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2003-04-07 | 2:31 p.m.

About a week ago, our borrowed Nikon Coolpix 800 started giving me a System Error message (which roughly translates to "Going Haywire"). Two nights ago, our 19-inch monitor went dark, and this morning a friend dropped my trusty Olympus Stylus Epic and now it won't take pictures.

Is Mercury in retrograde or what?

I noticed that Costco is offering the Coolpix 4500 for $599 with a $200 rebate. I'm trying to talk Duff into it over ICQ. So far he is ignoring my entreaties. He must be taking the longest lunch in corporate history.

He just got back from a long weekend in Michigan, where he and his family celebrated his brother's birthday. It was quite a trip for him. On the way out, he got to chat with Winona LaDuke, the longtime Green Party vice-presidential candidate and Indian activist. On the way back, he got to talk to a professional football player who just signed on with the 49ers.

Those two plane rides alone constitute a "dream vacation" for Duff. Politics and football, football and politics: there is nothing else that Duff would rather talk about, with the possible exception of a collectible card game called Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (but he gets plenty of chances to talk about that online).

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