Monday, December 28, 2009

Airport Insecurity

Recent events have shown once again that airport security is an oxymoron, implemented by morons.

Ever since that terrible day in 2001, we have endured endless security procedures. We have our ID's checked and rechecked. A bunch of squiggly lines are drawn on our boarding passes determine if we'll be pulled aside for extra screening. Then we take our laptops out. Then we take off our shoes, belts, empty our pockets of change. Then we can't take bottled water, or any fluids more than 3 ounces.

And yet last week, a man got on a plane with a bunch of explosives strapped to his legs.

So now, we have more regulations. No getting up in the last hour of the flight. No music, no blankets, no inflight entertainment, and no reading (!!!). And even better, we have a massive confusion of what is allowed and what isn't. All in the name of combating terrorism.

Here's a new idea. Let's prevent people with explosives strapped to their bodies from boarding airplanes. These asswipes aren't the smartest people in the world. They don't have super high-tech weaponry. No ceramic x-ray proof weapons. No James Bond type gadgets. No previously unknown explosive agents. So why the hell can't we catch them?

And more importantly, how is depriving me of magazines and music make me any safer if you allow people with explosives to board planes? This is an utter failure of higher level thinking. If we keep going down this road, eventually we'll all be sitting in planes buck naked. And we still won't be any safer.

Let's face the facts. We are never going to be completely safe. The United States is a target, just like Israel. I'm okay giving up some freedoms in order for us to be safer in planes. Not allowing knifes and boxcutters... great idea. But I'm not going to sit here while all my rights are taken away but nothing is made safer. The truth of the matter is most people who fly, are NOT terrorists. We need to be smarter in our screening. The time spent frisking babies is wasted. That's time not used to frisk people who are on terrorist watch lists. Our TSA agents on the ground need to be more than just minimum-wage GED washouts. We need people who can read facial expressions, decipher body language, use high-tech bomb detection equipment, can conduct on the spot interviews, and most of all, can put two and two together.

Will somebody in Washington please wake up! This is getting ridiculous.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

I just finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife. I was captivated by the fourth page, and breezed through the book in less than 2 days.

This is a great book for me because it plucks my heartstrings just ever so perfectly. The story is less about time travel and more about love, destiny, and well, life. The life of Henry and Clare are so intertwined that even the fibers of time and space could not keep them apart. Although they could not alter their destinies, they made the most of it.

I loved the way Niffenegger told the story. In the first person, but from both Henry and Clare's perspective. The story, more or less proceeds in a chronological order, but since it involves time travel, all the pieces are revealed slowly but they all fall into place beautifully at the end.

It isn't often I read fiction. It usually takes long stretches of time, time, I couldn't afford normally. But I'm glad I spared some time during this Christmas break to take in this novel, one of the better ones I read all year. Unfortunately the movie, which I haven't seen yet, will no doubt disappoint. I will probably still watch it, just for Rachel McAdams.

One day, I aspire to write something as good.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hot List 2009

It's the end of the year, and everyone's making a list and checking it twice. So in the mood of the season, I made my Hot List for 2009.

Number 1: Alicia Keys - Not only is she drop-dead, head-turningly gorgeous, this girl can sing. She just released her fourth studio album a few days ago, but for most of the year I've been rocking out to her song Doesn't Mean Anything while at work. I love the way she sings straight from the heart about matters of the heart. Her range is amazing. The contra-alto voice and her expertness at the piano combining influences of R&B, pop, rock, latin, and classical styles makes Alicia Keys one of a kind. Oh, did I mention, she's also gorgeous. I didn't really notice her when she took off back in 2001, but this year, Alicia, you're my number one.

Number 2: Stana Katic - Currently playing opposite Nathan Fillion in the ABC show Castle, is Canadian actress Stana Katic. And that name is Croatian, in case you're wondering (like I did). She plays a strong, witty, sassy, at times vulnerable, but always lovable NYPD homicide detective. If you ask me, there's not enough strong, bad-ass female characters on film and television these days, so thank goodness there's Stana. She's going to be a breakout star, not only because she is ball-numbingly beautiful, she is also a good actress. Besides, any tall beautiful brunette who straps on a Glock for work (even if it's fake) will rank high on my list.

Number 3: Teal Wicks - Anyone living in the bay area will be able to see Teal in person, performing the lead role in the musical Wicked. Ironically, Teal Wicks, plays the green wicked witch of the west, Elphaba. Even in florescent green makeup from head to toe, this girl is hot. That is, until she starts to sing. Then she moves from hot to oh-my-gawd-that-was-off-the-charts. And since she lives in San Francisco right now, there's always a chance I'll run into her on the streets. But Teal is definitely headed to Broadway in the future. Her last performance here is Feb 7, so catch her while you can.

Number 4: Shakira - This Hips Don't Lie superstar from Colombia is a surprise entry on my list. I was never a big fan of her music and she pretty much stayed off my radar. That is, until this year. Apparently she was taking time off back in 2007 and took history classes at UCLA incognito. Not only that, I learned that she has been very active in helping bringing education to the poor in her home country with her Barefoot Foundation. She even guest wrote a column for The Economist The World in 2010 special issue, specifically on how to use education to bring communities out of poverty. Beauty + Brains + Heart = Sexy!

So, there you go. That's my Hot List for 2009. Everyone on the list is a winner, but the top place winner wins something extra special. Alicia, if you're reading this, you've just won a free dinner, hosted by yours truly. Redeemable anytime in 2010 at any restaurant of your choice, anywhere in the world (no cash equivalent). So, just have your people call my people when you're ready.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Paperless Revolution

This week my Christmas came early. My presents to myself arrived, not in Santa's sleigh, but in UPS trucks. There is one present that managed to surprise me: the Amazon Kindle.

As soon as I played with it for 3 minutes, I knew, then and there, that I found myself in the middle of a revolution. The Paperless Revolution.

The underlying technology for the Kindle is something called E-Ink. This was developed by a bunch of brainiacs at MIT many years ago and had trouble finding market adoption. I know this, because I read about them as an assignment while I was taking entrepreneurship classes at Haas Business School. The company almost went under because they were a few years ahead of their time. It was a technology in search of a market - one of the classical traps of disruptive technology.

Well, the time has come. The cool thing about e-ink and the Kindle, is that the display is not really a display. Normal LCD display needs continuous power, because it is backlit. Even new fancy OLED (Organic LED) displays require power to display content. E-ink, when it is displaying a page of text, draws no power. Zero. Zilch. A page can be displayed on the screen, practically until the end of time. The only time power is required is when you flip a page or when you use wireless internet to download books.

Since there's no backlight, the Kindle works just like paper. You can read only if there is an external light source. Just like paper. But regardless of where you are, in a classroom or outside under the sun, the text looks the same. Just like paper. You can angle the device any which way and it still reads the same. Just like paper. And you can bookmark, annotate, and scribble notes. Just like paper. But no trees are being killed in the process, unlike paper. I can buy a book in my boxers and have it delivered wirelessly in seconds, unlike paper. Best of all, it can store thousands of books in less than 10.2 ounces, very unlike paper.

The Economist predicts that 2010 is going to be the year of the ebook. I can see why. The Kindle won't completely replace books any time soon. Even today, the mobile phone has not completely replaced land-line phones. Right now the Kindle is still in its early adoption phase. The user interface is a bit clunky. The e-ink display needs a bit more polish. Color is totally absent. But remember the first cell phone? The thing was the size of a brick and had battery that lasted 30 minutes. The technology will get there and it will get there very soon.

I just love living in this age of constant change. The entire publishing business will undergo phenomenal turmoil in the next few years. Old companies will wither away and new ones rise from their ashes. And I have a ring side seat to all this action. Life is awesome.