It's strange how things play out sometimes. Last Christmas, for example, someone gave me a miniature USB-based lava-lamp-type gizmo. This little scamp currently sits on my desk just to the left of my flat-panel computer screen (my USB-powered hamster wheel is, of course, on the other side – the faster I type, the faster the little rascal races around its wheel – hey, I've got to have something to cheer me up as I wend my weary way through yet another techno-geek writing project).
But we digress. Early last week as I pen these words, one of my colleagues wandered into my office, was smitten with my mini-lava-lamp, and immediately ordered two for himself (it's sad really, one is all you need to be recognized as a trend-setter and leader of fashion – having two completely misses the point – What? Of course I haven't got "lava-lamp envy!").
But, once again, we digress. When my colleague's new lava lamps arrived, they were accompanied by a beguiling catalog from ThinkGeek (www.ThinkGeek.com – "Stuff for Smart Masses"). Once I had managed to pry this little ragamuffin from my friend's grasp, I found it to be jam-packed with things I never knew I needed that I now discover I cannot do without.
For example, like many folks of my era, I have boxes of old vinyl LP (long-playing) records by artists so obscure that their names are now lost in the mists of time to the extent that the never made it into the iTunes catalog (yes you youngsters out there, it's true, there is more to the universe than can be found in iTunes).
So you can only imagine my surprise to discover the Ion USB Turntable. This professional-quality, classically-styled deck looks GREAT. You simply plug it into a USB port on your PC (Windows or Mac) and use the included software to rip your vinyl records directly to MP3 (or WAV) files for playback on newfangled devices like your iPod (you can also use the software to give your vinyl a digital facelift by removing those nasty "clicks" and "pops"). At a very affordable $99.99, I personally think this is a real bargin.
But wait, there's more. . . actually, the ThinkGeek catalog has lots of things I really want, but one I simply COULD NOT RESIST was the Annoy-a-Tron. This is a really small circuit board (approx 3 cm wide by 6 cm long by 0.75 cm thick) that can be easily hidden somewhere in someone else's office or home (it comes equipped with an embedded magnet that allows it to be attached under metal desks or to the back of metal filing cabinets).
Every 2 to 8 minutes, this little rapscallion emits an annoying "beep". The frequency of this beep – coupled with some electronic "noise" – is guaranteed to grate on the nerves. Meanwhile, the short duration and random appearance of the "beep" makes locating the Annoy-a-Thon extremely difficult (and it runs for three to four weeks on one miniature battery).
At only $9.99, I would say that this is very reasonably priced, especially when you consider the weeks of pleasure it's going to bring (to me at least). What can I say? . . . I've ordered TWO! . . . Be afraid, be very afraid!
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at email@example.com). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.