Is this a joke?

Yesterday, contrary to all expectations, I fell in love with the new iPod nano.

I had never even considered a nano before, because I just felt I needed more capacity. But the other day I was looking at my 30 GB iPod and I discovered that I had over 3600 songs on it that I had never played and that was when I realized I didn’t really need to carry my entire music collection (or, to be honest, 1/3 of my entire collection, because that’s all 30 GB could hold) around with me. That opened the window of opportunity for the nano to win me over, but I still wasn’t really considering it. I was too in love with the idea of the giant screen and Internet access available on the iPhone or the iPod touch.

But yesterday, all of the pieces seemed to fit into place. My wife and I had planned a little weekend trip to Stillwater, MN and we were going to stay at the “historic” Lowell Inn. That logo should have told me everything I needed to know (mainly, that the place has been on a steady decline since the 1970s), but I overlooked it. We arrived in Stillwater and had a fine afternoon checking out the antique shops and vintage bookstores, and having lunch at the Freight House. But then at 3 we headed over to the Lowell to check in. I immediately sensed that the place wasn’t quite as luxurious as it appeared in the tiny photos on their website. Oh, sure, with your glasses off or squinting, everything looked really nice, but there were little details that said otherwise: paint chipping in places, the Post-It note by the front door indicating the location of the door bell, the bent vent grates, the loose stairway railings. But it was when we got to our room that our hearts really sank. We were expecting a suite, or at least a reasonably large room, or, well, let’s be honest, a bathroom that actually had walls and a door and not just a big curtain draped across it, that was too narrow to afford the user of the bathroom total privacy. (It was impossible for the curtain to be closed in such a way that a person sitting on the couch couldn’t see a person sitting on the toilet, either directly or in the mirror.) I also noticed more loose grates, and the headboard of the bed was barely attached, and other weirdness about the room, and was left in a bit of a funk. I probably wouldn’t have cared if the room hadn’t cost $168, but I just kept thinking of all of the other things I could’ve spent that money on.

So, after mulling it over for about 20 minutes, I mustered up the courage to do something I rarely ever do: we decided to go down and ask for our money back, and leave. The proprietor was a bit flustered at this, but he offered to cancel out the room and, if he was able to sell it to someone else, to refund our money. About a half hour later as we were leaving the Stillwater area to head back to Minneapolis, he called and let us know he had been successful. In the end I have to say I was extremely appreciative of the service we got, and I suppose the room’s antique charms might win over some guests, but in the end there is no way I will ever consider staying at the Lowell Inn again.

As we headed back we made our revised plans for the night. We were now flush with cash that we had intended to spend on the hotel and a nice (and commensurately expensive) meal at the Bayport Cookery. So we decided to go to Southdale instead so we could do some shopping and then head over to the Galleria for dinner at Big Bowl.

And so it was that I came to know and love the iPod nano. While SLP was visiting various clothing stores, I headed down to the Apple Store to play with the iPod touch. I had already seen a friend’s iPhone, but since I have less than zero interest in switching to AT&T, I know that particular gadget will remain elusively out-of-reach for me. So, the iPod touch. I was really enjoying looking at it, but then I happened to go over and check out the new nano. It was just a curiosity, nothing else, but I fell in love instantly. The screen, though small, is unbelievably sharp; I love the new user interface; and it is so small! It’s the first iPod I’ve seen (aside from the useless iPod shuffle) that I could actually imagine carrying around in my pocket most or all of the time.

I didn’t buy it immediately, although I wanted to. But the rock solid logic of this basically being the amount of money we saved by not being stuck in the Lowell Inn for a night convinced SLP as well, and on our way back home from Southdale we stopped at the new Super Target that just opened in Richfield, and that’s where I got it.

Now, on to the actual topic of this post. This morning I was checking out Apple’s website for carrying case options for the new iPod nano. I was a little disappointed that the new models don’t come with the little faux-leather slip sleeve that my previous, 5th generation iPod came with. And as I perused the options I discovered the iPod nano swimbelt. Yes, it’s real. Apple doesn’t joke when there’s money to be had. But do people actually swim with their iPods? Apparently at least one person does, because there is one (and only one) superlative review of this product there on the site.

New items in the Room 34 Store!

As usual I’m sure these will be of no interest to anyone besides me and the two and a half people who read this (and only marginally interesting to them), but why not take the opportunity for a shameless plug?

I’ve added a couple of new items to the Room 34 Store, including a Tai Chi & Chai Tea coffee mug and a Rosie the Riveter infant “creeper” (known to those of us not afraid to commonize brand names as a “Onesie”). Be like me! Deck out your infant in 60-year-old war propaganda!

New Adventure Easter Egg Discovered!

Most loyal fans of the Atari 2600 game Adventure are well aware of the game’s famous “Easter egg” — if you bring an invisible dot to a certain screen and place another object in the same room, you can move through a barrier into a secret room with a self-congratulatory message from programmer Warren Robinett.

But few players of the game know that this is really just the first part of the Easter egg!

If you bring the enchanted chalice with you into the secret room (a gift for Mr. Robinett, to show your appreciation for his brilliant game), then proceed to the entrance of the white castle, you will see the rest of the Easter egg.

You see, Mr. Robinett’s motivation for the Easter eggs in this game stemmed from Atari’s reluctance to give its game designers adequate credit for their hard work. (After all, it was the designers of the games who were directly responsible for Atari’s financial success, but proportionate compensation for their efforts would’ve eaten into the corporate fatcats’ stock bonuses.)

It is widely known that Mr. Robinett was only paid his paltry salary of $22,000 in 1978 for designing Adventure, a game that went on to sell one million copies, thereby earning Atari $25,000,000. But as far as the public (and Atari’s management) was concerned, games were cranked out by mindless machines, not painstakingly crafted by computer programming geniuses who managed to pack elaborate and engaging game concepts into a meager 2 kilobytes of code.

It was this lack of respect and recognition that led some former Atari programmers to start their own company, Activision — the first third-party software maker. Every Activision game boldly proclaimed the designer’s name right on the cartridge label, as well as a photo and gameplay tips from the designer in the instruction manual.

But those unfortunate game designers back at Atari were left to find other ways to get their well-deserved recognition.* Many resorted to Easter eggs containing their names or initials, inspired by the bold work of Mr. Robinett.

And now, at last, you can see the full Easter egg from Adventure. While Atari’s executives laughed all the way to the bank in light of this game’s resounding success, Warren Robinett, game designer and computer genius, left Atari to pursue… other opportunities. And his dragons did as well.

Adventure White Castle

* Yes, I know Warren Robinett designed Adventure before Activision was founded, and he had already left Atari by then. But this entire article was all just a set-up for the visual joke anyway, so back off!