Saturday, August 14, 2010

Most obnoxious e-mail ever?

I just received what might be the most obnoxious email ever. My friends agree with me. Unfortunately, the email is in Chinese lol. But I will post it anyway.

Background: I wrote an email to a mailing list of students and scholars from China, who are at or are affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. In that email, I apologized for my poor Chinese, which resulted from my being born and raised in the United States. I then proceeded to give pointers related to H-1B issues, in particular the issues involved with dual representation of an attorney of both a sponsoring company (the "petitioner") and the worker (the "beneficiary"). See my law blog for more details.

At any rate, one individual, who shall go nameless, posted this reply. I will offer a translation shortly:

额。。。我晕倒了, 这几天在度假, 没有时间看mailing list.今天一看就被雷了一下。 美国出生和普通话不好有什么关系, 难道中国出生就英文不好吗。。。。崩溃, 你看看身边中国出生, 英文比本土美国人英文还好的, 不是一拿一大把吗。。。今天真是被你雷到了, 哥们。


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

please follow me at this new address

I've stopped posting here. Please visit me at Thanks.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Led down the proverbial primrose path

Did you ever waste time thinking you had a problem in one area, only to find it was caused by something that was easily corrected? That happened to me yesterday, in trying to access the Internet from Tsinghua University School of Law.

Internet access here at the law school has several unusual aspects. In the first place, free wireless service is available in the library and in many classrooms. However, such service permits access only to Chinese-based web sites, plus limited English web sites (namely Google). People who want unlimited Internet access must subscribe to a paid Tsinghua network service called TUNet, and receive a user-ID and password. Furthermore, in order to use TUNet, one HAS to be connected via a physical Ethernet cable connection (i.e., one has to have a cable connection from the computer to a wall jack). TUNet access is not available using a wireless connection (don't ask me why, that's just the way it is--something I have come to expect while here).

I use TUNet on my own laptop, via an installation program my host student, Cissy, gave me. It works fine and I can access the Internet without problems. However, yesterday I did have problems, when using a library computer.

The library in the law school has a computer lab. The computers are connected to a local area network via Ethernet cables. These computers have the same TUNet program, and users can access the Internet.

I went to the lab, sat down by one of the computers, brought up TUNet and tried to sign on. I entered a userID and my password, but was unsuccessful. TUNet displayed a message saying that the password was invalid. I tried several times more, each time getting the same message. I then hooked my own laptop, started TUNet and entered the same password I used for the lab computers. This time, as I expected, I was able to start TUNet just fine. So, I went BACK to the lab computer, started TUNet there, and again I got the same message, "invalid password."

Finally, I went to the TUNet office, and explained to them what was happening. The woman in charge, who has helped me before, asked to sign onto TUNet using a computer in their office, and I did so. Right after I entered a userID and password, she stopped me, immediately noticing an issue. Instead of ending my user ID with "c08" I was ending it with "c2008." I never noticed the issue because my userID is saved on my laptop version of the program. Once I corrected the userID, everything was fine.

Clearly, I made a mistake in entering the userID. The password really had nothing to do with the problem. In both cases, whether on the library computer or on my own laptop, I entered the "right" one. However, when I entered the "wrong" userID, the system couldn't make a match, and gave me an error.

However, think about this situation more: really, the system gave me the wrong message. Chances are, the "wrong" userID I entered doesn't really exist on the system. In that case, rather than telling me "invalid password," it should have told me "invalid userID." That would have saved me time, and kept me from looking in the wrong place for an answer.

Moral: if you're getting error messages, check everything. Don't assume the message is pointing you to the right place. Second, if you're designing a system, make sure your error messages are accurate and not misleading.

Taking care of a defective Sony Vaio, part I


My wife, Michelle, yelled at me on Saturday morning, September 27 as she was writing, on her Sony Vaio notebook computer, an account of our current stay in
Beijing. She had purchased the computer less than a year ago, through a Sony Style store outside Philadelphia. She is attending Tsinghua University as a visiting scholar at their school of art, and I am studying and teaching at their school of law. Our apartment is northeast of the Olympic Village, right by Bei Yuan Lu North station, on the newly-constructed #5 subway line, finished weeks before the Olympics began.

As Michelle was working on her computer, it suddenly became significantly warmer by the left hinge, at which the AC power adapter is plugged into the computer. Suddenly, the left side of the monitor frame began to melt. We immediately shut down the computer and unplugged the AC adapter, but by that time a small section of metal underneath the lid frame had become exposed.

Here’s where the real fun began.

In searching the Internet, we learned that certain Vaio computers were being recalled due to wiring problems that could cause short circuits and overheating. We called Sony customer service, in the U.S., and they confirmed that our Vaio was affected by this recall. We asked about the procedures for having the problem fixed, and they told us that they would send us an empty shipping container. Their plan called for us to pack the Vaio inside and ship everything back to a Sony facility in San Diego.

We naturally expressed concern over this plan, saying that it would take too long, and asked instead if we could find a facility in China, and if we could receive service at this facility. The Sony person we spoke to said that he couldn’t answer the question, and would have to escalate the call to a level 2 person. After forty five minutes on hold, we reached that person. However, he also did not know the answer, but said he would have his supervisor e-mail us with an answer.

A day went by, and we heard nothing from anyone at Sony. We called back, and after another long wait, reached another level 2 person. This second person told us that the first person really had misspoken in committing an answer to us. Because our call occurred on the weekend, no supervisors were available. In addition, the computer systems that might contain the desired information, regarding Sony repair centers in Beijing, also were unavailable.

He probably meant well, but this second Sony person then made an unbelievable statement to us: he suggested that we go to the Sony China web site and try to look up the information ourselves. We replied that this idea had two complications. First, the web site is in Chinese, with no apparent way to display an English version. Second, even if we did locate this center, we had concerns over whether they would know how to handle our situation. He apologized, but said that until the weekend was finished, he could do nothing more.

Next: The Sony answer, and our response

Friday, October 3, 2008

Experience at Beijing subway stop

Sorry for the long delay in posting. This fall, I am in Beijing, studying and teaching at Tsinghua University School of Law.

Last night, we went downtown to the Wangfujing section of town. It's an area that has numerous shops and restaurants, including the famous Donglaixun. The main part of this section of town features streets closed to cars, and thus turned into a pedestrian mall. Always popular, the area was especially teeming with people because of the National Day holiday.

As we emerged from the #1 subway line at Wangfujing station, we saw an odd sight. The gates to this particular exit, B, were only partially open. Close to a hundred people were on the opposite side of the gate, and they seemed to be arguing with the subway staff about wanting to enter. However, the staff were refusing them entry, keeping the gate open only enough to allow arriving passengers, such as us, to exit.

I couldn't help but look back and wonder as we were leaving the station. Later, it occurred to me that maybe the staff was trying to make that point an exit-only area, for whatever reason. In that case (assuming I'm right), the staff was making their job harder than necessary. What could they have done differently? For starters, what about posting signs at the top of the entrance, i.e. at street level, telling people that this entry point is really only an exit point. Second, as a longer term solution, what about installing one-way revolving doors, as in New York: The door revolves only one way. Only half of the exit is usable, because the other half is blocked by gates. The door arms interleave with and pass through the gate, but people cannot. Therefore, people can leave, but people on the other side can't come in.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blindsided by Fidelity Investments

Last week I was in Texas, as part of a church missions trip, so I didn't have time or facilities to blog. Now I'm back, and want to share how Fidelity Investments "blindsided" me.

Because of lack of access to a computer, I could use only the Fidelity telephone system, FAST, to get quotes or trade. One day last week, I called and placed a trade. I specified the stock, quantity and type of order. The system announced it back to me, I indicated that I was OK with it, and then the system made the trade.

A few seconds later, the system told me that the trade was complete. However, it also gave me a commission amount far higher than what I was expecting, specifically one far higher than what I receive when trading on the Fidelity web site.

I spoke to a representative, and expressed my concern over the different commission levels. After listening, the representative agreed, and said that this one time, he would credit me for the difference.

I was glad to hear this news, but was still irritated by being surprised. There might well be good reasons for the differences in commission amounts. However, to avoid similar customer dissatisfaction, Fidelity could have done things differently, in particular, they could (and should) have alerted customers to this matter beforehand. Here are some possible ways:

- As soon as caller presses the key for "trading," the system could announce in general a message "caution: the commission levels for telephone trading may differ from those via the Fidelity web site."
- (even better): when the system announces the desired trade, prior to execution, it also could include the commission amount as well

In either case, callers have notice.

You can learn from this experience of mine, because it doesn't have to do only with trading with Fidelity. In your own jobs, try to minimize those instances in which you surprise people negatively.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"10 ways to work better with your boss"

I’m gettin’ paid by the hour, and older by the minute

My boss just pushed me over the limit

I’d like to call him somethin’

I think I’ll just call it a day…

– Alan Jackson, Jimmy Buffett, “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere”

Bosses: You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them. Like it or not, most of us must deal with a boss, and the way we do so affects not just our career advancement and our salary, but also our mental well-being. Here are some tips on how to get along better with your boss.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Remember that your boss just might have useful insights

Think you have a clueless boss? Remember the words of Mark Twain, who once said that when he was 14, his father was so stupid it was unbearable. Then, he continued, when he became 21, he was amazed at how much his father had learned in just seven years....

The rest of the article is at Tech Republic
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