This is an interesting week. Gnat’s Nana has Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever - and isn’t that an fun name for a disease? It’s got it all. Geography, skin problems, internal hideousness. The world, the flesh, and the devil, as the old movie title had it. She got this fungoo from a tick who hitched a ride on the family dog, and now she’s out for the week with red spots and hot sweats. Nature: it just never stops coming up with ways to kill you. Thanks, Mom. From Earthquakes to Ticks, you got the spectrum covered, don’t you?

Anyway, she’s out, so I can’t drop off Gnat for the three-hour tue / wed intervals I need to write the Backfence. I bailed on Thursday’s column, and tomorrow I’ll have to go to the office, grab some letters, and write it at home. Not a problem. But it means four consecutive days of me & Gnat, and I pity the tot. When it’s a Mommy Day, that means music class and gym class and the library and rides at the Mall; when it’s a Daddy day that usually means we both sit downstairs at watch Mickey Mouse cartoons for two hours while I speak in a Donald Duck voice. Oh, we get out of the house, but it’s usually to run the sort of errands necessary to keep the house running. Like a trip to the liquor store.

“It’s the boddle stow,” said Gnat as we walked inside. She was fascinated by the beer cooler - the dark depths beyond, the distant music playing from a boombox, the hum of the chillers, the neat rows of bottles stretching up to the sky. I bought my usual potion - James Page Pale Ale - and we went to check out. En route she found a bottle of wine, picked it up and staggered along behind me. Very Dickensian, in a way; I should have drawn myself up to my full height and shouted “make haste, or tonight the lumps in your gruel shall be moving again!” We put the bottle back. I paid for the beer, turned around, and found her holding a can of Red Bull in each hand. Energy drinks. Oh, she needs that. Why not just put a box of Lucky Charms in the blender, add chocolate milk, six cups of sugar and pump it in a vein.

Off to Target. I needed the wide-mouth refills for the Diaper Genie. If you don’t know what I mean, be grateful. We also got a cheap picnic cooler in the approved seasonal color (Target says: Dame Fashion is simply mad for lime green) and Gnat said “we can have a picnic? We go to beach?”

Yes, honey. We will.

"An we share? We haf saniches and joos. An easter canny. You and me and Mommy and Jabber. Haf a picnic. That would be neato!"

She says “neato.” I approve.

There’s nothing better than being 2 1/2. There’s nothing better than being with a 2 1/2 year old. I realized today that I spend more time with her than I’ve ever spent with anyone.

Here’s a frightening detail I noticed today. She was working on her ‘puter, playing with the Mr. Potato Head program. It lets you make your own characters - you add arms, eyes, feet, a mouth to a blank tater template. She chose the eyepatch module for the eyes. Then she clicked to the “feet” screen.

She chose the peg-leg option.

Two and a half, and she’s internalized the pirate archetype. How, I’ve no idea.

Off to Southdale to the Apple store. I needed software updates. What do you need? They asked. 10.2.5 and 6.2 and 4.0, I said. Right this way. (I also got AP 2.1.1. and FCE 1.0.1 while I was at it. Wouldn’t you?) Gnat ran right to the kid’s computers and started to play; she clicked on her favorite program, typed her name - okay, she typed “at,” but that's close - and she played until bored. Then she called up “Otto Matic,” a game included with new Macs that serves to warn the new Mac user that Mac games SUCK, and have the same relationship to high end PC games as the original “Battlezone” has to Unreal Tournament. I showed her how to use the arrow keys to make the character run around, and she grasped it in a second. Pushed my hand away and arrow-keyed the main character all over the place. She stuck with the game for five minutes, which was longer than I could manage.

The “4.0” update was the new iTunes program, the one that lets you buy music direct from Apple for a buck a tune. This is a great model for pop music, but a bad one for classical or soundtracks - an interstitial track that lasts 37 seconds costs the same as a big long sequence that runs six minutes. The price-point here should be penny-based, since the genres have such wildly divergent track durations. But that’s a small carp. I signed up for the service in a minute, hoovered up a Smashmouth tune, and realized, with a sense of utter & complete despair, that I must now rerip every song I have in my collection.

Well, no. Well, yes. As Brian describes here, (and he's channeling CapLion) Apple uses a fancy new format for music that’s better than MP3s. Lucky for me, a huge portion of my collection consists of pre-stereo jazz, big band, 20s & 30s pop, and poorly recorded rock that sounded like Tom Waits groaning through a megaphone the day it was recorded, and will never sound better. But I’ll have to redo the classical stuff, the soundtracks, the -

Wait. Stop. Hold on. No, I don’t. It’s not like I’m one of those audiophiles who spends more time listening to his system than listening to the actual music. Some of the converted songs get flat and fuzzy in the higher registers; redo those, yes, but haul out all the CDs and rerip everything on the off chance that when I do listen to Steinhammer’s Piano Concerto next February, I’ll notice how the flutes sound 16% more flutey? Hey: I got eggs to lay and ground to scratch. Forget it.

I couldn’t help but notice that the icon for iTunes has changed color. It used to be blue. Now iTunes is hooked up to a service that charges you money. Now the icon’s Green.

Just as long as the Apple icon isn’t red.

One telling detail: the default install once again includes a playlist called “60s music” and to that I say chew on my skinny tie and thin lapels, ya blubbergutted hippies. Why does Apple presume I want a 60s playlist? I’ll tell you why: it’s marketing. The 60s were, you know, when people were, uh, thinking differently. If they’d had Macs in the 60s, all the protest rallies would have been set in the San Francisco font. (Shudder.) The inclusion of this playlist is supposed to bestow on the Mac some sort of counterculture cred - if John Lennon were alive today, he’d have a Mac! Windows = Debbie Reynolds, the King Family, Wayne Newton, and the rest of the horrid anti-boomer pantheon. Every time you fire up a Mac, one of Pat Boone's kittens die.

I detect the hand of Steve Jobs here. And I sense the presence of toadies who don’t want to press the issue, but just follow the memo. They could have preinstalled playlists for all decades following the Hallowed Sixties, but that would suggest that people naturally arrange their music according to decades. Maybe they do - I have a 50s playlist, but that's because I bought a buttload of CDs of 50s Top 40 music. I have 20s and 30s playlists too - same reason. But these distinctions are indistinct in the modern age; where do you put Fleetwood Mac? 60s? 70s? 80s? 90s? 00s?

They could have chosen a different decade, but that would have opened them up to ridicule. 70s music: what, my Mac wants me to download the Starland Vocal Band? 80s music: oh, great, my computer thinks I own “The Best of Marc Almond.” 90s music: right. That’s so . . so nineties.

But 60s music - ah, that’s the gold standard, the height of human endeavor. Who wouldn’t want a playlist devoted to the songs that were on the radio around the time that some fifty-something ever-groovy different-thinkers were snogging with lank-haired undergraduates from the American Studies department under a Che poster?

Six words, boys:

50s: Grace Kelly
60s: Grace Slick

Case rested.

That said, I have lots of 60s music - I just don’t think of it in those terms. A playlist that includes the Beatles, the Kinks, Zep, the Who, AND the Mission: Impossible soundtrack, AND James Bond scores, AND Captain Kangaroo incidental music? That makes sense.

I'd say more, but I've been up six times since I started writing this - I hear small feet upstairs, and have to reinsert the daugher module in the bed socket. Six more times before I'm done tonight. Bleat out.

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