Confiscating or attempting to confiscate Sony Walkman phones and iPods all the time is one of the untrammeled joys of my profession. I can get a bit carried away: meeting recently with two Ukranian friends I had to stop myself from yanking the ear-phones out of the ears of one, and restrict myself to an "If you were one of my students..." admonishment.
Recently a bit of variety has been injected into the situation at school by some genius deciding to present all of the students with a Rubik's cube each, and giving them a month to hone their skills before a competition at the end of term. What a great idea. I guess someone thought that there was a risk, however infinitesimal, of students getting bored of listening to BX or System of a Down or wottevah, and actually start paying attention to their classes. Happily that possibility has been averted, thanks to the timely intervention of Professor Rubik's 1974 invention - a record low of attention-paid has been achieved, and I've got a growing collection of the bloody things in my locker.
These kids with their iPods though, tchah! I have complained often enough on this site of the difficulty in finding decent English reading material in Ulaanbaatar (I mean, what is this place, Outer Mongolia?), and mentioned that I have been very much taken by the ebooks available to download from the Project Gutenberg website. The problem with ebooks is that while they're convenient with clogging your hard drive with every major work of literature in western civilization, even laptops are not very portable as far as a quick read goes. And there's me with an iPod mostly empty other than a very extensive collection of Bluegrass and Johnny Cash (the new 'Personal Files' release is, incidentally, just incredible) and now the occasional video download of Prime Minister's Questions and the sister broadcast Ask A Ninja. Well, slowly the wheels of my brain ticked and I thought to check online whether it's possible to download an ebook onto an iPod. Of course it is indeed possible - the book gets stored in the iPod's 'Notes' section. There's a website where over 11,000 books from Project Gutenberg have been converted to formats for downloading to 'readers', including iPod Notes.
Of course many people will say that it's no fun reading from a screen slightly smaller than 2 inches across, and on the whole it's not - I do find it leaves me a little groggy after an hour or so. However, it's tolerable, especially when the alternative is reading a disintegrating copy of R. F. Delderfield's "God is an Englishman" and paying 3000 Tugrik for the privilege. The backlight of course means that you can read without disturbing sleeping companions or indeed getting out of bed to turn the light off when you're finished (which has always been a considerable chore during those times of my life when, as now, I've been without the luxury of a bedside lamp). And when someone asks "Is that Jeremy Clarkson yer watching there on yer iPod?" you can reply "No, I was just reading 'Jurgen' - you know, the controversial 1919 James Branch Cabell satire. It's rather good, actually." This affords a warming glow of smugness and self-satisfaction that can sustain oneself long after the battery on the bloody thing has died again.