weeks, with Boy completely done with grad school classes (woohoo!), and me in the calm before my office's fall events, but we couldn't find anywhere to go. We didn't want a big vacation, just a little chill time away, and everything we looked at was either too expensive, or too far, or we were just meh about it.

Then, the revelation: We live in New York City! And there are all kinds of things to do here that we never do! The key to making this work, for me anyway, was planning things so that we didn't just sit on the couch for five days. We'd planned to take a vacation, so let's spend some vacation money here in town – make some dinner reservations, schedule our days as if we were on a trip. We didn't have a complete agenda, but all but one day had at least one thing booked to ensure we'd leave the house.

We kicked things off on Friday after work at WD-50, Wylie Dufresne's restaurant on the Lower East Side. We’d become fans of Dufresne when he appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef and a contestant on Top Chef Masters. He's one of those "molecular gastronomy" guys with the freeze-drying and the liquid nitrogen and the food that's very pretty and fun to watch on TV, but possibly a little scary to actually eat. So the restaurant had been on our list but we hadn't rushed to have a more-expensive-than-usual (but quite reasonable for a nice night out), possibly frightening dinner in a neighborhood we never have any other reason to go to. It was a perfect adventure to start the Staycation!

We were seated about as far from the open kitchen as possible, but we did catch sight of Dufresne in there, which made me happy; you don't necessarily expect to actually see the celebrity chef in an apron.

The menu just lists things in the dishes, without much detail or mention of technique. This was sort of disappointing, since I'd've liked some insight into Dufresne's mad scientist ways that went into what I was eating, but also kind of great, because it kept the mystery and magic in it. Of course I took photos. I'll just say now that everything was amazing so as not to keep repeating myself later. (For all photos, click to view on Flickr in various sizes, plus lots more pics.)

WD-50August 13: WD-50
Boy started with the "Peekytoe crab roll, salt ‘n vinegar chips, celery mayonnaise." I don't normally like celery and the mayo looked very green with it, but it had a great subtle flavor that was perfect with the crab. I had "Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, caviar." This is one I'd love to know the technique behind. I assume it wasn't just fried chicken from yesterday left in the fridge. Liquid nitrogen maybe? The meat had a funny but not at all unpleasant texture. I think the waiter mentioned honey as he set the plate down (oddly, our main waiter spoke perfect English, but both of the guys who brought out the food, who also explained it, had thick accents), so I think that's honey-Tabasco sauce underneath. Everything went together perfectly: the salty of the caviar, creaminess of the cheese, sweet-spicy of the sauce, all complimenting the chicken.

Our mains were "Venison chop, freeze dried polenta, fennel, asian pear" for Boy and "Duck breast, apple, cheddar, kimchee-cous cous" for me. These were both a little more "normal," but with some flavor combinations I certainly would never have thought of, like the cheddar (which also flavored the broth in the dish, so it touched everything) with duck and cous cous. I think the polenta was fried after it was freeze dried? Also venison isn't something you see in Manhattan restaurants every day. At least not the ones I go to.

My dessert was "Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, chicory." The chicory was in the form of a foam, which has a texture I don't care for. When I tasted it by itself it was a flavor I didn't care for either. Mixed with the other flavors, though, it was perfection. Science! Boy had "Cheesecake, wild blueberries, plantain, cinnamon," which was by far the most Dufresne-esque thing we tried. And also, for me, the least successful. But look at it! Little cheesecake bits wrapped in blueberry...something! How the hell did they do that? The blueberry whateveritwas had a gummy texture I didn't like, but Boy enjoyed it and it was his dessert, so the evening was an unqualified success. Highly recommended.

Saturday was pretty much just a regular Saturday. Laundry wasn't going to do itself! After a mostly lazy day we headed to the Riverview Restaurant in Long Island City. Turns out you can't actually view the river from it. Nothing as exciting as Friday's foodie escapade, but my appetizer, "crispy tuna" with ginger was an unusual presentation I'd never seen before. Interesting that the best thing we ate was Japanese-inspired on a mostly Italian menu, but whatever.
The evening was a hit, though, because the weather was perfect and breezy and a much-needed break from this hateful summer. We sat outside and afterwards walked across the street to the Gantry Park to actually see the river.
Gantry Plaza State Park

Queens adventures continued in the other direction on Sunday with a trip to Flushing Meadows Park, better known as the site of the 1964 World's Fair. Back when I was trying to learn to rollerblade (a pursuit I've long since given up), Boy and I took several trips there (it's flat and full of long straight stretches and big wide circles), but we'd never been inside any of the handful of attractions there. I didn't even know there was a zoo until recently (it's on the other side of the highway, where we hadn't ventured).

Flushing MeadowsWe started at the New York Hall of Science. We're clearly not the target demographic, but I was happy that we weren't the only childless adults there, and lots of the hands-on stuff (giant bubbles!) was fun for us too. Unfortunately, the Great Hall, which is one of the original World's Fair buildings and made me think of Battlestar Galactica (it's the brown wavy thing behind the 2nd rocket in the photo), was closed for renovations. The whole place felt a little run down, which except for the freshly-renovated globe fountain, is kind of a theme for the entire park.

August 15: Flushing Meadows

Flushing Meadows: Queens Museum of Art Next up was the Queens Museum of Art, an original Fair building which hasn't been kept up well at all. Whole sections of it are closed and from the outside appear to be totally falling apart. It's an aesthetic I like taking pictures of but it doesn't make for much of a museum! It's best known for The Panorama, built for the World's Fair when the building was the Hall of New York City. It's a perfect scale model of ALL of New York City, and it's pretty intense. I found my mom's building, my office, and my high school. My current apartment was too far away from the catwalk around the model to get a good look at, but we found the neighborhood. The Panorama has been updated since '64, but I'm guessing not since sometime in the late 70s or early 80s. The World Trade Center is in it, but lots of buildings that were built after it aren't (to say nothing of the obvious). I hope they do another update someday.
Flushing Meadows: Queens Museum of Art Flushing Meadows: Queens Museum of Art

There's not much else there, but there is a great collection of World's Fair memorabilia that's fantastically retro-futurist and Mad Men-y, and we bought a poster in the gift shop.

Our last stop was the Queens Zoo, which is like the Bronx Zoo in miniature. It also has an original World's Fair building, which is now a really cool aviary, and a petting zoo. It's sort of strangely designed, with very few vantage points for viewing the animals, but seemingly lots of places to hide. A good time though. Sadly my camera battery died before I could get a picture of the Urdu, the "smallest deer in the world." That thing was CUTE.
Flushing Meadows: Queens ZooFlushing Meadows: Queens Zoo

UrubambaAfter a nap back at home, we hit Urubamba, a Peruvian restaurant around the corner I've always been intimidated by. Living in a largely immigrant neighborhood, there are a few stores and restaurants around where I don't feel entirely welcome. I'll own the fact that that's probably more about my own prejudices than about reality, but the feeling is still there. As it turns out, I needn't have worried about Urubamba, which is not only fun to say out loud, it was full of non-Spanish-speakers. And the food was delicious. Another unusual appetizer: "Crispy mashed potato." Sort of a knish crossed with a meat pie. Another culinary adventure, much cheaper and closer to home.

The Staycation was clearly becoming about food, and Monday turned into Carb Day. It was the one day we hadn't made any plans at all for, though we had some ideas. After walking around so much in Flushing we weren't up for a big day trip or another museum (one of the things Staycation has over Vacation is not feeling like you're wasting your trip if you have a lazy day). Tara wanted to try the Wafels & Dinges truck, which was parked in her neighborhood, and asked if we wanted to join her. This seemed like a perfect Staycation activity! So after bagels for breakfast, we had Belgian waffles for lunch. Mine had bacon in it, and maple syrup and ice cream on it. And it was perfection. This is the only photo I took this day!
August 16: Bacon Waffle with Maple Syrup and Ice Cream

We'd planned to see a movie but couldn't really decide what. It was between Toy Story 3 and The Kids Are All Right with some Scott Pilgrim thrown in. We didn't feel like rushing anywhere so we hung out with Tara for a while and meandered down to 42nd Street, and when we got there we needed air conditioning and the only thing starting any time soon was Salt. Which turned out to be a pretty perfect brainless summer movie, and surprisingly a ton of fun. Also it turns out we dodged a bullet; later that day we learned the theatre where Scott Pilgrim and Kids Are All Right were playing had a bedbug infestation.

From there we went to the new branch of Shake Shack, which we'd never been to (any of them, not just the new one). It was early for dinner, so there wasn't the usual line. I can't say I understand what all the fuss is about, but it was definitely a good burger and a good shake, and ended Carb Day just right. Boy had a prior commitment at night, so I spent the evening on the couch, digesting.

On Tuesday we rented a ZipCar (our first time doing so, and I highly recommend it!) and headed to Long Island. The original plan was to hit some wineries (there's a whole little section of them on the Northern coast, just an hour and a half or so from home) and find a beach. Boy needed some new work clothes and it turned out there's an outlet mall right on the way. We figured we'd stop and buy some pants and have lunch and be on our way. In fact, we were there for four hours. This place is so huge it's in two sections and you have to drive from one to the other. I wasn't prepared for how many housewares stores there would be, including a Williams-Sonoma and a Le Creuset. And there were some really good deals. For two people who don't really like shopping very much, we kinda cleaned up. I'm both a little cheap and a little acquisitive (ok, a lot) so a good outlet mall is a dangerous sweet spot for me.

Long Island Wineries
We did make it to two wineries before they closed, which was really fun. We tasted a bunch of stuff and came home with four reasonably priced bottles. And it was pretty.

Long Island: Wildwood State Park From there we found Wildwood State Park. It's kind of a bummer of a beach, with pebbles instead of sand and not much there. But it was pretty to look at if not comfy to sit on, and we got our summer ocean (does Long Island Sound count?) fix. We hung out for a bit, felt suitably relaxed, and headed home for take-out sushi and one of our new bottles of wine. The cat was glad we'd gone shopping too:

Kitten in a Bag!

For our last day of Staycation, we hit the pre-fixe lunch at Nougatine, one of Jean George Vongerichten's restaurants at Columbus Circle. For those of you in NYC, this is a fantastic deal if you want to have a nice meal on a budget. I felt a little self-conscious taking pictures (I figure they're used to it at WD-50) but trust me, everything was amazing.

We walked off lunch by heading across the park and uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I hadn't been to since I was a kid. I have to say, I'm not a huge fan. I tend to breeze through museums pretty quickly, and the Met had a maze-like quality that makes that impossible. I don't like being forced down a particular path either, but I like when it's possible to explore a building in a linear way. We frequently doubled-back through places we'd been, not necessarily on purpose, and had a hard time finding things we were looking for, including, eventually, the exit. That said, I'm very glad we went. One of the things I liked best was the architecture of the building itself, seeing how new additions were incorporated and how it plays with the park outside. (Of course, that's a big part of what made it maze-like, but at least I could appreciate it!)
Metropolitan Museum of Art Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of my favorite things there right now (it ends soon, I think) is a bamboo sculpture on the roof. "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like," and I liked this a lot. I neither know nor care what it "means," I just thought it looked wicked cool. You can climb it (there's a walkway, not like a jungle gym) but only on set tours at certain times of day, which was a bummer. But I love the way it plays with the skyline and sort of takes on this weird life.
Metropolitan Museum of Art

By the time we left the museum we were exhausted, and flopped down in the park for a bit. And that was our staycation! I seriously can't recommend it highly enough. I mean, I love going places too (though I really hope we see teleportation in my lifetime, 'cause boy do I hate traveling), and that license being away from home gives you to really escape your life, but there's a lot to be said for sleeping in your own bed too. There was definitely no sense of "now we'll do projects at home." We went out and did things we don't normally do, so it really didn't feel like our day-to-day lives even though we were home.
Staycation's End


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Old Enough to Run for President

(and dropping that whole "On..." thing in the titles)

Shortly after I decided to make a real effort to start blogging with some regularity, my friend Ethan (coincidentally) shared this article about how writing for an audience, even if there isn't actually one there, is good for your brain and makes you a better reader. I completely agree, but what to write?

Yesterday was my birthday. 35 used to sound old but now that I'm here it feels pretty much the same as 29, only fatter and with more grey hair. I have most of the trappings of adulthood – a "husband," a mortgage, a job, an IRA, health insurance, a cat – but I've never fully felt like a grown-up. Maybe that's because I was never a big partier; I've always been a fan of naps. Maybe it's because I work in theater, which is a lot more casual than corporate, and also leads to having lots of younger friends. Maybe it's because so few of my friends have kids, though that's starting to change. But I think probably it's because the whole idea of "feeling like a grown-up" is a fallacy; I feel like me, and my life is my life.

To celebrate, I spent 6 hours straight drinking at the newer beer garden in Astoria. Boy is about to finish school after what feels like forever, so we had lots to celebrate. It was a quiet party with the handful of friends who were actually in town (the curse of the summer birthday I've been suffering all my life – next year I'm going to wait until October and celebrate the anniversary of my bar mitzvah...which was delayed because of the summer birthday), and a perfect, breezy, New York summer night.

Boy left for a previously-planned trip on Saturday morning. I never sleep well when I've had too much to drink (omg I'm getting old!) so after making myself a delightfully huge hangover breakfast I took to the couch where I almost literally spent the entire day. It was, I have to say, an absolutely delightful way to spend my birthday. I was in bed again by 10:30.

After 9 blissful hours of sleep, I made another overly-caloric breakfast (hey, it's my birthday weekend), cleaned the apartment and did laundry and was done with my weekend chores by 1:00. I let the smug feeling from that carry me right back to the couch, where I've spent the rest of the day. I watched Never Sleep Again, a four hour (really?) documentary about Nightmare On Elm Street that made me want to watch the whole series again (I have my three favorites that I've seen over and over, but haven't seen the other 5 in years); and 2012, which felt like 4 hours but was also surprisingly enjoyable; and lots of BBC America. Now Boy is home and we're working on the DVR.

Laziest. Birthday. EVER. Awesome.

Unrelated: I edited the iPad post from the other day and added a couple of cons. I'd thought of them earlier but then forgot them as the post dragged on and on, and remembered as soon as I picked the iPad up again. I also added a couple more app recommendations. Nothing that changes my bottom line opinion on the thing though.

Monday, August 02, 2010

On iPad

When they first announced the iPad, I thought, as many people did, "It's a giant iPod Touch? I don't get it." Then I read more about it, especially as it might be used for travel, and it started to sound more appealing. I especially liked how you could get the 3G model without a data plan, but sign up for it on the fly if you needed it. I've definitely wound up at hotels that advertised WiFi only to discover they don't really have it. Wanting the 3G had the added benefit of making me wait longer, so then I got the chance to play with other people's WiFi-only models. Weirdly, I was sort of sold but when I actually had one in my hand, as impressed as I was by the shiny, I still couldn't quite figure out what it was for. Meanwhile, I took a brief business trip and thought about how nice it would be to have something a little lighter than my laptop with me, and also how much easier it would be to use something flat in the confines of a plane. It's truly a wonder that we can have WiFi on planes and buses, but deeply frustrating that there's not actually room to open a laptop properly and use it. In the end, I decided I couldn't really know what I'd do with it unless I actually used it "in the field," so I figured I'd get one and if I didn't like it I could just sell it on eBay. (Boy's response to that after I'd had it for a week and was clearly keeping it, "Oh, did you believe you when you said that? I didn't.")

I saw lots of "It's magical and revolutionary!" and lots of "It's stupid!" press when the iPad first came out, but I haven't seen a lot of real-world reviews. Perhaps just because I don't care so much to read them now that I have my own. But anyway I thought I'd do my own list of pros and cons, just for fun. I will say up front that I come down very squarely on the Pro side. I'm also very nitpicky. I spend a lot of time thinking about user interfaces and customization and the dream computer/PDA/cell phone that I wish existed, so I've got a lot of niggling Cons on the list. I'm certainly not being an Apple fanboy apologist (no, I would never do that) but I'm really happy with it in spite of them.

I should mention that I still don't have an iPhone, but not for the reasons in that old post (well, #4 is still accurate), which seem incredibly quaint three years later. I plan to get one very soon, but for now I have a Storm, the Blackberry that wishes it were an iPhone. I bring this up only to say that the iPad is my first experience with iOS, and that my reference point for touch screen devices is the Storm, which, while, clunky in many ways, has a lot going for it.

Pro: It's incredibly intuitive…
We had no internet in the office for nine days (that's another story altogether) and the iPad got passed around a bit (it's a small office). I opened the browser and our webmail for my boss, who no one (herself included) would describe as terribly tech-savvy, turned my back, and she was typing away. I was fairly impressed.

Con: …except when it's not.
Later that same day, my quite tech-savvy co-worker used it and couldn't figure out how to select and copy text. And why would he? I either figured it out by accident or read it in the manual (yes, I actually read the manual). I still can't figure out how to put the cursor in the middle of a word to fix a typo (can you even do that?). Some of the cons below are related to this. The device is so fundamentally simple and clearly designed to just be picked up and used, that whenever it's not easy it's jarring.

Pro: Safari
When I started looking at apps, I couldn't believe there wasn't a Facebook app for the iPad. Then I opened Facebook in the browser. It's just Faceook. As long as there's no Flash involved, it's pretty much just like going online on a real computer.

Pro: Video
For several months, for no apparent reason, my MacBook has been a little iffy about playing video. Generally, it will play for a while and then the audio will continue while the image freezes. Not so on the iPad. As long as it's not Flash, of course, everything has been smooth and crystal clear, including YouTube and streaming Netflix.

Pro: Battery
I haven't done a long trip with it yet, but the battery seems to last a very long time, as promised. And it doesn't get hot like at all, unlike my laptop which is currently making me sweat through a padded lapdesk.

Con: Inconsistent user interface
Within Apple's own apps, there's an inconsistency to how things work. On the home screen, swiping changes the page. In Books (and the Kindle app), swiping or just tapping on the side of the screen "turns the page." But in Calendar and Address Book, there are little arrows you have to click. It's especially weird because both use a similarly twee paper image/metaphor to the Books app, so you naturally want to "turn the page."

I also find it both very weird and very annoying that some apps have a place to tap to bring up their settings, and some live in the device's overall Settings (Apple is at least consistent – all of theirs live in the main area). Especially without multi-tasking, it's very strange to have to exit the app you're using to set something up in that app. How does it make any sense to have to leave my Google Reader app to change the order in which I'm viewing the feeds?

Con: Not enough buttons
One of the things I really like on Blackberries is the Menu button, which, well, pops up a menu. The menu contextual based on where you are (apps, etc.), and it solves pretty much all the problems above, with settings, copy, paste, etc. I know adding physical buttons is a no-no for Apple (though I don't really get why, since I'm sure they could design something sexy), but why not stick something in the menu bar? While we're at it, why not stick a lot of things in the menu bar? On the Storm – and, for that matter, on a Mac – clicking the clock, the connections icon, etc. opens a menu or takes you to the relevant settings or app. On the iPad, clicking anywhere in the menu bar scrolls whatever you're viewing to the top of the page. It's not unuseful, but for a while I kept doing it by accident and not understanding what was happening.

Pro: The main keyboard
I taught myself to type at a very early age, before anyone got around to teaching me how to do it properly. As a result I can type very quickly and accurately using mostly three fingers and a thumb. So maybe that's why I took to the iPad keyboard so quickly, but whatever the reason I find it very speedy and natural-feeling. I frequently miss the space bar (and when I do I almost always hit N, which shows how consistently I hit the same spot with my thumb when I can actually feel the bar), and I'm having a tough time learning the secondary keyboards (the Storm's are pretty intuitive), but in general I'm very impressed. (I have yet to do any real high-volume writing on it. I thought about writing this on it – it seemed to make sense – but in the end I didn't want to, mostly because things like copying links just work better with multiple windows.)

Con: The other keyboards and shortcuts
As much as I like the physical experience of typing on the iPad, the layout of it's secondary keyboards baffles me. I suppose this is largely about being used to the Storm's keyboard, but the layout doesn't bear any resemblance at all to a computer or a phone's keyboard. Adding to the confusion, it's not quite the same as the iPhone layouts, so when running an iPhone app it's another keyboard that I haven't learned yet. The Storm also has better shortcuts: Pressing and holding a key will give you a capital letter; tapping the shift or number keys will give you a single hit on those keyboards, holding them locks it; there are separate keys to access both of the secondary keyboards from the main one, instead of iOS' method of drilling down. I'm sure I'll get used to it all, but as with some of the other UI and button stuff, it's surprising that a device this deliberately simple has me doing things in three clicks that I'm used to doing in one.

Con: Twitchy Autocorrect
This is something else I assume I'll get used to, but it seems counterintuitive that I have to tap the suggested word to not use it. On Blackberries, it's the opposite – you tap a suggestion to select it, and just keep typing to ignore it. Also, what if I want to type its or ill or hell? I mean, I appreciate the help, especially since I can't really find the apostrophe, but it seems like it's helpful to the point of no longer being helpful. (Slate recently ran a great article on autocorrection systems.)

Con: Calendar App
Sort of a half-con, really. The calendar is very pretty, and certainly functional. Syncing with MobileMe is dreamy. But like several of the iPad's apps, it inexplicably defies conventions that have been around forever. I'm constantly trying to tap and drag appointments to change their times. Like in every other calendar application since the dawn of time, including iCal. Nope. It's tap the event, tap the edit button, tap and scroll the times…tedious. Similarly why not tap a blank spot in a day to create a new appointment there? Or double-tap, to make it like double-clicking in every other calendar application since the dawn of time, including iCal. Nope. Click the add button, change the date, time, etc. It's just a lot of tapping (again) that could be pretty easily avoided by following convention. Also, see above re: scrolling and swiping.

Also, in my world weeks start on Monday and end on Sunday. All through high school and college I used those Week At a Glance planners that put the weekend on the end, and later worked with a union where an official workweek was Monday-Sunday, no matter where your day off was. When I look at a calendar I just expect it to start Monday.

iCal and Outlook let you decide what day you want your week to start. Blackberries and Palms to do. Not the iPad!

Also, I realize this is old news to iPhone users, but WTF there's no Tasks app?? Seriously??? Every PDA or smartphone I've owned since 2000 has had a to-do list. It's built into iCal and Outlook. Perhaps most curious, my iCal tasks sync with MobileMe and appear in the web calendar, just as they do in iCal. Apple clearly CAN do this. So why on earth would they leave it out of iOS? I found a pretty slick third party app (iPronto), but I shouldn't have had to pay for it. Adding admittedly useful insult to injury, iPronto syncs using my MobileMe account.

Pro: Other Apps
The iPad is not going to fully replace my laptop. There are things it just can't do, or that I can do faster on a "real" computer. But I'm impressed by how many things it not only can do, but can do better than my laptop. Part of that is just the nature of its portability; a map application will obviously be improved by GPS. But the Maps app is so much better than the Google Maps website that powers it. Same for lots of location-based programs (I can only say "apps" so many times before it loses meaning) like Around Me. That's an iPhone app (dammit) but it will be just as useful on the Pad if I'm traveling and want to leave the hotel.

I do most of my reading online and I spend the majority of my iPad time in Reeder, a Google Reader…reader. It's very pretty, but more importantly (to me), it syncs and stores articles and even images for offline reading, making it perfect for subways and planes. When you're back online sync it up again. I already mentioned iPronto, and while I wish it weren't necessary it definitely does the job well. AccuWeather is incredibly gorgeous, which seems an odd thing to say about a weather app, but it just is (and also useful). Read It Later also lets me read internet content offline, and I can add to it from any browser. Pages and Numbers are very nice, and have been able to open any Word and Excel documents I've thrown at them so far, but to be fair I haven't really done much with them yet. The IMDB app is a thousand times nicer and easier to use than the actual website is. There are several apps like this. I just started using a diet and exercise diary called FatSecret (worst. name. ever.), which I can't say I recommend because I haven't used it much, but if you get a free account it syncs with the website, and it's remarkable how ugly the website is and how nice the app is. They're entirely different experiences, and the web one is definitely bad. OpenTable and HopStop have really pretty iOS interfaces too. It's not a bad trend, I suppose, except not everyone wants or can afford a smartphone or has the same OS. Why not adopt some of the app's design into the bad website?

(IMDB, AccuWeather, Reeder)

I know this is old news to iPhone users, but it's exciting to me, and it's one of the things that finally pushed me over the edge to deciding to get the phone too.

Pro: Games
Sure, games are apps, but I felt they warranted their own category. I have a DS and a PSP but lately I've had a hard time finding games I want to play on them, let alone spend $30 on. I like to play games on the subway while I listen to podcasts, because apparently I can't just do one thing (the TV, of course, is on as I write this). I'm rather obsessed with Angry Birds and Words With Friends, the latter for the social element as much as the game (well, social with people you never actually see or speak to). Qrank is a trivia game you can only play once a day (you play against friends and you all get the same set of questions), which is a great thing to be addicted to because there's a built-in time limit. Wake Up The Box is odd physics fun.

I suspect when I get an iPhone I'll switch to playing games there, and not carrying the Pad around so much, though the big sceen is nice (even for lower-res iPhone apps that get blown up on it). I'm fascinated by the motion control elements (which none of the ones I've mentioned use), which seem to sort of fulfill the promise of the Wii in a much more intuitive and elegant way. I feel like a lot of them work better when the device is smaller and a little more wieldy. Doodle Jump works really well though.

Pro: 3G on the fly
I mentioned this above and there's not much else to say about it. It's easy and cool.

Con: It's only 3G
I took a trip a couple weeks ago and had trouble getting onto the janky WiFi network, but there was no 3G either. I have no idea how this works technologically, but it would be nice if it could also connect to whatever lesser network iPhones connect to when 3G isn't available.

Con: No Security Slot
If memory serves, every Mac laptop I've ever owned (which is going back to 1994), has had a slot for a Kensington cable lock. Call me paranoid, but I never travel without it. Not all hotel rooms have safes, lots of people have access to them, and, rigorous backups or not, losing my computer would be a huge pain in the ass. So it seems strange to me that something so light and grabbable wouldn't be lockable. I assume the thining is that an iPad is more like a cell phone than a computer, but there are still going to be times when I don't want to carry it with me, but my paranoia may force me to.

Pro/Con: App Store/iTunes Store
This is one of those super nitpicky ones, but I hate the way the App Store dumps you out to the home screen whenever you do anything. Yes, I just bought something, but I wasn't done shopping, and now I have to go back and wait for everything to load again. Also why do you need my password to upgrade apps I've already paid for? Is someone going to steal my iPad and surreptitiously upgrade me? On the other hand, both stores are super-easy to use, and the instant gratification of being able to read about something online, buy it, and use it instantly is great. And then it's on your computer and on any other applicable devices when you sync.

Con: Finger as input device
It's super-cool in many ways, and I certainly don't want an iStylus, but it's frequently impractical. Like the time I was using the iPad and I paused to put on lip balm from a tin and then was like, Fuck, now I can't use the iPad! I mean, I wiped off my finger and life went on, but I often feel like I'm not clean enough to use it. I also have a tendency to accidentally hit things with limply curled fingers when I'm trying to hit things with my index finger. I guess I should be more forceful.

Con: Lack of Cases
Not a con of the device itself, but I wish there were more options for carrying cases. I know it's new and there will be more. Apple's case is garbage. I'm not convinced it will protect it from a fly landing on it. And it costs $40. I got one from Marware that I mostly love (very sturdy, elastic strap to keep it closed, little kickstand to angle for typing, affordable), but it's as heavy as the iPad itself, which makes it a little less portable or in-bed-readable.

Well, I've gone on far too long, but there's my take on the iPad. I actually thought I'd have more cons when I started. I could probably think of some, but I've gone on long enough. I really love mine, but I can't necessarily recommend it to anyone else. I mean, I wouldn't talk anyone out of it either, but I think it's too new and too expensive for me to say "Yeah, get one!" to anyone. I'm a little internet-addicted, and I read a lot online, and I commute and travel for work, so for me it's kinda perfect, if not a full-on computer replacement. That won't be true for everyone. And I haven't taken a business trip with it yet; that will be the real test. The short vacation I took with it the other week was very successful, but how much real work I can do remains to be seen.

But it's super cool and delightfully science fictiony. Whether that's worth $500+ to you or not is something I couldn't say.