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July 31, 2006

exploding Dell laptop? no problem!

so it seems that occasionally, in a fiery temper tantrum, Dell laptop computers decide to spontaneously combust. many of you may have already been familiar with this story, as there seems to have been a recent spate of laptop batteries bursting into flames.
now, both T.T. and i use Dell laptops, and are therefore glad we have total warranty protection, should our batteries suddenly become extreme attention seekers like these self-immolating ones. but just in case, T.T. has come up with a brilliant fix (starring his very own XPS!):

perhaps Dell should start offering this as a standard accessory or upgrade...

Posted by hadashi at 2:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2006

Wal-Mart? nein, danke.

neener-neener-neener! neener-neener-neener!
okay, well i guess that's pretty obvious how i feel about Wal-Mart absolutely tanking this week in my country-in-law, Germany. (if i acquired T.T.'s parents as in-laws when i married him, i got his country too.) i can't help but feel somewhat snarkily pleased that despite all its corporate might and yellow-bouncy-smiley-face power, Wally is admitting defeat and pulling out with over $1 billion in losses. as T.T. and I gleefully discussed this story, it became obvious (to at least his German self) that a German Wal-Mart -- especially as run by American managers -- never had a chance to begin with. the culture of Wally and the culture of the average Deutsch shopper just don't mesh. small examples: there are already plenty of discount stores in Germany, so the competition was fierce. Germans shop daily and buy in small amounts. (most don't even have cars big enough to cram a full American-style Wally shopping spree-worth of stuff into.) Germans don't want strangers touching their groceries, so baggers were seen as unwelcome. when checkers were told to smile at customers, it was seen as flirting -- perhaps a little basic observation would have clued American Wally execs into seeing that business transactions there are as brusque and short as possible. even the American employees' manual was a flop, as its encouragement to report colleagues' unethical behaviour, and discouragement of employee romances were seen as totally invasive. even if Wal-Mart is trying to be more progressive, recently inviting Al Gore and his film to an executive meeting where he got "a larger round of applause than we gave for Wayne Newton," in the words of CEO H. Lee Scott, there is still too much of a massive monocultural attitude of economic domination associated with the company. this is what makes them so loved and so hated, depending on who you talk to, and where.

but if i just take a break from my snark party, i have to admit that as much as i like to think of myself as informed and multicultural and oh-so-much-better than those big dumb Wally execs, well, who am i kidding? too often i thunder into situations with my expectations firmly located in my own little world. too often i find myself putting my HadashiCultural overlay upon situations, being angry at people because they should think this way; they should treat others that way. and far too often i get all surprised and huffy if someone disagrees with my sooooo obviously correct and well-thought-out opinion, and then instead of listening choicefully to them and having a true conversation, i spend my energy on thinking of how they should agree with me and what i'm going to say next. in many ways, this personal arrogance is no different from the corporate imperialism that Wal-Mart, amongst many other institutions, indulges in.

at least apologising for this behaviour doesn't cost me a billion dollars...

Posted by hadashi at 7:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2006

i've done some of my best travel from home

it's true that i've been to some pretty cool places with my job, including literally travelling around the world. there have been the faraway and exotic, like the village in Malaysia that was built on stilts, and could trace its tribal leadership back 10 or more generations. there have been the closer-to-home and less-exotic, like the Redneck Games in tiny Dublin, Georgia (i trust no explanation is needed). and then there are locations that are in my own neighbourhood, yet are great travels all the same: i recently found myself on a shoot in the Los Angeles Public Library, Westwood Branch. to stay out of sight (no one wants to see the audio mixer in shot), i hunkered down between shelves in the children's section.
i soon forgot all about whatever it was that we were supposed to be filming. it was like being surrounded by old, dear friends. as i looked around, titles stood out to me, bringing back memories and lessons learned.

i was an early reader. both my parents were professional educators, and at one time my mother was an elementary librarian, so i learned to love books at a very young age. there were no limits to how many books i could check out of the library, nor was i ever told that a book i picked was "too old" for me. (no, wait, i take that back; the only time i was prevented from reading something was when i brought home J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye at the age of 8. i have to agree with my mom that i probably was a bit too young for that...) books were a huge source of entertainment, adventure, and conversational topics for me even though i wasn't an introverted kid by any means. i just liked reading.
as i looked around, i was reminded of this Newbery-Medal-Winner reading blitz i went on in elementary school, and continued into junior high, in which i decided i was going to try to read as many awarded books as possible. beyond giving me an SAT-worthy vocabulary, it changed my life.

funny, the first book that jumped out at me was Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins, which i remember not liking very much. that was the only 1960s winner that i didn't do well with; looking around i saw others that i loved: Elizabeth George Speare's The Bronze Bow, Lloyd Alexander's The High King, E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and an all-time classic, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.
i still read a lot of L'Engle's work; she's a wonderfully prolific writer whose fiction and non-fiction both have done much to shape a more thoughtful and complex worldview for me, and continually refreshes the way i grow in my relationship with God. it was that "children's book" that brought me to her, the same way that reading The Chronicles of Narnia brought me to C.S. Lewis, another guiding light into my adulthood. Lloyd Alexander's books, along with Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, gave me a profound taste for the numinous & mysterious, which i suppose is today called "Sci-Fi/Fantasy." but there was no fantasy about what these books taught me; one of my still-favourite book sets is Robin McKinley's twin novels, The Hero and the Crown, and The Blue Sword. i learned from those that you didn't have to be a boy to be a hero; girls were strong and smart too, and that you should never, ever shrink away from adventure.
other books taught other lessons: i learned about death and religion from Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, racism from Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and deception and riches from Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game.
i didn't read just Newbery books, though. i was happy to see a whole row of both Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books. there were Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, and lots of Roald Dahl. and who can forget the fantastic The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel M. Pinkwater (who is now a frequent contributor to several NPR shows, much to my adult delight)? the list could go on and on, but alas, i had to sort of pay attention to actually working as opposed to blissfully getting the memory passport stamped.

this experience made me wonder: what books are out there now that will cause this sort of gleeful nostalgia amongst those who are presently still school-age? the no-brainer answer is, of course, J.K. Rowling's juggernaut Harry Potter series. there were literally three full shelves of Harry Potter books where i was sitting, and it made me happy that demand for them must justify the acquisition of so many copies. sure, it's not the world's best-crafted literature, but i think it's highly responsible for keeping a whole generation of television-and-video-game-fed kids from being total illiterate couch potatoes. i mean, when i first picked up the stunning Watership Down by Richard Adams, i was challenged by the librarian as to my ability to read a book of 500+ pages. i doubt any librarian, post-Goblet of Fire, would do that now. if i have children, what books are they going to bring home & devour? what's going to keep them up at night with a flashlight under the covers?

i think i'd like to resume my Newbery challenge and perhaps check out, say, the last five years' worth of awards. i can be a literate couch potato, curl up with a stack of them, and hopefully lose myself in other worlds, times, places, adventures that can still delight and amaze this grown-up little girl.

*note: i figured if i was going to spend so much time linking each title/author i mentioned, i might as well avoid just the amazon.com link whenever possible. this way, if you want to know more about the book itself, you should be taken to a site that's a little more thorough (especially the excellent sparknotes.com). enjoy your travels!

Posted by hadashi at 3:23 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2006

rearview mirror

news flash: people, even if you have tinted windows, you are not invisible in your car. you are on full display to drivers around you. now, i admit i've been guilty of behaving like my car is an inviolate sanctuary of curtained privacy, only to glance over and see the passenger in an SUV staring down at me. (in that event, i recommended grinning and doing "jazz hands." they're usually embarrassed into looking away.) but i don't think i do anything that actually appalls my fellow drivers...unlike these people, that i observed in my rearview mirror today whilst driving home from work:
- a very professional-looking, well-dressed woman excavating her nose.
- a man vigourously patting his own bald head. i kid you not.
- a couple arguing passionately about something (i deliberately let them pass me; i don't need to get rear-ended again anytime soon).
- two teenage guys rockin' out, doing radio karaoke complete with air drumming.
- (this at a stoplight) a guy e-mailing on his Sidekick and then taking his own photo in his sideview mirror.
- a guy with sporting the whole 70s-aviator-cop-sunglasses-and-moustache-type look spit-grooming his hair in his rearview mirror...and then giving himself the thumbs-up! again, i kid you not.

that was just today, in about 35 minutes of surface-street driving...

Posted by hadashi at 9:36 PM | Comments (2)

July 9, 2006

kids, please try this at home!

so i promised a story about blowing things up.

well, thanks to Lauren and Ms. Jen, this mind-blowing video came to my attention some time ago. here's the tag line: "What happens when you combine 200 liters of Diet Coke and over 500 Mentos mints? It's amazing and completely insane."
what's completely insane is how this "experiment" has morphed into a genuine pop culture phenomenon. the video made the internet rounds -- you probably have already seen it -- and apparently became a "must-see" fowarded link for millions of bored cubicle prisoners. bloggers blogged, newsfeeds picked it up, and even NPR interviewed Fritz and Steve, the two crazy-genius guys in Maine who were behind the whole thing. last week, the ultimate pop culture tribute was paid when they were the "Big Show Highlight" on that icon of American entertainment, the Late Show with David Letterman.

meanwhile, i had sent the link on to T.T., who immediately became completely obsessed. and well, why shouldn't he? blowing normally harmless foods sky-high is fun! he began to plot the re-creation of the stunt. at first, it was a lot of talk -- including recruiting a friend's young son to blame the shenanigans on if anything went wrong -- but then, at my birthday dinner party, the synergy for action occurred.
he'd gone to the grocery store to pick up some starter beverages for the party, including some 2-litre bottles of soda. somehow Diet Coke managed to be a purchased flavour, and somehow a box of Mentos just happened to be in the bag that came home. so with the ingredients available, all that was needed was critical mass in the form of enthusiastic party guests. the Diet Coke was carried outside. T.T., always one to be efficient in his strategizing, drilled a hole through the bottlecap and Mentoes and strung them through on a wire.
with the party guests all gathered around -- many skeptical -- the moment of truth arrived. T.T. dropped the cap-with-Mentos in the bottle. i was honestly unprepared for the geyser that erupted -- so was everyone else. kids, this stuff does not only happen on YouTube videos; it could be your backyard lemon tree that gets coated with Diet Coke. the explosion actually went higher than the telephone wires:
people were shouting, exclaiming, laughing -- by all the hoopla, you'd have thought we'd collectively won the lottery. i have no idea if our friends respect us anymore, but they sure as heck got entertained! and me -- well, somehow i actually love that i'll always remember this birthday as the one where my husband blew stuff up in the backyard.

but this isn't the end of the story. oh, no. again, thanks to the ever-alert Lauren, it seems that Mentos is capitalising on their 15 seconds of fame and is launching the -- i kid you not -- "Mentoes Geyser Video Contest."

i have a feeling HadashiWorld may be sponsoring an entry.

Posted by hadashi at 9:32 PM | Comments (2)

July 4, 2006

ach, wie Schade

oh, sadness.
they gave it their best shot, played past their limits, and for such a young squad, brought a new finesse to the Beautiful Game. however, alas. Germany lost in the semifinal round on this Fourth of July in the last moment of overtime. still, it's been a great World Cup so far, and even without Germany in the final match, Sunday's game should be fantastic. but we'll be cheering for Die Nationalmannschaft on Saturday, when they play for third place against Portugal.

Posted by hadashi at 7:12 PM | Comments (4)