Monthly Archives: August 2006

The Puffer

Today I went to SFO on my way to Hawaii and was directed to step to the side. I thought they would pat me down (ooo those rubber gloves feel good) and then wave that magic wand all over me.
Instead, they directed me to a new gizmo. As I walked up, it looked like a new metal detector. But as I got closer, I noticed there were glass doors in the front. A TSA woman mumbled something super quick at me and said to step up and get into the booth/arch thing and just listen to the instructions. Then, I started thinking – this is weird – is this some X-ray machine I hadn’t heard about?
I step up the first shoe prints and wait for the machine to tell me to get inside. Then it speaks and I get inside. As I stand there, the lights turn red and POOF POOF POOF super strong air blasts blow at me and messes up my hair!
I realize then this is one of those new puffer explosive chemical detection machines. Neat! It tries to loosen up particles on me by the strong air streams and then sucks them in for detection.
About a minute later, the lights turn green and I walk out without trouble.
Very cool detection technologies out there now – I can only hope they make flying safer. But somehow I just don’t think they will be able to catch everything that is possible to create mayhem.
I am reminded of a cartoon that a friend told me about in Newsweek showing two naked people about to pass through security and they remark to the (dressed) people behind them in line, ‘it’s just easier this way’. It echoed my thoughts exactly.
We can keep putting more and more sophisticated detectors and we should, but clever people will continually find ways to circumvent them.
I applaud the British police forces for discovering the plot this last month and preventing them from getting onboard IN THE FIRST PLACE.
It just shows that prevention is the best medicine in the war on terrorism. Treating the symptoms only delays the inevitable, but treating the root cause is the best way.

My PC is cranking down again

Two weeks ago was last straw. My PC was just cranking down that it was painful to do anything. I would doubleclick on something and it would just sit there. I would wonder if I actually did click on something or maybe I just mis-clicked. It was super frustrating.
And every year, it’s the same thing.
On average, I buy a new PC about every 2 years. Part of that reason is because something new and faster is out, but sometimes it’s simply because my PC has gotten loaded with so much crap that it just eventually takes Windows to a crawl.
At times, I can fix it by deinstalling stuff. Other times, there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do from a program installation standpoint. I’ve removed everything I can that I don’t need and still it won’t speed up. Performance on what was advertised to be a fast PC grinds to a halt.
Why does this happen anyways? Is Windows just so screwed up that it can’t handle a graceful evolution of a user who accumulates more data and software over time? Certainly Windows is just too complex for any normal person to fix. At one time, I could have administered my PC and Windows. But not now. It’s changed so much and you can spend days looking up books, stuff on webpages, and trying various things to see if they will actually work.
It’s a huge waste of time. Perhaps on par with the productivity hit of having a super slow PC.
So I have to buy a new PC. Instead of trying to figure out what I can do with my current system, I opt to pay a few thousand dollars and just buy a new machine. Isn’t that ridiculous? The other option I have is to dig up my restore CDs and just wipe my system. But then I’d have to know how to back up all my data and programs, and assuming that I didn’t forget to copy something, then spend hours, if not days, reinstalling every program that I have. I just don’t have time for it.
This time I got a little lucky. First I bought Diskeeper 10 and it seems to work pretty good at defrag-ing my hard drives. That helped, but system response was sluggish.
Then I bought 512MB RAM, which was a slight adventure in figuring out exactly what module was needed for a 2 year old machine. Amazing how these standards have changed in only 2 years as new PC models have been introduced.
I install that and it seems that system response is zippier. But it wasn’t back to the way it was when I bought the machine.
I keep thinking about this. Why is it such a pain in the neck to keep my Windows PC running at full speed? UNIX doesn’t seem to have this problem, or the Mac. Instead, most of the time I resort to buying a completely new machine instead of going through wasted time and frustration of trying to figure out exactly what was cranking down my machine now.
It just doesn’t seem right. But for now, my machine seems to be running a little better. It makes one think about money versus time spent or wasted versus the growing complexity of software for PCs. I long for a time when my PC will run reliably and speedily as other electronic devices, like my XBOX or mobile phone.

My Shredder

Somehow my shredder has become one of my most important tools.
I get lots of junk mail. A lot of it I can throw away and a lot of it I can’t. I can’t just toss it because it can possibly be involved in stealing my identity and causing me tons of trouble. Stuff like credit card applications or solicitations for mortgages and loans.
I also get a lot of other stuff, like bank statements and bills. Some of it I was able to stop as they now have electronic statements. But still, a lot of it is mailed out. And I can’t just throw that out.
So I shred it.
I take lots of time feeding my shredder. I sit there every week, 5-10 sheets at a time, just loading him up. I toss in anything that has important info on it, or that could be used for identity theft. It takes an incredible amount of time each week but yet I can’t risk identity theft. The worst is when my brokerage sends me a huge packet with ultra detailed statements of everything that has happened. I can’t just load the whole thing in at once; I must sit there and do it 5-10 pages at a time. What a waste of time.
I have a big shredder but it fills up fast weekly. Unloading it is fun; all these little bits of paper get everywhere and I can’t seem to pick up enough of them. After I empty it, it is ready to be fed again.
Last week I helped clean out my mother’s house and found tons of old tax documents, receipts, and random statements. Now we have to call a shredding service because there are BOXES of stuff to be shredded and we already broke her large personal shredder trying to shred it all. I thought about what is in my house and think that it’s time to do the same to my junk paper. I went online and saw industrial quality shredders taking 25 sheets at a time, costing hundreds of dollars.
Now instead of the PS3, I may buy a huge ass shredder instead.
I find it weird that the destruction of this paper has become such an important chore. Not just the elimination of it by throwing it away, but actually destroying it to pieces.
If only I could stop the inflow of this paper. Thank god for those businesses who have created systems to generate electronic statements. And curse the businesses who send out endless solictations for credit cards, and those who can’t get themselves out of the dark ages to send out electronic statements. And curse the U.S. Postal Service whose income, yes, would be stymied by somehow stemming the flow of junk mail, and won’t do anything about it.

Home Sweet Home

This weekend, I was in NYC and had some extra time to visit a colleague of mine from Yahoo! in Westchester County. It was a visit to most likely the most comfortable, home-y place I’ve ever been to.
What is ‘home’?
You know how each of us has this concept of what is truly “a home” – it is that vision of a place that you can return to and feel safe, secure – a place where you can call your own. It evokes feelings of a place where you grew up, and that there was someone there to take care of you. Even the outside surroundings add to this feeling; when you go outside, you think of fresh air, rejuvenation, a sense of relaxation and even play. Comfort and care are everywhere.
If there ever was a place that would be the optimal “home-like” thing for me, it would be his place.
His house is in a rural part of Westchester County. It is an older house but quite large with many rooms that require some exploring to get to all of them. The decor is varied but somehow planned. It is not cluttered, and everything seems just right. A multitude of windows make the entire house light and warm. The sunlight comes in and joyfully lights up all the rooms.
Outside, the forest approaches but does not crowd the house. There are many areas to run around in and the surroundings are all well-groomed and well-kept. The landscaping is, again, planned and provides something natural for the eye to enjoy. Across the front street, the view settles on a large reservoir. Out back, a nice pool with trees around to give shade provides relief from the day’s warmth. Their two dogs have ample room to run around in, and chase the occasional deer that may wander into the yard.
I come in from Manhattan and immediately notice the cooler air, far away from the city’s tendency to retain heat. It is fresher and not tainted by the thousands of cars driving around. At night, we jump in the pool and sip Rose, listen to music, and watch the half moon rise into the sky. Thankfully the night is free of bugs but not free of these little frogs which have invaded the pool.
Later, I hop into an enormous bed and immediately fall asleep. It is probably the best sleep I’ve had in months. Not a sound is heard at night, not even the droning of the central air conditioner. Certainly in my apartment in NYC, there are beeping taxis, jackhammers, and garbage trucks rolling by to wake me up and my sleep is very fitful. Even my place in Cupertino is not like this.
In the morning, I find it hard to open eyes as I just want to sleep all day. But I get up anyways and get some breakfast. The sun is up and shining brightly through all the windows. Around the house, the trees and leaves blow slowly in the wind. I make some breakfast from a very well-stocked refrigerator and kitchen (all the food a home should have, eggs, bread, juice, etc.) and read quietly a book. I don’t feel a care in the world as I hang out in his covered porch reading a newspaper and enjoying great conversation with his wife, his daughter, and him.
The Search for Home
When I go on vacation, I sometimes think it should be like this. Vacations are for relaxing and recharging, but yet even at some of the nicest places I’ve been to, it’s not like the relaxation I get from hanging out with my friend at his place.
And then I think about my home and the fact that my travels have almost made it difficult to call one place a home. At times, I am more comfrotable in my small places in NYC and LA than I am in my house in Cupertino. My places in NYC and LA are not cluttered, aren’t overloaded with crap, have furniture that I picked out, and are not hard to take care of. My house in Cupertino is post Yahoo! and is really cluttered and I have resisted filling it with furniture since it is way too much space for me anyways. If only the American Airlines Admirals Clubs were home-y…
Staying at his place has now given me new perspective on my search for this elusive “home” concept, and what or how it should be. Before visiting his place, it was very much about not having clutter, how much space was enough, not collecting junk, and a sense of comfortable order. Now there is more about the aura it projects, the feeling it conveys in me, and a myriad of details driving these feelings. I want to research this more and figure what is truly ‘home’ for me.
It will take a while to find, but I hope to find my “home” in the next few years.