I thought you guys would get some amusement out of the long-term followup. To make a long story short: My girlfriend got me an SMD soldering rework station as a late birthday present. After practicing on some old PC motherboards, I was ready to swap some memory chips on that laptop. Good news is, I swapped it successfully and made solid contact with no shorts. The bad news is, after I powered up the laptop for real it caught on fire. That indicates to me that there was something else wrong with it other than the memory. The house is still standing and nobody's hurt, so I'm cutting my losses and quitting while I'm ahead. :)
Incidentally, you guys might have an interest in the new Asus Laptop that's been announced. The Eee is a P-3 800 Mhz machine with a 7 inch screen, built in wireless networking and a solid-state drive. All the chips are low-power, and the thing is going to be preloaded with some build of Linux. Total cost to the consumer, $200 or less. That's going to be my replacement hardware when it gets released in August.