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I’m already late in this, my traditional new year’s message. Every year for the last 10 years or so I get on my soapbox and rant about a few things and make resolutions for the upcoming year. My delay in writing this was because I threw out my back getting some FreshDirect boxes (recommended if they deliver to your area and you actually buy $40-$50 of groceries) down the stairs. Part of this was just reviewing my photos and emails in such an incredible year in terms of experiences.
There is something essentially wrong with the way email is being used nowadays. This is the part of the message where I mention how much email I received last year. My collection of email for 2003 is 1.19 gigabytes, and that is with weeding out a lot of spam and bounced messages (real and bogus bounced messages added up to 286 megabytes, which are not counted in that total). That is two orders of magnitude over this time five years ago. On a weekly basis, I can say that no more than one-third of the emails that I receive are emails from people that I know or do business. I don’t believe the solution has anything to do with charging people postage to send emails, or slowing down email, or placing limits on the email received. Baysian filtering has been 95+% effective, but that 5% is still rather annoying. Two ideas have the most merit in my opinion: verifying the identity of the sender, or verifying the identity of the sender’s server (the SMTP server, for those techies out there). Yahoo’s proposal to use public key encryption and the draft Authenticated SMTP standard are the ones that are most likely to work.
I want to remember Usenet, which was the original Internet community bulletin board system. These days, I only refer to the newsgroups via Google, as the actual Usenet is routinely overwhelmed with spam and people nowadays don’t know how to stay on topic without “flaming” (insulting) each other. However, some of my longest-time friends are from the “Joy-Luck Club” of the New York branch of the soc.culture.hongkong newsgroup, whom we have shared dim sum or another meal together on a regular basis for the last ten years. (One of the first events was a viewing of The Joy Luck Club when it came out). Back then, it was dueling among which of the four “Sky Kings” or “Sky Queens” of Hong Kong entertainment would reign supreme this week, and when our next chance to go to Hong Kong would be. Nowadays, it costs about 50% of what it did in 1991 dollars to go to Hong Kong (1991 was my first trip to Hong Kong) and we have real jobs with real vacation time, but we are terrorized by SARS and are mourning the loss of a quarter of that HK entertainment royal family. Life goes on, but I am thankful for the schk Gang of Four that still keeps together.
While I didn’t do quite as much flying as I did in 2002, I did travel over 18,000 miles mostly for work: visiting my cousin in Kansas City, going to a convention at Duke University in North Carolina and driving down to a college friend in South Carolina, a $10 Chinatown to Chinatown bus ride to Boston (recommended – I was actually only one of two Chinese on board and it was far cleaner and efficient than Greyhound, Peter Pan, or even Amtrak), presenting at another conference in Anaheim, California a week after the forest fires and visiting friends from my law school study abroad in Hong Kong, and going to Honolulu for an Asian bar association meeting (lawyers’ convention). Happily, airline security, while I’m not sure it is more or less effective, it is more or less run with uniform standards, so much so that you know what you’re supposed to be doing when while crossing the checkpoint, whether you are in Durham, NC or Los Angeles, CA. Also, as a consequence of my 2002 flying, I had American Airlines Gold status during 2003, and it is quite a difference in treatment — having the card is like the Fast Forward in the Amazing Race – it lets you and your companion skip most lines and go through special shorter security checkpoints. I actually managed a 30 minute run to the gate at JFK from the Howard Beach A train station and I made it with 3 minutes to spare. I’ll really miss it this year.
What I learned is that living in these places is harder and easier than they would appear. I stepped into Walmart and Target for the first time and realized how easy it is to shop there and how incredibly expensive shopping for groceries is on the East and West Coasts. Houses that we in New York would consider multi-million dollar mansions go for under $200,000. On the other hand, the people who live in paradise actually work really hard. On Oahu, the island Honolulu is on, there is a second rush hour at about 3 PM for those workers who go from their office jobs to their second jobs working in the tourist industry. On that island, SPAM canned luncheon meat is $1.50, while milk is $6.00 a gallon.
As for my resolutions last year, I decided to start an online journal and keep better contact with my friends.
Establishing Triscribe as a blog (online web journal) has been rather successful. It took a while to figure out the parameters of the site and what would the ground rules would be. I realized — as one of a dozen “stunt bloggers” for the conference at Duke University in June — that it is very hard for just one person to contribute on a regular basis, but it is a lot easier when there are others working with you. There is something to “peer pressure” – it actually works.
SSW15 and YC have been contributing on a regular basis on many different topics, and it has helped me to keep touch with them in a more concrete manner in what is going on in our lives than instant messaging or even a phone call. If you’re Asian and have a JD (or if you just know me in real life and can write well), I invite you register and join our group. The other thing is using Plaxo to automatically update contact info. It really works well. Even if you don’t end up subscribing to Plaxo, please update your info for me by writing back.
So what about resolutions for the next year? The first one is to go to the gym on a regular basis. I’ve been very good in paying for the membership; I’ve been very bad in keeping with the program, and my physical fitness has suffered for it. The second is to stop being a packrat and reduce the clutter in my life. The New York Times recently had an article about how literally life-threatening hoarding is. In taking the first step in a 12 step program, I have to admit that I am a hoarder. P- has been helping me work on these two together, and for that I’m grateful. I’ve been pretty successful in my resolutions over the years, so hopefully when 2005 comes around, I can report these conquered also.
Thank you for your kindness and friendship, and I hope to share in your happiness in the coming year. Keep reading here for updates to the continuing saga. Happy New Year!