LEVI McPHERSON, a graduate student of analytical chemistry at the University of North Central Florida, is approached by agents of the Homeland Security’s Counter-terrorism Unit. The agency is recruiting Lee to study and expose the loopholes of screening instruments in airports. Struggling financially, he accepted the offer, making him a paid, benevolent hacker of the nation’s gateway. Yet Levi is horrified when an Airbus from Los Angeles disintegrated in mid-air.

At 40, when everybody’s career trajectory is going up, Levi’s still a poor graduate student, struggling financially. His research projects however, are worth million dollars. Researching the highly classified and heavily guarded secrets of detecting traces of explosives, what Lee know was a goldmine. The agency's offer is his financial break . So Levi tackles the problem like a scientist, detailing the loopholes of the aviation security and turning what he knew into a big time money machine.

JIM and JONATHAN of the counter-terrorism unit, where nowhere to be found after Charlotte International Airport, a hub of Delta Airlines closed abruptly because of instrument malfunctions in their security lines. And in a post-Osama Bin Laden’s era, the biggest blow to the United Stated after the 9/11 disaster comes unexpectedly when a passenger plane blew up in the skies of Washington D.C., in the heart of the nation.

Levi knew it was only the start of more troubles, so he recruits his fellow graduate students to counter the future attacks. They have to think like criminals—and scientists too. With the help of FBI counter-terrorism experts, Homeland Security and Transportation Security Agency, the team races to close and plug the loopholes Lee identified.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Physician's Assistant

I hurt myself playing basketball. My shoulders have limited range of motion, so I set up an appointment with a Physical Therapist at the student health center. Instead, a Physician's Assistant (PA) came to the rescue.

I have nothing against a PA, but being a PA doesn't make you an expert in shoulder injuries. I have to explain what is really going on: my range of motion (ROM) is limited, I'm protecting my shoulder in certain ROM.

In the end, he referred me to sports injury specialist (One of my dream job!!). I just wondered about the United States and the way they handle health business. People do specialize (Pediatrician, Neurosurgeon and all these experts), but in the end, they also un-specialized, such as Physician's Assistant (PA) or a nurse aid. Is the U.S. just lazy that every field needs an assistant?

Just my perspective.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Projects

The projects is a derogatory word for a dwelling. In the U.S., it's a housing project based on family income. I brought this up because, from the nice Windmeadows gated apartment, we are going back to a place subsidized by the government, the University Housing.

The place is family oriented though, if there are some consolations. But my new place is old. The ceilings, the rooms and bath. I left Windmeadows last night, and I can really feel the difference. And I was so tired moving I ended up sleeping in a sofa of a friend.

Just a thought, back in the Philippines, I moved only probably 3 times (in my college and work days). Here, I been in the U.S. for almost 6 years only and almost every year I moved (4 times already).
After returning my keys to the management (gym, mail, gate and home keys), I turned to the beautiful pool beside the club house. It's summer, and gorgeous girls in bikinis are working at their tans, worshiping the sun and relaxing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Group Presentation

I just finished my presentation, a scientific paper presented to the members of my research group. I'm telling you, even though it's a little bit informal compared to presenting your data in a conference, group presentation is tough.
The paper is about LASER and chemical analysis. LASERs are the domain of people who love numbers. I do love numbers but not to the extent that it becomes very abstract. One of my friend told me that if you work with LASERs, you should be very patient (infinite patient maybe), because you are dealing with small light.
Although I would say that I didn't ace the talk, the bright side was, I learned a lot. With four experts asking you questions - it's not fun - but very informative.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Too many books, very little time

The good thing about Gainesville is that the place is a university/town/small city. This means that the place is a crossroad for people in their journey for education. When people come and go, books are left behind.

Friends of the Library (FOL) is an event in Gainesville (Fl) where you can buy cheap good books. This semester, I got a text-book for analytical chemistry. Once in a while, you need to read the basics of your field. On the list are books for tennis, baby books and something about Relativity (visualized discussion of relativity). One of my favorites is the paperback version of "Bourne Ultimatum" by Robert Ludlum.

"Bourne Series" is my favorite movie (and I believe Jason Bourne is America's favorite assasin too). The other book is about LASER, the story behind the inventor and the 30-year war for patent and royalty of his inventions. I'll be working with LASERs so I said to myself, why not read it then.
Completing the line-up is a book related to electronics (when you work with LASERs, you should know the basic of electronics) and eBay.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

One shining moment...

It's the time of the year when every college basketball fan will have to endure the song titled "One shining moment". The music had been a tradition for NCAA basketball, as the background music for CBS network.

One Shining Moment 2008 (Check it out before youtube removes it from the site)

My relationship with the song is mix: hate and love. Being an alternative music fan, the song's beat is painful to bear; however, the tune reminds of the the Florida Gators Basketball. I still remember last year, 2007, when the University of Florida (my beloved school) captured it's second straight NCAA basketball trophy.

Right after the game, when I opened the blinds in my apartment, I saw cars going to campus and heard loud honking. I didn't celebrate since I was in the streets of Gainesville the year before that. I should have celebrated the second championship. It will be a long drought ahead, before I will witness again the "one shining moment" clip with Florida Gator players in the video.

Here's the Florida Gators one shining moment, just in case.

2007 One shining moment

Friday, April 4, 2008

The SEARCH: How Googles and it's rivals rewrote the rules of business.

It starts with a computer hamming, then the blue sky in the background, then the typing. Remember those days when you first open up the computer and typed I do remember those days, around 1995 to 1996 (Internet was released to the public 1992).

This is my second book for the year 2008, and it's about search. What will the internet be without a search engine? It's hard to imagine. So the first thing you type in front of a computer (most likely) with an internet connection, is of course a search engine. I do Yahoo during those days, the banner ads then appear, and then the graphics are lost because the connection was slow. I didn't encounter until 2002, when I was already in the US (from the Philippines).

The book discussed how google came to be. Have you ever wonder what google means? It's a variation from the word googol, which means 1 followed by 100 zeros. In short a huge number. Too geeky? Try this, when google made public offerings for it's stock 4 years ago (2004), it sold 2,718,28 1,828 of its stocks. The numbers are not random, the numbers represent e (e=2.71828 18284 59045 23536), the natural logarithm.

The book concluded that there still no such thing as a perfect search. Search the web for "the meaning of life" and I bet you will be disappointed. Or search why "Julia loves Raymond", there's no perfect answer either. In the end, the book thought me how to do search: and that is, use yahoo and google or when you are searching for something. Every search engine is unique in terms of crawling, indexing and showing the results to the users.