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November 27, 2008

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running — by Haruki Murakami


If you're a runner or you like Murakami you'll enjoy this book; if you're both you'll love it.

I know I did.


    I'm struck by how, except when you're young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don't get that sort of system set up by a certain age, you'll lack focus and your life will be out of balance. I placed the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing, not associating with all the people around me. I felt that the indispensable relationship I should build in my life was not with a specific person, but with an unspecified number of readers.

    My opinion hasn't changed over the years. I can't see my readers' faces, so in a sense it's a conceptual type of human relationship, but I've consistently considered this invisible, conceptual relationship to be the most important thing in my life.

    In other words, you can't please everybody.

    Rereading the article I wrote at the the time of this run in Greece, I've discovered that after twenty-some years, and as many marathons later, the feelings I have when I run twenty-six miles are the same as back then. Even now, whenever I run a marathon my mind goes through the same exact process. Up to nineteen miles I'm sure I can run a good time, but past twenty-two miles I run out of fuel and start to get upset at everything. And at the end I feel like a car that's run out of gas.

    Muscles really are like animals, and they want to take it as easy as possible; if pressure isn't applied to them, they relax and cancel out the memory of all that work. Input this canceled memory once again, and you have to repeat the whole journey from the very beginning.

    Even now, when I run along Jingu Gaien or Asakasa Gosho, sometimes I remember these other runners. I'll round a corner and feel like I should see them coming toward me, silently running, their breath white in the morning air. And I always think this: They put up with such strenuous training, and where did their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, disappear to? When people pass away, do their thoughts just vanish?

    When I put on my jogging shoes in the morning and set out, my feet are so heavy it feels like I'll never get them moving. I start running down the road, slowly, almost dragging my feet. An old lady from the neighborhood is walking quickly down the street, and I can't even pass her. But as I keep on running, my muscle gradually loosen up, and after about twenty minutes I'm able to run normally. I start to speed up. After this I can run mechanically, without any problem.

    What I mean is, a person's mind is controlled by his body, right? Or is it the opposite — the way your mind works influences the structure of the body? Or do the body and mind closely influence each other and act on each other? What I do know is that people have certain inborn tendencies, and whether a person likes them or not, they're inescapable. Tendencies can be adjusted, to a degree, but their essence can never be changed.

    Basically I agree with the view that writing novels is an unhealthy type of work. When we set off to write a novel, when we use writing to create a story, like it or not a kind of toxin that lies deep down in all humanity rises to the surface. All writers have come face-to-face with this toxin and, aware of the danger involved, discover a way to deal with it, because otherwise no creative activity in the real sense can take place. No matter how you spin it, this isn't a healthy activity.

    So from the start, artistic activity contains elements that are unhealthy and antisocial. I'll admit this. This is why among writers and other artists there are quite a few whose real lives are decadent or who pretend to be anti-social. I can understand this.

    To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible. That's my motto. In other words, an unhealthy soul requires a healthy body. This might sound paradoxical, but it's something I've felt very keenly ever since I became a professional writer. The healthy and the unhealthy are not necessarily at opposite ends of the spectrum. They don't stand in opposition to each other, but rather complement each other, and in some cases even band together.

    Running is a great activity to do while memorizing a speech. As, almost unconsciously, I move my legs, I line the words up in order in my mind. I measure the rhythm of the sentences, the way they'll sound. With my mind elsewhere I"m able to run for a long while, keeping up a natural speed that doesn't tire me out. Sometimes when I'm practicing a speech in my head, I catch myself making all kinds of gestures and facial expressions, and the people passing me from the opposite direction give me a weird look.

    The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It's the same with our lives. Just because there's an end doesn't mean existence has meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence.

    As I suspect is true for many who write for a living, as I write I think about all sorts of things. I don't necessarily write down what I'm thinking; it's just that as I write, I think about things. As I write, I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my thinking down ever deeper paths. No matter how much I write, though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I rewrite, I never reach the destination. Even after decades of writing, the same still holds true.

November 27, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Roll-up Mouse Pad with Integrated Speakers + Hub



From the website:

    Roll-up Mouse Pad With Integrated Speakers + Hub

    Here comes another USB combo gadget — a 4 USB 4-port hub, dual speakers and a roll-up mouse pad.

    You can connect to any other USB devices and connect to your iPod, MP3 or MP4 player with the 3.5mm audio cable provided.

    Moreover, the roll-up mouse pad is storable and portable so that you can bring it with you when you're on the go.


    • Dual speaker can be connected to iPods, MP3 or MP4 players

    • Roll-up mouse pad for convenience

    • 4-port hub — USB 1.1

    • Size: 28 x 22 x 4cm

    • Volume control

    • On/off button

    • Weight: 190g


    • Roll-up Mouse Pad With Speaker + Hub

    • 3.5mm audio cable

    • USB cable




[via my7475 and geekalerts]

November 27, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



The same concept as paint by numbers – but for electronics.

"With no previous experience you will simultaneously build electronic circuits and a circuit of new worldwide friends."


Hey, I know — you could call yourselves "Fluxists."

Or maybe not.

November 27, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

November 27, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Meet Wang Chuanfu: The man who would be king — of cars


Long story short: John Reed and Patti Waldmeir's November 3, 2008 Financial Times article profiled one Wang Chuanfu (above), a 42-year-old Chinese man who in 1995, at age 29, founded BYD, today the world's largest producer of mobile phone batteries — with 30% of the market — and the second-largest producer of rechargeable batteries to power electronic goods such as laptop computers.

Next up: He plans to make BYD the world's largest car company by 2025.

Here's the FT story about a remarkable man.

    The quiet man switched on to cars

    Everyone agrees the world needs greener cars and Wang Chuanfu believes he is the man to deliver them — by combining Chinese brains and hard work with Warren Buffett's money.

    Just over a month ago — when the Dow Jones index fell nearly 7 per cent, one of Wall Street's worst days — Mr Buffett's Mid-American Energy Holdings bought a 10 per cent stake in BYD, the company that Mr Wang founded.

    BYD is a global leader in rechargeable battery technology and a rising star of the Chinese auto industry. Mr Buffett's investment is a clear vote of confidence that Mr Wang — an engineer-turned-entrepreneur — can combine batteries and cars to lead a green revolution in electric vehicles. The move electrified the Hong Kong stock market: shares in BYD, which is 25 per cent owned by Mr Wang, rose by 42 per cent.

    On a Saturday morning recently at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, in the industrial hinterland just across the border from Hong Kong, Mr Wang made clear he sees his company as a symbol of the passing of the baton of industrial leadership from mature western economies to China.

    Sitting at the end of a long boardroom table stocked with Diet Coke for visitors, his short-sleeved shirt complete with ballpoint pen in the pocket, the bespectacled 42-year-old Mr Wang looks more like a Chinese Bill Gates than a polished car-industry executive such as Carlos Ghosn. Mr Buffett is clearly betting that he will be the geek who launches the next revolution in automotive technology.

    The quietly spoken Mr Wang says his goal is to make BYD the world's largest car company by 2025. "For new-energy cars, we believe we can become the global leader," he says. "From the technology standpoint, 10 years should be enough." He is positioning himself at the centre of the automotive industry's impending shift into plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries, a move due to bring some of the fastest technological changes in a century of automotive history.

    Asked to sum up how BYD built its business, he offers a modest response. "We are a typical Chinese company," he says. "We are smart and we work hard. We took advantage of the situation."

    But his unassuming words mask a cultural pride: Mr Wang says Chinese companies are smarter and work harder than their western competitors. He says China's main advantages are the size of its market and the quality of its people; 5m graduates leave Chinese universities every year, "more than the population of some European countries", he says. And they will work for much lower salaries than their western or Japanese competitors.

    BYD employs 10,000 engineers, half of them working on cars, and Mr Wang says he will have 30,000 automotive engineers within a decade. His US and Japanese competitors cannot afford to hire so many, he says. "The cost is too high."

    BYD recruits most managers straight out of university, trains them on the job and lodges new graduates in a high-rise dormitory-style building adjacent to the factory.

    Thirteen years ago, when he founded the company, Mr Wang lacked even the capital to import an automated battery production line from Japan. Today his company is the world's largest producer of mobile phone batteries — with 30 per cent of the market — and the second-largest producer of rechargeable batteries to power electronic goods such as laptop computers. And perhaps even more surprisingly, BYD — which produced its first branded car in 2005 — sold more cars than any other Chinese carmaker in September. That monthly milestone, achieved largely through the launch of BYD's new F0 subcompact, is unlikely to be sustained in the near term; but JD Power, the leading auto consultancy, still expects BYD sales to grow by more than 50 per cent this year.

    Trained as a researcher in Beijing, Mr Wang founded BYD in 1995, when China's government was opening its economy to the world. "At that time Shenzhen was a hot place," he says. "There was a gold rush here."

    Frustrated by the lack of funding available to government researchers, Mr Wang borrowed money from a relative and set up on his own making nickel batteries. He used semi-automated equipment that he pieced together after reading technical publications. BYD put Japan's incumbent battery producers on the defensive. It faced down lawsuits by Sony in Japan and by Sanyo in the US, the latter put to rest in an out-of-court settlement.

    With the market for smaller lithium--ion batteries now cornered, Mr Wang is focusing much of BYD's energy on alternative-fuel cars. With world attention focused on greener options than the internal combustion engine, Mr Wang feels his expertise in battery production will give him an unstoppable advantage in the arena of electric cars. BYD will launch a plug-in hybrid car later this year, with sales in the US and European Union to follow in 2011. An all-electric model, the E6, will be launched in China in 2009.

    BYD will be competing with plug-in models produced by Renault, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and General Motors, which plans to make its Volt model in China. Mr Wang says he is ready. "I believe Chinese companies can become leaders in the alternative car business because we make good batteries," he says. More experienced carmakers are struggling with such issues as the speed of charging and durability of automotive batteries - which need to last far longer than in laptops - in their prototype plug-in cars.

    Mr Wang's competitors may disagree, pointing out that the fit and finish of BYD's models falls far below the standard of vehicles produced by established carmakers. "They've got a long way to go on rattles, squeaks, comfort, fuel economy, acceleration, and smoothness of ride - all the things that take a long time to get right," says the China head of one leading foreign carmaker who has ridden in BYD's cars, but requests anonymity.

    A test drive of a prototype E6 by the Financial Times around BYD's parking lot confirms this view. The car is quiet and efficient, but its handling and quality of finish fall short of most foreign carmakers' models. BYD vehicles could face substantial hurdles to widespread acceptance in the US and Europe, especially after recent scandals over Chinese products, such as milk.

    And, given cases of exploding lithium-ion batteries in laptops, the potential product liability risk of electric cars faced by carmakers — Chinese or not — is huge.

    Mr Wang deflects the point firmly. "We're the only battery maker that has never had a recall," he says, leaving unspoken the names of Sanyo and Sony, which have both had expensive recalls. "We're very confident of the quality of the batteries."

    He acknowledges BYD has a long way to go in building its brand to compete with foreign ones with decades of consumer awareness and marketing experience. On the other hand, he says, plug-in cars present a blank canvas of sorts.

    "We're talking new cars and ever-yone is starting from the same point," he says.

    Wang Chuanfu is all work and no play — and proud of it.

    He says his punishing seven-days-a-week schedule is par for the course in China. "Maybe in the Western world, life is number one and work is number two," he says one bright Saturday morning at the bustling headquarters of BYD, his battery-cum-car company in Shenzhen. "But in China, work is number one and life is number two," he adds. "Especially in my generation. I don't know if the next generation will be the same. I enjoy working very much, if you ask me to go sightseeing for a day I probably wouldn't enjoy it."

    In the rare moments when not at the office, Mr Wang lives in a modest penthouse flat in the "workers' village" with his wife and daughter.

    Mr Wang spurns the trappings enjoyed by many of his western peers, such as corporate jets and expensive clothes.

    He does, however, own three Mercedes-Benz cars and a Lexus, which he says he owns because he likes to take them apart to figure out how they work. He also wears an Adidas watch, which displays the time of different cities so that he knows whether it is day or night in BYD's overseas offices.

    Mr Wang's success in becoming one of China's leading entrepreneurs has surpassed his ambitions. "I had dreams," he says, "but nothing this big."


Don't bet against him.

November 27, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Lighted Message Board


From the website:

    Lighted Message Board

    Never miss a message again with this fun and funky noticeboard.

    Write on the screen with one of the 2 special pens, then switch on the LED lights.

    Select single colour or multi-colour modes, with the lights changing or blinking.

    Board can be hung on the wall like a picture.


    • Can also be mains powered using a 4.5V AC/DC adaptor (not included)

    • Requires 3 AAA batteries (not included)

    • 12¼" x 9½" x ½" (31 x 24 x 1.6cm)




November 27, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lament — by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

Franklin Howell, piano.

"Published in 'The Carnegie Hall Millennium Piano Book,' this piece was composed in memory of Judith Arron, former Executive Director of Carnegie Hall. She died just before completion of the music book project. This work is Zwilich's response to Ms. Arron's untimely death."

November 27, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Emergency Yodel Button


From the website:

    Emergency Yodel Button

    Nothing lifts the spirits like a good yodel, but most of us don’t have the skill to yodel on cue.

    That’s where the Emergency Yodel Button comes in.

    Keep this 4" x 3" x 5/8" plastic device with you at all times and when the need arises, press the button to hear the sweet mellifluous warbling of an alpine yodel.

    Also includes a hole in the back so you can easily hang it on a wall.

    Requires two AAA batteries (not included).


Bonus: you can hear what it sounds like by pushing a button on the website.


November 27, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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