My iPod needs culture

Editor’s Note: Christopher Breen’s European adventure—courtesy of MacMania 4.5 —continues on the streets of Rome. In Blog Due , Chris checks in from the Sistine Chapel.

As you may recall, I was the worst sort of tourist Tuesday —unlearned in the customs of the local population and slightly vexed that this same population couldn’t see its way clear to do things The American Way and drip down free broadband from the heavens.

Now that I’ve worked through the majority of my connectivity issues (as well as ordered three complete meals without once pointing and grunting) I am The Man Who, Fully Versed in the Way Things Are, Has a Small Suggestion to Make.

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The accidental tourist

Editor’s Note: It’s MacMania time again—the event that combines seminars on Photoshop, Tiger, and the iPod, with an ocean cruise. This time around, MacMania sets sail for 10 days in the Mediterranean Sea, and Senior Editor Christopher Breen is our man aboard the ms Noordam. In Blog Uno , Chris checks in from Italy a few days before MacMania 4.5 commences.

Rome, Italy —When traveling abroad I do my best to dent the notion of the Ugly American. I speak slowly and softly, slacken my pace, and learn enough of the language to say “Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you, Pardon me, How much, and My, that [beer, wine, local firewater] was tasty, may I have another please?” That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m incapable of playing the Stupid Tourist—the visitor so steeped in the customs of his homeland that all expectations of his current surroundings are wildly off the mark.

Take, for example, my assumption that because you can’t spit in an American city without wetting a wireless hotspot, broadband is as ubiquitous as water in other parts of the globe.

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Nuts to you

As the subject hasn’t yet come up in the MacMania IV blog entries Jason Snell and I have proffered over the past couple of days, I thought it worth mentioning that while the geeks aboard this Geek Cruise are thrilled to be talking tech with the likes of me, Jason, Bob LeVitus, Andy Ihnatko, Leo Laporte, Woz, and Apple’s Sal Soghoian and Janet Hill, the other passengers aboard the ms Oosterdam have a different impression of our passion.

They think we’re nuts.

After a long day of excursions (the estuary-birding/hayless hay-ride photo-god Ben Long, Jason, Sal and his wife Naomi and I took part in during our stop in Mazatlan was particularly time-stretching) the “normal” passengers are ready for a night of merry making—taking in a show, dancing, gambling, or strolling the deck in the temperate Mexican moonlight.

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Mailing it in

Those who follow the chronicles of MacMania cruises such as the one taking place in the watery regions west of Mexico know that the satellite Internet access on the ship is expensive and not always reliable. With that in mind, those of us for which a constant connection to the Web is as vital as oxygen have developed strategies for getting what we need from the Internet even over the hinkiest of connections.

This takes the form of tailoring e-mail accounts to grab mail from specific accounts only—my Macworld account but not my .Mac account, for example. Or configuring a newsreader to pull in only the latest five headlines from a Top 10 list of sites.

But as the Translator widget tells me: Los mejores planes puestos de ratones y de hombres van a menudo mal . All it took was one corrupt email message from a bandmate to bring the whole works to a crashing halt.

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The father of invention

When traveling for business I try to pack more than enough gear for the job at hand—computer, spare battery, camera, cables, backup disk, USB keydrive, iPod… whatever the job calls for. Though I was sure I’d done the usual thorough job of packing prior to jetting to San Diego for the departure of Holland-America’s luxury liner, the Oosterdam, and its accompanying MacMania 4 cruise to the Mexican Riviera, I neglected to include what two-thirds of my traveling party believe is our most essential piece of gear.

A night light.

You see, I’m accompanied by my wife and child and yes, I forgot to pack the night light that my four-year-old daughter relies on for a solid (and secure) night’s sleep. Dad was in the doghouse.

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