Category Archives: Personal

Bad things tend to come in three or more

Last Friday, 8/10/07, I experienced a sort of the personal perfect storm. I think bad things tend to come in three or more – probably a result of natural selection. Anything less wouldn’t be memorable. It’s like you always find the thing the last place you look.

It started with my credit card being denied at the cafeteria during lunch. Upon returning to my office, I called the credit card customer service and found out someone has gone on a shopping spree with my credit card number. Thanks to their sophisticated theft prevention software, the credit charges were stopped in time. They are small charges like iTune downloads and on-line game charges – probably stolen by kids. Of course, the credit card company quickly stopped the card charges and cancel the card altogether. This is going to cost my some griefs in moving several monthly charges to the new credit card number. It’s a nuisance for the modern world of convenient shopping experience.

After coming back home, I found out that my dishwasher was clogged up again after nearly a half year of good operation. This took me another hour or so to clear the drainage tube to the air hole and then to the garbage disposal. There were some undigested rices. This took several trials; I had to re-do it on Saturday. Another nuisance for the modern technology. I don’t know why there is always some residue water on the dishwater, no matter what – probably acting as p-trap thing I suppose.

While trying to pay off my credit card payment by phone (the on-line account has been closed), I discovered that my land line phone didn’t have a dial tone. I spent another hour tracing the problem to the outside jack. So I then scheduled a checkup with our phone company, AT&T. They sent a technician out on Saturday morning and found out the wires were lose at the distribution box a few blocks away in my neighborhood. Boy, first AT&T (or Pacific Bell, or SBC) lost my DSL business, now they couldn’t even keep the wires attached. This is another interconnect problem in today’s interconnected world.

And now the bonus nuisance: On Friday, IT had EOL’ed the NIS server my mail server normally used. After switching to the new NIS server, my email SMTP server has stopped sending emails out. I haven’t figured out why yet as of today (Monday). Rebooting did not fix the problem though. I had to switch to another SMTP server. It took me a few days to figure out that my emails were not being sent out. Somehow, I felt my communication to the world has been cut. It’s a stymieing kind of feeling.

There you go! 3 bad things or more like nuisances in one day of living in a modern world. Let the record shows.

So much reading in the networked world – a killer reader app needed

I often wonder how many words I read a day: hundreds of emails, reports and presentations, newspaper (on-line and physical subscription – San Jose Mercury News and Wall Street Journal), RSS readers, websites – spam or non-spam, journals, books and etc. It’s a lot! In my work as a manager, the effectiveness of reading the emails could range from keeping track of the progress of the team to finding a strategic fault and changing the direction of the team – a big impact in terms of potentially lost productivity and product schedule slip or even failure of a product. Often times, I dread going on vacation because I was afraid of not keeping up with the email deluge or wiping out the accomplishment of dropping the number of emails from 3,000 to 1000 just to see the inbox goes back to 3,000. (This happened to me on my last vacation.) I wanted to use my Treo to read emails and found the screen to be too small and my eyes turn blurry after using it for just 30 minutes – not a good thing to treat our precious eye sight given their importance in today’s work.

I often read about how some academia complaining that our literacy level is dropping because we’re not reading as much as before. For me, it’s definitely not true. Before the networked world, I was reading only one newspaper and a small number of emails at work. And now, I estimate it’s more like 10x more than before when I first started my career. I feel every day I’m swimming in an ocean of words and I can’t get out because I was pulled by the tide of fear that I may be left behind in this competitive world. And I don’t think I’m alone on this. I can see how some people may subscribe to the 100-channel satellite TV or cable and just sit in front of TV and turn into a couch potato but my TV time has dwindled to near an hour or less on average for watching the DVD’s I rented from Netflix.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tool that could not only aggregate the important reading (like Google) but also summarizes in the way we can comprehend in a nick of time, giving you more time to do something more pleasurable. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying reading is not pleasurable. I happen to be an avid reader and enjoy reading a lot of things. The problem I have is the “noise” seems to be bigger than the “signal.” We need a killer app that can reduce the noise-to-signal ratio in our daily reading routine.

Fellow programmers, start your engine to produce the most intelligent must-read reader that truly informs and educate the users! Oh, wait a minute, please show only the ads (for the “free” reader) that the users are truly interested. Thanks.

Season 6 of “24” TV Show

The other night, my wife and I finished the season 6 of the hit TV show “24.” Like many of the thrill seeking TV audience, we have been following the 24 episodes of the entire season, thanks to our DVD recorder box. As usual, the season ended up with Jack Bauer saving the entire California (and the country) from a terrorist-induced nuclear disaster and ended with a hook planted in the last episode (Audrey’s being kidnapped by the revengeful Chinese government).

Looking back, my wife and I started watching ’24’ last year after hearing about the show from a friend during a house party. Asking around, I found that so many people have been following the show – creating a lot of buzz. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of watching 24 episodes for an entire season, as much as I hate the Asian soap opera that could last 40 to 50 episodes. The net effect is equivalent to a “pharmaceutical” torture that CTU used to get people to confess. Well, we took the plunge and rented from Netflix and gradually finished all five seasons within a few months. I must say that watching all 24 episodes in one shot is probably more palatable than watching one episode a week as I had to do this season, because it’s much easier to follow and it’s painful to wait to see the ending – delayed gratification for TV shows is not one of my virtues.

The common emphasis within the ’24’ show is on the power of IT (Information Technology) and the people working on them. They are being portrayed as if they are the magicians that can pull a rabbit out of a hat at whims. As an IT insider, I’m proud to see that my profession is being placed in such a high regard, though I know enough to tell that most of IT tricks (like uploading huge data from any PDA to CTU, downloading GPS information in a small RF insulated space, breaking anyone’s encrypted file within minutes through a remote link) are simply not possible (yet) or are being made conveniently to fit the script. Nevertheless, I still like the show; it has the creativity to show what’s possible. Perhaps, we in the computer industry can learn to imagine a bit more.

Top 10 reasons why we can’t squeeze more “life” from a 24-hour day

I sometimes wondered why I’m so unproductive, as compared to what Jack Bauer can do within 24 hours in the hit TV show – 24. Time seems to fly by so fast that I didn’t know what has happened. Only if I can live a fuller life and squeeze more life out of a 24-hour day. Well, I often use the following reasons or excuses:

10. My computer/network is too slow.
9. I’m stuck in traffic all the time and the traffic just wears me out.
8. There are simply too many emails to read, sort and file.
7. The house chores are killing me – it’s cleaning, cooking, taking care of others in the family. I never have time for myself.
6. The coffee is not strong enough; I can’t seem to be able to focus.
5. I’m not paid enough; why should I push myself that much at work.
4. My life is boring anyway.
3. Window shopping online is more fun. There is no commitment to buy and I can always imagine how happy I can be using the product though the product may turned out to be crap and it often does.
2. Watching TV has the calming effect on me – I can doze off without guilt.

And the #1 reason….

1. Is there more to “life”?

Hello world!


This is Derek Tsai. I enjoy reading, experimenting, and creating. By sharing and blogging about what I have learned and experienced, I can impart my knowledge to the world in this Internet age but more importantly I’m able to internalize my learning even more – the learning by teaching/doing approach. I hope to make an impact or legacy in my life. Hopefully, this would be beneficial to you readers as well.