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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Middle Seat

I found The Middle Seat  section of the Wall Street Journal a treasure for anything related to the airport. Since I'm writing a novel about airport security, this will be my routine, visiting this blog and their site every Thursday, or when I'm lost and my mind comes out blank of any significant plots or progress in writing.

Here's what comes out from my writing today after reading the blog:

 The plane just took off from Reagan International Airport. One of the pilot's hated area to fly is Washington D.C., because regulators had banned commercial planes, choppers and twin-engine planes to fly close to the nation's treasured landmarks. But the National Airport is situated close to those landmarks, and maneuvering to stay away from Washington Monument takes more effort.
The pilot check the altimeter in front of him and glanced at the DC landmark outside to his left. The smoke inside blurred his vision and it  filled the airplane's cabin quickly. Passengers outside the cockpit were confused if the smoke was from the air conditioning.   The panicked captain yelled, "Evacuate! Evacuate!" The passengers froze.
Norman Snive struggled to unbuckle his seat belt. He panicked and passengers were pushing and shoving. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


 I updated the description of the professor in my book, after discussing what a professor should look like after my previous blog.

“We don’t have evidence we’re just making sure this guy is behaving” Special Agent Mowry shifted his weight in his chair.
            “Everything is under control in this lab and in this department” The professor assured the agent he’s handling the situation well and stroke his silvery beard.
            The gentleman’s silvery beard was witness to the Professor’s long and colorful career. After a large university up in Chicago conferred him his P.h.D., Chuck hung his coat and decided to work down in the sunny Florida. Without the coat, he only wears shirt and jeans. His fashions were never eye catching or even represents the profession of education. Most of his shirts were one size bigger than his body size, but he’s fit and not overweight, unlike some professors that waddle walking in the lobby.  Chuck’s an educator without the tie and rimless oval eye glass (his eyes were surgically treated with laser technology).
            Professor Chuck Morison hated bureaucracy. But he has to report to the FBI if any suspicious activities going on with his graduate students, especially students who came to the United States from countries from the Homeland Security’s “priority lists”: Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. The bureau was not satisfied even with the assurance of the teacher, believing that the greatest threat to national security is homegrown terrorism. The bureau beleives that it may come from academic institutions. So from time to time, Agent Mowry visits Morison’s office to check on things. In his busy schedule, the professor hated unexpected guest, it interrupts his thought process in his task on hand.
            Get rid of the Republicans up in DC instead The professor thought.
            “You don’t handle anthrax do you?” The agent asked.
            “Our lab is not capable, but we collaborate with CDC”
            “And you’re sure Farzad never knew about this project?”
            “No” The professor said almost in a whispered scream. “Lee and Ashley handle sensitive projects, and we never discuss the results in our meetings. I have private one-on-one meetings with Lee”
            The professor continued “Why are you suspecting Farzad?”
            “He’s Iranian and a Muslim. These are the guys who baby sit a wound inflicted by 9/11. Prisoner in a strange land for being a Muslim”
            “I handle Farzad personally, so I know if problems arise.”
            “Good” The tone of the Agent Mowry’s voice was half satisfied. “Well then Professor Morrison, I have to go. I do need to talk to other researchers around campus”
            “Thanks for the visit again, you are always welcome to drop by anytime” The professor lied. He has to kiss ass with the funding agency that kept his laboratory alive and well. Without the money from the Department of Defense, funding to continue his research could have been scarce. The combination of President’s Bush policy to cut the science funding and then the 2008 economic turmoil left the country devastated, in all areas, even science funding. But thanks to the people from DOD, the Professor’s projects were well funded—that meant he can keep his army of researchers and graduate students happy.


'When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest'
This was the first sentence borrowed by a reviewer while reviewing the
book Hemingway's Boat.
He claimed that this is one of those sentences that stay in your mind. And he
added on top of being simple and balance sentence, that the doubt and melancholy
that underlie the promise of happiness makes what it is --a great sentence.
But what really makes a great sentence? A good writer?

If science knew what it is, then everybody will be a blockbuster. Nobody knows.
Publishers sign new novelist hoping they'll hit the jackpot and produce the next
J.K. Rowling. For me, I'll write every night and gamble that my stories will be notice
by agents and publishers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


There's a stereotype for programmers and computer analyst to be
overweight and balding, at least if they are portrayed in novels. And
I think it's the same bias for professors, in Russell Banks' "Lost
Memory of Skin", where I'll qoute from the article from The Wall
Street Journal.
The story is driven by the appearance of a social scientist called the
Professor, who is himself a social outsider because of his
intelligence--he is reputed to be the smartest man in the county--and
his extreme obesity ( he weighs nearly a quarter ton)

In my dealings with academia, most of the educators I encounteres
were fit, and ready to show off a one handed push-up. So this will
be my description of a professor in my book, a healthy buff. But one
thing about professors, they think their God (not everyone, but most
of them anyway, the God complex).

Monday, September 26, 2011


Levi's life of the above synopsis tangled between being rational scientist and a religious baptist reared from the south.  And from there, I'm lost what to do next. But I came across this article by Ann Patchett

No matter what you're writing—story, novel, poem, essay—the first thing you're going to need is an idea. Don't make this the intimidating part. Ideas are everywhere.
Lift up a big rock and look under it, stare into the window of a house you drive past and dream about what's going on inside. Read the newspaper, ask your father about his sister, think of something that happened to you or someone you know and then think about it turning out an entirely different way. Make up two characters and put them in a room together and see what happens.
Sometimes it starts with a person, a place, a voice, an event. For some writers it's always the same point of entry; for me it's never the same. If I'm really stuck, nothing helps like looking through a book of photography. Open it up, look at a picture, make up a story.
If you decide to work completely from your imagination, you will find yourself shocked by all the autobiographical elements that make their way into the text. If, on the other hand, you go the path of the roman à clef, you'll wind up changing the details of your life that are dull. You will take bits from books you've read and movies you've seen and conversations you've had and stories friends have told you, and half the time you won't even realize you're doing it.
I am a compost heap, and everything I interact with, every experience I've had, gets shoveled onto the heap where it eventually mulches down, is digested and excreted by worms, and rots. It's from that rich, dark humus, the combination of what you encountered, what you know, and what you've forgotten, that ideas start to grow.
When I was putting my first novel together in my head, I didn't take notes. I figured that if I came up with something that was worth remembering I would remember it, and I would forget about the rest.
I don't think that my theory on memory is necessarily true—I'm sure I've forgotten plenty of things that would seem good to me now—but not writing things down, especially in the early stages of thinking them through, does cause me to concentrate more deeply and not become overly committed to anything that isn't firmly in place.
"The Patron Saint of Liars," the novel that I largely assembled while working as a waitress at a now defunct T.G.I. Friday's in Nashville, Tenn., started like this: There's a girl in a Catholic home for unwed mothers, and she goes into labor. The home is far out in the country, maybe 45 minutes from the hospital, and the girl decides she's not going to tell anyone what's going on. She's not going to cry out, because she wants to ride in the ambulance with her baby.
So here's this girl giving birth in the middle of the night, and there are other girls in the room, girls who live on her hall and have come to help her. I looked at each one of them. I spent days thinking of their stories while I bused tables and ran the dishwasher.
I thought the novel was going to be about the girl giving birth, but there was another girl in the room named Rose, and she had come all the way to Kentucky from California in her own car, and she had a secret. This girl had a husband.
From there I started to stretch the story in every direction. What happened to Rose in California? Who were her parents and who was this husband and why did she marry him in the first place? Whom does she meet and whom will she marry later and where did he come from?
I puzzled it out, went down dead ends and circled back, made connections and plot twists I never saw coming. All in my head.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

ONWARD'S beautiful sentences

Some of the sentences that comes out of this book are beautiful in its
own right. And to me, it becomes a coach psyching up his troops.
Going against conventional wisdom is the foundation of innovation, the
basis for Starbuck's own experience.

Here's another one, a nice sentence:
Sometimes, the earliest days of Starbucks seemed very far away.
Like straining to remember the sound of your child's voice as a
toddler as he or she heads off to college, Starbucks' nascent days got
more elusive as the company grow.

Now that's something.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Although some of their arguments are airtight, some are not. Overall,
if you're a sportsfan, this is a nice book to see more than what the
HDTV is showing.


It's the weekend, and time to share books from my Book-stack. For some reason, I gravitate to books related to Starbucks. This is my
second book that I've read related to Starbucks, the first one was How Starbucks Saved my Life.

To me, it's like having a motivational coach. Here's the highlight of the locker room huddle:

Success is not an entitlement and it has to be earned everyday.
No status quo, constantly push for re-invention.
The world belons to the few people who are not afraid to get dirty.
But going forward with fear would not allow our company to thrive.

Don't roll your eyes and let the word of the coach sink in, you'll have goosebumps.