Monday, June 20, 2005

Raise credit card dispute

I win a credit card dispute today. Some restaurant in San Francisco charged me twice for one meal. The second charge is small enough to make me hesitate for a while before I raised the dispute over a phone call.

When and how I should wield the dispute weapon?

  • Unauthorized use of my card. Under the law, I can not be charged for more than $50. I should call credit card company as soon as I noticed the unauthorized use.
  • Disputes about how much I owe. I must write (phone call also worked for me) to the credit card company within sixty days of the first bill with the improper charge. I must include the following information:
      • my name and account number
      • The dollar amount I dispute
      • Information as to when it was charged and the name of the merchant.
      • A statement of the reason for my dispute.
A special case is dispute about problem with the quality of goods and services.
  • I must have made a good faith effort first to resolve the issue with the merchant directly.
  • Enclose the letter which I wrote directly to the merchant.
What will happen?
The credit card company is required to investigate.
  • In many cases, the charge as well as interest associated will be canceled.
  • Until the dispute is resolved, I need not pay the disputed portion of my bill.
Indiana government provides useful information and a sample letter here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Learn to make small talk

Taking a elevator with a stranger is always an awkward moment for me. What I usually do is like a martyr facing interrogation. Keep my mouth shut, stare at a spot on the wall, and not let a single word slip out of my lips. Time to make a change. is my source of enlightenment this time.

  • Read a lot, especially something different from programming.
  • Watch some tvs. Get in touch with different cultures.
  • Write down funny stories I heard on my blog.
  • Think out several topics I can always resort to.
  • Practice. Next time I came across a stranger, chat with him/her. Cheer me up...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Stop procrastinating

2056 people on 43 things want to stop procrastinating. I am one of them. My wife used to making fun of my promises to do things earlier. When I was at college, a project deadline usually meant several sleepless nights at labs.

"Two common explanations are fear of failure and dread of taking on a long, boring, and/ or difficult tasks." Well said here.

Now I am starting my therapy.

  • Figure out why I am procrastinating and write them down.
  • Make a realistic and prioritized to-do list with two dates. The first date is the date I first thought of it and the second one is the date I finally accomplished it.
  • Break down big tasks into smaller jobs.
  • Write down planned rewards for each task.
  • Keep reminding myself how good I will feel when I am finished.
  • Tell my friends and family about my goals and ask them to check up on my work.
More advices can be found here.

Father's Day is coming

My mom said happy future father's day to me over today's phone call. I know what she means. She is urging us to have a child soon. Both my wife and I love children, but we are still waiting for an appropriate time for a new family member to come in.

I almost forgot next Sunday (3rd Sunday of June) is Father's Day. Need to mark my calendar to call my dad on that day. Official flower for me to wear this Sunday is a red rose cause my dad is living. Otherwise, a white rose should be worn instead.

Interesting enough, Father's day is first proposed by a woman. Mrs. John B. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father. More history about Father's Day can be found here.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Another earthquake tonight

It terrifies me now. Four earthquakes (magnitude > 5) hit California in a week !!!

Thursday, June 16, 2005 at 11:21:42 PM (PDT)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Running half hour = a can of Coca Cola?

Treadmills in my gym have a sign "Kcal" before the calories number. Usually after I run for half a hour, 300 something is the number displayed there. It couldn't mean 300*1000 calories. I will be too proud of myself. On the other hand, 300 is just a pity. I sweat, I suffer, only merely 300 calories?

The fact is that I only burned 300 calories. According to here, running half hour at the speed of 5.5 mph only gives me about 306 calories. Need to run faster, faster...

One can of Coca Cola(12 fl oz) contains 155 calories. Dang... That hurts. Can't drink it anymore. Can't afford to lose all my hard works after drinking 2 cans of it. I do have a good news though. A can of diet coke only has 4 calories. For me, plain water is the way to go now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tips to grow kalanchoe and dracaenas

Frankly I didn't know my indoor plants' names until today. My wife usually waters them every morning. Besides that, not much is done to them. I would hardly say they are healthy. Almost all leaves of my kalanchoe fall; the leaves of my dracaneas have brown edges.

Kalanchoe prefers full sun but we keep it in a shady location. We are watering it too much. It need to be watered thoroughly and then allowed to partially dry out before watering again.

Dracaenas does it best with bright, indirect light. Ah... Last weekend I took it out to the balcony and let it enjoy a full afternoon of California sunlight. No wonder its leaf edges are turning brown. Also it only need weekly soaking. Got to remind my wife not to be so diligent. Too much salt in the soil can make leaves turn brown too. I will try distilled water if it doesn't get any better. offers detailed tips on growing kalanchoe here and dracaenas here.

The above images are linked from and

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The next big earthquake in bay area may come soon !!!

Just as I was leaving the company today, I felt a little dizzy. Then I noticed that window blinds are shaking and rattling. Nah... We are having another earthquake. I already experienced 5 earthquakes since I came to bay area in 2000. Nothing new to me.

I heard before that a big earthquake in bay area may happen in the next 30 years. That doesn't concern me too much cause I thought it is just another mystery without reliable sources.

My finding on internet really surprises me. It is actually stated in a 2003 scientific report by U.S. Geological Survey.

"Scientists conclude that there is a 62% probability of at least one magnitude 6.7 or greater quake, capable of causing widespread damage, striking the San Francisco Bay region before 2032."

"A repeat of the 1906 magnitude 7.9 earthquake, the worst case scenario for the Bay Area, is estimated to result in about 5800 fatalities if it strikes during working hours."

Also looks like I should work at home as much as possible, cause the commercial building are much vulnerable than residential units. The loss of life is predicted to be 5 times higher if an earthquake occurs in the early afternoon when people are working in commercial buildings.

Having seen that, I have to know how to prepare for it. The USGS website provides a fairly simple guidance. Drop, cover, and hold on! National Disaster Education Coalition produces a detailed version here. Also a interesting dispute on this topic from American Red cross can be found here .

Monday, June 13, 2005

Buying I Bond

Considering the interested rate offered by banks is so low, I keep wondering where to stack my short term investing money.

I Bond
sounds a reasonable alternative to me. The current I Bond rate is 4.8%, not bad. The minimum holding period for I Bond is 1 year. The catch is that if I sell them before 5 years, I will have to forfeit 3 most recent months' interest. I did a simple calculation, imagine I sell them just after 1 year. What is the rate I will get? Around 3.6%. According to, the best one year CD rate is around 4.0%. Since I won't need to pay state and local taxes for I Bond interest, they are pretty much the same. (I am using 10% state and local tax rate, YMMV).

I Bond does offer some other benefits. Its interest is tax-deferred; I don't need to pay taxes until I sell them; It is backed by U.S. Government instead of some unknown financial institute. Also its rate is adjusted twice a year based on inflation rate. It could offer a better rate eventually because Mr. Greenspan is going to keep raising interest rate.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Stay hungry, Stay foolish

Guess what, that is the advice Steve Jobs gave to Stanford 2005 graduates.

I was at Stanford Stadium today to celebrate a friend's graduation. I have no idea Steve is the commencement speaker. Before the ceremony, a small plane flew over the stadium dragging a banner that read: "Steve, don't be a mini player - recycle all e-waste". It got me thinking whether he is going to be there. Then the Stanford president introduced him, cheered by peoples all over the stadium.

Steve gives a serious speech by telling his personal life stories including adoption by his parents, dropping out of college, forcing out of Apple when he was 30, and his near death experience (he is diagnosed with cancer, was told by doctor that he only have three-to-six months to live and later found out it is a treatable form of cancer).

I was surprise to know that he dropped out of college because he didn't have enough financial support from his working-class family. I thought he left college to start his own business, same as Bill Gates and Michael Dell.

Ironically he claims that dropping out of college is one of the best decisions he ever made and his real education started when he dropped out of college and began to take classes that interested him. Those words make me think whether it is a mistake for Stanford to invites him over to speak. It reminds me of the questionable urban legend about Larry Ellison's speech to Yale graduates.

What triggers me most is his statements about passion. One should follow his own passion, not the path designed by others. Do whatever you love to do and ignore what others say about you. "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.". "Stay hungry, stay foolish".

Saturday, June 11, 2005

What to do in case of an auto accident

One of my friends just had an auto accident. A strong will man as he is, he still blames himself for not handling the situation well. Showing my sympathy to him, I know I need to be prepared for a unfortunate situation.

From now on, I am going to keep my insurance company's claim service card, a disposable camera, and a list of what to do in my vehicle.

In case of an accident, I will:

  1. Try to move my vehicle out of the flow of traffic if possible.

  2. Determine if anyone is injured, call 911 immediately and report any injuries.

  3. Took pictures of the scene. Write an account of what happened: time of day, weather, hazards, road conditions and driving speed. Draw a picture of the site if no camera is available, showing stop signs, signal lights, etc. Try to measure skid marks and determine the point of impact. Note any damage already on other cars involved.

  4. Call police, but I know that they may not come unless someone is seriously injured or there is damage to public property.

  5. If police officers do come, write down the names and badge numbers of the police officers and ask how to obtain a copy of the police report.

  6. Exchange information with the other people involved in the accident.
    Information about the other people's car.
    Car's year:
    License plate number:

    Information about the other people.
    Name of car's owner if different from driver:
    Telephone number:
    Driver's license number:

    The other people's insurance information.
    Name of the company:
    The policy number:
    The extent of coverage:
    The name of the agent:

    Witness's information.
    Telephone number:

  7. File a report of the accident with DMV if the accident involves more than $500 of property damage or any personal injuries.

  8. If injured, Seek medical attention immediately.

I won't admit fault. Turn the facts over to the insurance company and let them decide who is liable for payment.

I won't discuss specifics of the accident with others involved. If there is a dispute over who is at fault, further discussion may just muddy the waters. Also avoid telling others how much insurance I carry.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Way to learn new words every day

Usually I encounter new words when I am reading online. Firefox offers a good way to look them up, just type “dict newword” in the URL location bar. It will bring me to and I will be able to see what the word means.

I noticed this gives an edge to my vocabulary built-up. I get a list of new words with history.

  • Open the history tab of firefox browser;
  • Set view by date and site;

I can see a list of words I searched today, yesterday or a week ago.

Remember learning by repetition? I can review them at the end of a day or a week and see how many of them I still memorize. If I forget a word, I can easily check it up by clicking the link. It is like I have word cards categorized by dates.