The longer reply...
i don't really care about merging and subversion control all that much. It's not that I need everything to merge properly. I just want to figure out a way to manage this workflow where I do some stuff at home, some stuff at work, some stuff on a usb stick.
And what do you intend to do when
(not if!) things get out of sync? This is a pretty darn bad workflow unless you want to end up in a royal mess... I'm fully aware that having strict procedures for how/when you edit files is also somewhat of a pain, but believe me - it's far less than the "Oh fsck, which is which?" mess you can end up in otherwise.
Also, timestamps are a notoriously bad way to handle things. Say you do some important edits to "SuperStory.doc" on your workstation, then have to toddle off for a weekend trip. There, you do some other minor work on the same base SuperStory.doc on your laptop (which doesn't have the changes made on your workstation). Your laptop has the most recent timestamp, but your older-timestamped workstation copy has the most important edits.
What you need to realize is that there isn't an end-all-be-all system that can handle what you want across all possible file types. It doesn't exist, not even if you're going to throw a gazillion dollars at enterprisey systems. What you'll find will either be too generic or too specialized.
(D)VCS platforms tend to handle binary data poorly - no go for .doc files or images. It's a (very) viable solution if your documents are in sane textual formats (latex, docbook, svg, html, ...) - but if you mainly deal with binary files and can't switch to something better, it's not really a solution either.
Don't even think about using subversion - it's OK when you need to deal with legacy systems, but it has numerous issues and should be avoided, considering there's much better modern solutions. Bazaar, Mercurial, Git, et cetera.