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.

Why the World Needs More Heroes

The other week I went to see Superman Returns. I really liked the movie, even though I tend to like superheroes portrayed with lots of dark inner pain, like Batman or Spiderman. Superman tends to be more Mr. Do-Good. Still I enjoyed it more than I thought.
In the movie, Superman disappears for many years to visit his destroyed home world, Krypton. Lois Lane, his love at that time, apparently got no explanation for his departure and in a bitter fit, writes a Pulitzer winning piece entitled, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”.
But yet, the movie shows that the world does need Superman. Superman notes that with his super hearing, he hears the cries for hope and a savior from millions, and that world needs a hero and someone to look up to. Of course, the movie trumpets his homecoming as he saves the world yet again.
After watching Superman Returns, I started watching the Tour De France. I started watching a few stages of the Tour on Tivo but soon felt very uninvolved and, quite frankly, bored. I searched inside for why this could be, as I really enjoyed watching in previous years due to my involvement in bicycle racing and triathlon. It basically boiled down to this: Lance wasn’t there.
For the last 7 years, Lance has been the guy to beat. He has beaten cancer, fought his way back to health and superstar status as a cyclist. His drive is motivating; his commitment to cancer research, admirable. Every year we’ve watched Lance and wondered if he would take the yellow jersey again and he would do it again, despite the other riders seeking to dethrone him. Even the French tried to discredit him with constant allegations of doping. Through all this, we’ve prayed and hoped for Lance to win again and he does.
Without our hero, the Tour De France somehow becomes that much less interesting.
It just goes to show that the world needs more heroes. These are people you look up to, the people you model yourself after, the people who give you hope. Yes they do have weaknesses: Superman has his Krytonite and Lance has doping scandals and constant tabloid writings of his comings and goings. But we accept those as very human traits so we know that despite their specialness, they are still one of us.
We need more people to look up to. It gives us something to strive for, gives us a reason to be better than we are today. Without our heroes, the world would be a much less motivating place.

The Problem with Thin Phones Is…

I love my Motorola SLVR. I really do. Before that, I loved my RAZR. I could stick them in my pocket and it wouldn’t bulge . They are small, thin, and super-portable.
The problem is that they are SO THIN, that they:
1. slide out of a bag’s pockets so easily that I’ve lost my phone three times now like that! Luckily I’ve found it all 3 times!
2. fall between stuff in your bag and it’s hard to dig out of bag full of stuff. I’ve thought my phone lost yet again when it got hidden between some papers and books in my messenger bag.
3. have barely any surface to grasp onto, so they easily flip out of your hand if you’re not careful. I’ve dropped my phone so many times now because I’ll be manipulating it fast, and then it flies out of my hand!
Love portability, hate the downside. Wish they had some super thin chain to attach to my body so I can always find them…

Blackberry Thumb

Now repetitive strain injury has hit Blackberry users. My physical therapist just told me that the incidence of “Blackberry Thumb”, the strain of the thumbs due to overuse from typing on the tiny Blackberry keyboards, is growing rapidly. I assume this would include any of the PDAs with mini-built-in keyboards.
Occasionally I feel the stress on my thumbs from typing on my Treo. Thankfully, I don’t type long messages that way, or reply to many emails on the Treo but rather do a lot of reading rather than sending. I bought a Palm IR keyboard to help me type longer messages and documents. It definitely helps a lot.
But I definitely want to avoid “Blackberry Thumb”. I have enough problems with my body as it is!
You’d think that someone would have invented a better physical interface now for small devices. I hope somebody is looking into this. Our huge human thumbs aren’t meant for tiny keyboards like that. Or perhaps, we need to build up tolerance from our youth, just like in any physical activity. I wonder what the incidence of “Blackberry Thumb” is among younger populations…?

Life in the Fastest Lane

When I bought my Toyota Prius, I found out that I could sign up for this new program where each year, California would allow a certain number of hybrid vehicles to occupy the carpool lane without having the minimum number of passengers in the car. It took me a while to get the stickers, and then a longer while to even put them on my car. But I finally did and this week….I rode the carpool lane.
I pull with some trepidation into the carpool lane, as we’re all conditioned to not to do so or else we’re going to get a big ass ticket.
And now I fly down the highway, to the envy of those stuck in the regular lanes where the traffic is stop and go. I make it up to SF in record time during the day, which is about 45 minutes. Likewise on the way back, I zip onto 101 and dash into the carpool lane, and accelerate back home, again in record time.
What a rush (and how silly to feel this way)!
When I first signed up, I thought it was a silly motivation to buy a Prius. After all, being green and saving gas cash were the bigger reasons, not the ability to zoom down a near empty carpool lane (simply because Californians refuse to drive with someone). But definitely my feelings have changed.
As my new occupation forces me to visit SF often, I find that minimizing the time I waste being in the car (where I can’t do anything but drive) is incredibly important. Now I have another reason to love my Prius!

Sharing the Madonna Concert Via Mobile Phone

On Wednesday night, I was fortunate to have seen Madonna at Madison Square Garden. The material girl pumped out yet another fantastic show with all the glitz and hallmark amazing choreography that we have come to expect and love.

This year, there were many that were not able to go among my friends for one reason or another. So I decided to “share” the concert via my mobile phone.

Now ordinariliy, there are guards who search everyone before entering the concert. They hate people who take pictures or worse, movies, and then share/sell/post them on the Internet or elsewhere. Today, it is different. Everyone has a mobile phone with a camera on it and they won’t confiscate that.

During the concert, I noticed many people taking pictures and recording movies with their cellphones, doubtless to send them to their friends like I was doing. And of course, many were able to sneak in digital cameras and 1 or 2 lone videocameras. The guards walking around the stadium didn’t seem to mind so much, or maybe they were blind.

I snapped many pictures first, and the moved onto taking 15 second movies. This was as much an experiment for me as it was the desire to share my concert experience. What did I find out:

  1. The resolution on the camera is definitely lacking. Need more megapixels!
  2. Need more zoom! 4X on my SLVR wasn’t bad, but I wanted to zoom in on Madonna and couldn’t.
  3. Movie resolution was very low as well. Sound quality really stunk, but what can you expect in a crowded venue like Madison Square Garden.
  4. Definitely you could capture the energy of the show in the movies. As you played them, the action definitely was portrayed as flashing lights and colors, barely recognizable as the images on the video screens and/or the performers.
  5. Receiving technology definitely varied. Here’s the scorecard:
    1. Sending videos to phones overseas – Nada. Didn’t get anything.
    2. Movies to other advanced media phones. Worked great.
    3. Treo 650s and 700ps – sucked big time. MMS’s errored out.
    4. Email worked great. Came through as .3gp files whatever that was. Thankfully Quicktime was able to play it.

Someday, I’ll be able to stream an entire concert to my friends via my high speed mobile phone internet connection. Now that would be cool. It can’t be far off. And the music labels, concert promoters, and artists will be furious, I’m sure.

Almost Lost My Mobile Phone!!!!

After lunch today, I was shocked to find that my mobile phone was NOT in my bag.
I ALMOST PANICKED! To think of all that is valuable to me in my mobile phone: my phone numbers, my iTunes music, my SIM card, and what’s really important, which is pictures of my daughter which I use as my background.
I called Cingular to put the SIM card on hold, and search all over the restaurant for it. Finally I find someone at the front desk who saw the phone. Geez. It was in lost and found! I retrieve it and then reactivate it.
I shudder to think about losing my mobile now. I have not backed it up like my Treo, which is always backed up through syncing. But then, I think about losing my Treo, which is probably even more problematic as I get my email on there. Or worse, I think about losing my laptop or getting it stolen. That would truly catastrophic.
Our lives are now increasiingly bound to the electronic world and to these small metal and plastic boxes. And they are small to be convenient and carried around, but also small enough to lose or to steal. It’s really scary.

Hot, Sexy Attributes of the Future

Yesterday I was typing on my Treo’s folding keyboard in a conference room, awaiting the meeting to begin. The adminstrative assistant came in, saw what I was doing, and remarked that she thought that was a cool gadget, and that she just saw two guys come in with wrist braces, courtesy of carpal tunnel syndrome/tendonitis caused by typing too much on a Blackberry keyboard.
We’ve got so many devices. We make them so small so they are convenient and can be carried in one’s pocket. We make them untethered so we can remain connected wherever we are. But yet, our bodies aren’t adapted to using them very well. Our fingers are too big, our biomechanics more suited to hunting and gathering rather than pecking on sub-miniature keyboard.
A few years back there was a huge controversy about the effects of electromagnetic radiation caused by cellphones on causing cancer in individuals who use them a lot. The jury is still out, but one cannot ignore the enormous amount of energy being beamed through our bodies every time we use such devices, or are just in their proximity.
The fact remains that evolution has not caught up to our electronic lifestyles; our bodies are shaped wrong, our cells had not evolved to resist the effects of so much wireless energy.
Here’s my prediction. Evolution works slowly. Humans do not.
In the future, the rich and famous (and most desirable) will be defined by the number of physical braces and bandages they wear. The devices they carry will cause so much damage that they will be obvious symbols of their wealth and being able to afford the coolest, most expensive devices. And because they use so many devices, they are exposed to so much radiation that they have developed huge tumors on their heads and bodies.
Imagine the stud of the future. He walks by, wrist braces on both arms, and a huge tumor on his head, chatting on his Blackberry Mark XI and receiving direct internet feeds to his brain. Women walk by and turn and stare; they whisper amongst themselves, “wow look at the tumors on that guy; he’s sexy HOT!”

Drafting for (Dangerous) Fun

A while back a friend of mine told me about another friend who owned a Prius. She saw him on 101 in his Prius apparently tailgating an 18 wheeler. When asked about why he would do such a silly thing, he replied that he was trying to maximize his miles per gallon by driving in the draft of the tractor trailer.
How interesting…
Today, I decided to test that theory. I, too, was on 101 on my way to Palo Alto and found a convenient 18 wheeler in the right lane. With a wry smile, I pull up right on his bumper and look at the onboard computer. WOW. It was hovering between 60 and 80 MPG! Amazing what cutting some air drag can do for fuel efficiency. So I ride for a while behind him, and then he cuts left and I notice my MPG drops to 30.
Definitely aerodynamics can make a difference. The Prius is already very aerodynamic, but having another big ass truck cut the air in front of you really helps a lot.
DISCLAIMER: This REALLY a dangerous thing to do. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND IT ALL. You could drive right up his tailpipe if he jams on the brakes, maybe even die underneath as he crushes your windshield to a pulp (although another friend of mine did remind me that 18 wheelers can’t stop on a dime, so you’d probably have time to brake to a halt even as your 18 wheeled friend was screeching wheels attempting to stop). A cop might just also give you a ticket too.
Don’t be an idiot; perform your aerodynamic science experiments some other way.