Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When technology becomes the bane of your existence

Today was supposed to be like any other day. Until I sat at my desk, tried to turn on my computer and all I got was a black screen. HORROR. You know that infamous scene in Psycho where Janet Leigh gets stabbed in the shower? The string music from that scene was running through my head.

I tried to reboot the computer about 10 times before I conceded that this was a job for a professional. In the two years that I have had my Dell Inspiron E1405, I have never had to contact tech support, but it was one of the reasons why I had chosen a Dell laptop to begin with. Friends and colleagues had raved about the tech support and customer service that came part and parcel with being a Dell owner.

I figured out that you could do a Live Chat with a tech specialist through the Dell site, and using my parent's computer, logged on. After a couple minutes, I was connected to Dalip, who for the next 5 hours (yes, I said 5 hours), tried to help me pinpoint the problem. During this time, I actually physically took apart my computer- something I thought I would never, ever do. I'm not technologically incompetent- I love my computer, blogs, Facebook and Gmail, perhaps just a bit too much, but I've always been apprehensive about handling hardware.
Suprisingly though, minus the frusration and anxiety over whether my files could be saved, it was actually kind of fun taking apart my computer and putting it back together- flashback to memories of playing Operation as a kid. And I now know the general anatomy of my laptop- I could even tell you how to take out and replace the memory modules, modem, and hard drive.

At multiple points though, I admit that panic started to creep in- this is the computer that holds most, if not all of my personal and business documents. Yes, I do backup the most important files, but not everything. Dalip though, he was rock- calm, cool and collected and ridiculously patient.

At the end of 5 hours, Dalip decided that the motherboard on my little computer was busted. He reassured me that he was ordering the part and then having it shipped to a Dell technician who would contact me to set up a time to come by and replace the part in the next first 2-3 days. And most importantly, he confirmed that my files were safe.

At first I felt like I had lost half of a work day. But this unpleasant encounter with the troubles that can arise when you rely on technology too much has provided me with some much needed perspective:

1) I need to write things down on paper more often. Not to mention printing out hard copies of important documents and e-mails.

2) I should remember to back-up everything on my computer. Everything.

3) I need to remind myself that technology isn't human, but it was designed by humans, so it's not perfect.

Wishing you a technology trouble-free week!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Food Can Bridge The Cultural Divide

I stumbled across an article this past weekend that debunks the history behind the typical ending to a meal at almost any Chinese restaurant- the fortune cookie. The most interesting finding discussed was that contrary to popular belief, the fortune cookie actually comes from Japan, and not China. This is why you will never see a fortune cookie served in a restaurant in Beijing or Shanghai.

The cultural migration of the cookie actually happened here in the U.S., beginning on the West Coast when Japanese immigrants started serving the cookies in their restaurants, many of which happened to serve Chinese style cuisine. This got me thinking just how foods can travel across geographies, seamlessly adapting and in some cases transforming into something culturally unique and distinctive, yet continuing to possess strikingly similar characteristics to their counterparts around the world. Some examples:

samosa (India)
empanada (Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, Latin American and the Philippines)
croquette (Netherlands)

ravioli (Italy)
wonton (China)
pierogie (Poland)

noodles (China and other Asian countries)
pasta (Italy)

gyro (Greece)
taco (Mexico)

Proof that food just may be the ultimate unifier. I've posted the article on the history of the fortune cookie, "Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie" to the blog- check it out!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's Just A Cardboard Box, Right?

Wrong. Over the past month or so, we have been taking steps to upgrade the packaging of our cookies and so far, the process has been eye opening! I have never in my life had more artistic appreciation for the box that Cheerios come in, or the canister that holds my coffee.

We've decided to create boxes so we can package larger quantities of our cookies and provide retailers with a more shelf-friendly product. Since I don't have a formal education in art or graphic design, I've been learning so much about the various elements you need to think about when it comes to packaging.

Some examples:

1) I've had a crash course in packaging terminology. I am now comfortable using words like "auto-lock bottom," "double-tuck," and "viewing window" in real conversations.

2) I can probably tell you the RGB and CMYK formulas for the chocolate brown color we use for our logo off the top of my head.

3) I actually know what UPC stands for (Universal Product Code!) and have figured out how to get one for each of our products.

It's amazing how much you can learn just by asking questions. We have been working with a packaging company that has been great about providing us with information on the step-by-step process of printing boxes. Knowing that we are novices, they have also been patient and helpful in getting us price quotes and creating prototypes for the packaging that we're interested in. Something I've realized in the last couple months is that it's really important to find vendors and other business partners that you feel comfortable with, are reliable and will do their best to help you accomplish what you want to achieve.