Some good movies this christmas

Let’s start off with Syriana. It was such a good movie. A great story, very political, made a lot of good points, and had a great crew. George Clooney and Matt Damon both performed really well. Oil, war, money, and corruption … what more could you ask for. The movie had three parallel stories running at the same time and they all converge nicely at the end.

Munich was excellent too. I was not expecting Steven Spielberg to do such a decent job at portraying both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides. If you get a chance watch it. It talks about a series of assassinations executed by the Israeli Mossad after the death of the 11 Israeli athletes in the Olympics. The athletes were taken hostages by a group of Palestinians who asked for the release of several Palestinian prisoners. The Israeli government chose not to negotiate and all the Israeli hostages and the Palestinians who took them hostages were killed.

I was looking over some reviews by both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides and it looks like the movie got heat from both sides, mostly from the Palestinian side though. The Palestinian critics argued that the movie ignored many important facts. I found out about an article titled the “Spielberg on Munich: the humanization of Israeli killers, and the dehumanization of Palestinian civilians” that -as you can tell from the title- strongly criticized Spielberg. Watch the movie if you get a chance whether or not you agree with what Mr. Spielberg is presenting.

I have not seen King Kong yet and I saw Fun w/ Dick and James. It was OK. It serves its entertainment purposes, I was expecting more though.


SWAG is an abbreviation for “scientific wild ass guess” or “silly wild ass guess”. We were arguing today about some features that we want to implement next year. We did not know how long they will take us, so our VP said, just give me a SWAG to make a preliminary schedule. I thought this word is fascinating. Oh man .. I’m so easily amused.

Its simple if you explain it well

If you explain any problem to yourself WELL, you will find it simple. No matter how complicated or sophisticated a problem can be, once its described in the right words, you will be able to understand it. Once you understand it, you can solve it. So if what I’m saying is true, then problem solving comes down to describing the problem in the right words so that your brain can process the problem in a native format. By native format I mean a format that is familiar to your brain, a format that it can understand and digest.

TBC ….

Winter event

I just sent this email out to our group. If you are interested in attending, please let me know.

Dear SCU students, friends, and alumni:

We cordially invite you to a great event during the
winter quarter. Dr. Aart J. de Geus, Chairman of the
Board and Chief Executive Officer of Synopsys will be
speaking about his experience starting Synopsys and
taking it from a small startup to a world leader in
EDA software and services. Dr. Aart’s bio is shown
below for your reference.

Date: Thursday Feb. 23rd
Time: 5-7pm
What: EBA Executive speaker event
Location: To Be Determined depending on RSVPs
5-6pm Speaker
6-6:20pm Q&A
6:20-7pm Networking and socializing

Drinks and appetizers will be provided.

Please RSVP by sending an email to

Best regards,
The EBA Team

Bio of Dr. Aart J. de Geus, Chairman of the Board and
Chief Executive Officer of Synopsys:

Since co-founding Synopsys in 1986, Dr. Aart de Geus
has expanded Synopsys from a start-up synthesis
enterprise to a world leader in electronic design
automation (EDA). As a technology visionary, he is
frequently asked to speak on topics related to the
electronics industry. As one of the leading experts on
logic simulation and logic synthesis, Dr. de Geus was
made a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in January 1999. He was
also honored for pioneering the commercial logic
synthesis market by being named the third recipient
ever to receive the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society
Industrial Pioneer Award. In 2002, shortly after
transacting the largest merger in EDA history, Dr. de
Geus was named CEO of the Year by Electronic Business
magazine; and in 2004, Entrepreneur of the Year in IT
for Northern California by Ernst & Young. Dr. de Geus
is active in the business community as a member of the
board of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG),
the Electronic Design Automation Consortium (EDAC),
and the Fabless Semiconductor Association (FSA). He is
also heavily involved in education for the next
generation, having created in 1999 the Synopsys
Outreach Foundation, which promotes project-based
science and math learning throughout Silicon Valley.

The knowledge gap

You do not know what you do not know. You are ignorant about your ignorance and that makes you even more ignorant. We face this dilemma everyday as knowledge workers. When you are faced with a big problem that you do not know much about, what do you do? There are usually mountains of information that you have to sift through. You need to make intelligent judgments about you really need to know and what to skip. And when you know something you have to make sure that you use your newly acquired knowledge to solve your problems and improve yourself. If you are an engineer, your value is equal to your ability to apply what you know. Executing based on your knowledge is truly the ultimate form of performance in any field.

But what do you do about what you do not know and there is no simple way to find out what you do not know? NOTHING. If you do not know about it, why bother yourself with it. You will come to know about what you do not know if you need it later. And if you don’t end up needing it, you will never find out what you never knew in the first place.

Hamas and Iran

تواصلت ردود الأفعال على تصريحات الرئيس الإيراني المشككة فيما يسمى المحرقة النازية لليهود والداعية أوروبا والولايات المتحدة وكندا لإعطاء إسرائيل قطعة في أراضيهم ليقيموا عليها دولة لإسرائيل.

That was an excerpt of an article from Aljazeera website. Here is the story behind this.

The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust as a “myth.” Not only that but he also called the Europeans and Americans to host a Jewish state in their lands and by that ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The article on Aljazeera had a lot more details about Ahmadinejad’s speech that I could not find in many of the mainstream newspapers in the US. As always, the US media gives you half the news. The BBC on the other hand showed the whole thing. I really like their coverage of the global front.

This is not good man. There is another problem, The political leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Khaled Meshaal has said the group will increase attacks on Israel if it attacks Iran. This is bad in so many ways. Let me explain. First, what the hell does the Iranian guy think he is doing? He is asking the world to help in a nuclear program and then goes off making these remarks. Second, why is Khaled Meshaal in Iran? Hamas is a Sunni group and Iran is Shiite for the most part. Last time I checked, those guys did not get along. To be Cont.

The engineer’s dilemma

I think as an engineer, within two years, I will not have any competitive advantage against new kids coming out of school. This is scary. The Technology is changing all the time. The new comers are better positioned at getting engineering jobs for two reasons:
1- They are more familiar with the new tech
2- They are cheaper.

What’s even worse is that we are no longer just competing with people from the same school or area. We are competing with everyone out there. Be it India, China, Egypt, even Armenia. My startup has an office of 10 people in Armenia. They are all PhDs and they are freaking sharp. I don’t know how much they are making over there but definitely orders of magnitude less than what we make here.

The million dollar question is what can we do? Engineering Design in my opinion is the solution. That’s off course if you want to stay in engineering.

In traditional hardware products, the engineering process starts with architecture and design and it ends with implementation. The Architect designs the system and breaks it down to smaller components with specialized tasks. The architect worries about performance, size, area, modularization, simplicity of the system, ease of use, and many other high level challenges. Implementers take care of the low level details; they get feedback from the architects on whether their implementation matches the architectural spec.

In small projects, the architect and the implementer are the same person. In many web projects, this is the case as well. However, when websites became more complicated, we started noticing non-technical product managers assuming the architectural role of a website and the engineer continued taking care of implementation.

In hardware projects, we still need architects who have very strong and deep understanding of the technology and the system. Most Architects are PhD level people who are articulate and have incredible writing and organizational skills.

So what’s the point of all this? If you want to stay in engineering, move to the architecture side of things and you just might be employed 5-10 years from now. Implementation is always needed and you need to know how to do it, but do not count on it keeping you in that job.

Otherwise, if you do not want to stay in the engineering side, go start your own business, or acquire the necessary skills to switch to marketing, sales, management,


Every man is enthusiastic at times. One man has enthusiasm for thirty minutes, another man has it for thirty days, but it’s the man who has it for thirty years who makes a success in life.Edward B. Butler

The difference between two industries …

The Semiconductor industry is mature and well-established. The major players are known and the market growth is measured years in advance. The technology is hard and the competition is fierce. The customers are demanding and the playing field is global. Even the smallest Semiconductor startup has to develop strategic plans to do business with China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Europe. If you do not have a global plan, you do not have a freaking business.

On the other hand you have the internet industry. Buy a domain name, get a Linux server, make some content, advertise for your site, get some traffic, and boom – You are up and running. Yeah, I know … it’s not that simple but hey compare that to a chip that costs you $20 Million dollars to make. Now you get my point!

Then you have the health industry, you need millions of funding before you can get a new drug out to the market. It’s just ridiculous how much crap you have to go through to get something done in such an environment.

I heard the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg saying that it took him about two weeks to make the initial version of his website. That’s it people! Two weeks of an undergraduate student time to build an entire social networking site. Now he is getting as many page views as Google. They never revamped his code; they only built on top of it. The internet allows you to take a good idea to market in no time.

The interesting thing is that not only the industries are completely different but the people involved too. Internet companies are younger, most of the workers have just graduated and they are very dynamic. They are creative, they move quickly, and they are trying new stuff out all the time. While Semiconductor companies are careful, slow, and very deliberate. New products are offered after doing extensive market research and profiling customer needs. It makes sense, right? If a chip is gonna cost you ten million dollars, you better be damn sure that you are going to sell that thing. There is no such thing as a beta product. Try selling a processor that half works or a playstation that crashes in the middle of a game. Semiconductor companies are filled with Principal Engineers who have been working in the field for the past 25 years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that one industry is better or cooler than the other, they are just totally different. Since I have been on both sides, I think internet companies are in general a better fit for people my age. In my case, I’m enjoying the Semiconductor world for the time being. The internet stuff, I can always do on the side – which is exactly what I’m doing right now. By the way, if you are a talented web designer and can afford to work for equity, give a call, we might be able to do some business together.