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Writing

Posts in Musings
Fantasy to Reality: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become a lot more realistic vs. optimistic and in certain cases - quite cynical of the world we live in. Seeing the ups and downs at a crazy pace has led me to realize that not everything is as it seems.

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Fast-forward to this past weekend: my wife and I spent a few days at Universal Studios in Orlando. She’s a huge fan of Harry Potter and from all that I had read, it was worth visiting the theme park.

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Despite battling the heat for two full days, I have to say that I am impressed! I’ve read every book in the series and the minute I stepped into either Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, it felt like I was transported into another universe.

The employees at the Resort always had a smile on their face and stayed in character 100% of the time. The Butterbeer was incredible and the attention to detail was on another level. Every little thing mimicked the Harry Potter universe - down to their own currency which was legal tender at the Park.

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As a technologist, I was also amazed at how they implemented the wands throughout. For context, visitors can purchase a want for ~$50 and then use the sensors on the tip of the wands to interact with various window displays - making it a highly amusing people watching activity.

While neither of did any of the rides, we had an incredible time admiring the details and capping it off with a beautiful light show at Hogwarts.

Dear Seamless - What Happened?

I've lived in New York City for a majority of my adult life. I also don't know how to cook edible food, so I rely on the vast number of food delivery options in New York - Seamless, UberEats, Postmates, etc. Whether I eat at 6pm or 11pm - I know I can tap on an app and get a meal delivered to my living room. 

I've been using Seamless since the first week I moved to the city. And lately, it has gone downhill fast.  

  1. The tracking system that the app uses is antiquated and far worse than what I'm now used to in the era of UberEats. For example, yesterday I ordered a meal and it was delivered to me in about 30 minutes - faster than usual. As soon as I sat down to eat, I get a notification that my food was on the way. 
  2. The app has taken a turn for the worse every single time. A few days ago, I tried to enter in a new credit card and kept getting an error message. No specific error message, just a generic one. Given that many of the Seamless competitors support Apple Pay, it's annoying to have one app that doesn't support it. 
  3. Seamless also doesn't maintain any sort of proactive quality control or customer service. When I have issues with Postmates or UberEats, there is always an alert or phone call that indicates what the issue AND the resolution is. However, that hasn't existed with Seamless - despite their customer service being excellent when you reach out to them. 

In an era of mobile first, it's sad to see original disruptors not being able to deliver. And the issue is not unique to Seamless. Postmates has yet to accurately quote me on an order and UberEats is still learning the ropes. 

Mobile is important and a cohesive user-experience is more important than ever. There's a base level of expectation and with dozens of competitors in each market - the best one wins. 

50 Hours on Airplanes

It’s that time in my family - where people start getting married and move on to the next stage of their lives. 

In March, one of my cousins was getting married in India. She lives in Singapore and flew there a week before the wedding. Her younger sister, was flying from Singapore on the same day that I was scheduled to land from New York. 

In the interest of making the week as memorable as possible, I decided to do something crazy - swap my tickets that took me from New York to Abu Dhabi to Mumbai - a mere 16 hours on a plane to a ticket that had me flying from New York to San Fransisco to Tokyo to Hong Kong to Singapore and then finally to India - a trip that kept me in transit for nearly 50 hours, just so that I could surprise her on board. 

Here’s the thing - I loved every second of it. 

I’ve been flying for well over 25 years. Flights between New York to Los Angeles are second nature and 14 hour flights feel extremely familiar. 

It helps to know the ins and outs of airline operations. It helps flying in first-class. It helps being comfortable in unknown surroundings. 

Commercial aviation has become incredibly comfortable and for someone who still glares out the window for every take off and landing, it remains one of the very few places that is awe inspiring. 

Climb on. 

The Leap of Faith Principle

Holidays are a great time to reflect on the past 12 months and anxiously plan for the next year. And if you're lucky enough to be in New York for the holidays, you realize how many people come to this city primarily to find a job or to visit. And then they leave - leaving the city beautifully empty and eerily different. 

I was having drinks with a colleague of mine this week and we were discussing how our social networks consist of people who - when committed to an idea - follow through with immense passion and intense dedication. Everything around them not related to the idea fades away and they're focused on making it - the idea - a reality. 

On the other hand, when we talk about this pursuit with outsiders, they're terrified of pursuing their ideas or in awe when others are courageous enough to follow through. 

Taking this leap of faith is not easy by any means, but once you do it enough times, it becomes easier every subsequent time. 

And despite the strenuous process of turning an idea to a product and then taking a company to market liquidity - it is the absolute core of how financial markets operate. 

Whether you’re reading this on an iPhone, an iPad or even a computer - the device that you’re reading on is built by people who took that leap of faith. No one really needed computers back in the day and not too long ago, using a touch screen as your primary device was a crazy idea. 

Same thing about launching a service that could only communicate in 140 characters or somehow finding all the world’s information via a simple text box. 

All of those are created by people who took the leap of faith and changed the path of humanity. 

It is that leap of faith that drives entrepreneurs and separates *billions* of people from chasing a dream. 

Making Miracles Ordinary: The Decline of Aviation

It’s 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon and my brother and I are arguing with an American Airlines agent about transit policies for the United Kingdom. Despite being a very frequent traveler with the airline ad this route, the agent at JFK is dismissive. I eventually end up calling the executive desk at American Airlines who then summons the airport manager to resolve the issue. 

This entire process – and frustration that goes along with it takes nearly 2 hours and completely turns me off. What was supposed to start off as an amazing trip to India for a family wedding ends up starting off with extreme frustration. 

As sad as this is – American Airlines is probably the best US airline in regards to dealing with these types of disputes, especially if you are a premium passenger. Overall, most commercial airlines in the United States suffer from the same problem. 

Aviation is magical. Someone plans a trip with the intention of enjoying their destination. And while they’re thinking about the destination, the excitement starts far before that – when they are planning the trip, when they’re working out the logistics and when the arrive at the airport. 

But, today, when you get to an airport, you’re almost guaranteed to be ripped off. Many casual travelers have no choice but to put up with the frustrating policies of airlines. It starts off with the baggage policies, then it’s the TSA in the United States and then it’s the $4 bottles of water – if you are lucky. 

And that’s how most people end their vacation – dealing with the antiquated policies of airlines that are struggling to remain profitable. 

Here’s the thing – airlines and aviation in general are perhaps one of the largest drivers of innovation of our generation. 

I’ve had the great pleasure of going to bed in New York and waking up in Sydney. 

I’ve had the distinct honor of judging technology contests at 35,000 feet. 

I’ve flown in aircraft that define and then redefine luxury. 

I’m just wrapping up a 34 hour trip – door to door – and I’m writing this on a seat that becomes a bed while wearing PJs and being pampered with cologne and other premium products by the world’s best designers. 

But, I’m also fortunate that I’ve figured out how to make this all happen for me. For me, regardless of the destination, travel is still something so amazingly beautiful. The folks that I know who work in aviation are genuinely happy about how aviation connects the world. These people are friends, some are family. They want to see innovation. They still get excited when they get to visit a new country, whether it’s once a year or once a month. 

Airlines – especially in the United States – have made the process of flying such a drag that I really wish we could hit the reset button and start all over again. 

There isn’t a single person I know who wouldn’t like to be treated like a human being again on an aircraft. Aviation connects families. It reunites people. It fosters new relationships and has done more for commerce than many other forms of innovation the past few decades. 

So, to all the legacy United States carriers – let’s keep the bigger picture in mind. Let’s reinvent and redefine commercial aviation. For our sake. And especially for yours.