Some while back, I was explaining why "USB" stands for "Unexpected System Behavior" (see Top 10 Tips for New or Nervous Computer Users). However, while roaming the web looking for something different for my wife for Christmas, I discovered that what it really stands for is "Useless Separate Bauble". You only have to explore some of the gadget gift sites to see why. Obviously I bought the wrong computer, because mine only has seven USB ports. It seems as though twenty is the minimum to achieve a harmonious and satisfying working environment these days.
I suppose I could buy a USB Motorcycle Engine that adds three extra USB ports, with the added bonus of making annoying motorbike noises whenever it's plugged in. Then I'd be able to connect a USB MSN Missile Launcher so that people can shoot harmless projectiles at me while I'm chatting with them. But best of all, I'd be able to plug in my USB Pet Rock. At least that would be less annoying than most other USB gadgets seeing as how it doesn't actually do anything at all.
In fact, paying money for stuff that doesn't do anything at all, never mind anything useful, seems to be a new and growing trend. I'm trying to figure when I'd need a pen that writes with ink that just disappears again leaving no trace (see KGB Disappearing Ink Pen), or a shower curtain showing the periodic table (useful in case I forget what the atomic mass of Caesium is while I'm showering, I suppose). Or even a pair of electronic eyeballs that blink in a very realistic manner and, according to the web site (though I'm not sure I believe it) can "turn any object into a lifelike lovable friend". Hmmm ... they obviously work to a different definition of the words "lifelike" and "lovable" than I do.
But at least I did find some really useful things. I toyed for a while with buying my wife an artificial hand for eating potato crisps without getting your fingers greasy. However, in the end, it had to be a remote controlled duck. Just the thing for extra bath-time fun.
And for myself? I reckon it's a tossup between an electric guitar T-shirt that you can actually play (and there's a drum one as well), or the more enigmatic "There's no place like 127.0.0.1" version.
As you can see, we're in for an exciting non-denominational gift giving season at our house this year...