Jon Rants About eBay Feedback

I’ve been on eBay for over 10 years, so forgive me if I rant like an old man here…

I received an email today from the seller of an item I recently won on eBay. It read…

Hey I saw the stylus was delivered today so I thought I’d see if you wanted to exchange positive feedback? I’m new so I could definitely use it, thanks =)

Equal sign smiley face aside, cranky old man Jon read this as…

Hey – you got the item. Leave me feedback before I’ll leave it for you.

Now call me crazy, but as soon as I pay for the item, I believe the seller should leave me feedback. I mean, I fulfilled my end of the agreement – I paid you money. I don’t have to do another damn thing to be considered a “good” buyer. This is especially true now that eBay only allows sellers to leave positive feedback.

When I get the item, and it looks good and I’m happy, I’ll leave you feedback because it’s what is expected. Now if you want to drop me an email a few weeks later and say “Hey, I hope you’re happy with the item. I left feedback for you earlier, and if you have the time, I’d appreciate it if you could leave some for me”, that’s fine. But don’t make it sound like a hostage swap – the buyer’s responsibility ends at payment. That is when feedback should be left!

A Victory for Paper

Just as I change bags often (i.e. the bag I just posted on last month is now on break for another bag), I also alternate between note taking methods ranging from full paper (Moleskine notebooks that I then scan into Evernote – and these are pre-Evernote-version Moleskines, although I have one of the new Evernote Moleskines to try) to augmented paper (i.e. a Livescribe Echo and more recently Sky pen) to full digital (Noteshelf on iPad). With the addition of the Sky pen for Christmas, I’ve gone back to paper this last week, and surprisingly I found something paper is better at.

Photo on 1-9-13 at 7.46 AM
LiveScribe Lined Journal + Sky Smartpen

Normally at the start of a semester my class rosters are all over the place. Students add, they drop, they change sections, etc… I usually resorted to looking at the list online and thinking “OK, who’s not here… who added… ???”. This week I actually took the time to write out each roster in my notebook (figuring that it would make roll quicker and would give me a chance to start learning names – with 56 names to write, it didn’t take too long). An additional unexpected benefit was that it’s now really easy to track changes. Cross out a name, add it in with a note, etc… Somehow I don’t see myself able to do this as easily in Noteshelf or Excel.

That being said, I have a Pengo Brushpen coming in the mail to try with Noteshelf & Sketchpad, so we’ll see if the paper notebook survives the next few weeks or if it goes out of rotation (Of course as with all my gadgets, it will rotate back in at some point, I’m sure!).

New Blogroll Entries

a person blogging
Flickr: kpwerker

I’ve just added two new blogs to my Blogroll, both former students of mine at Columbia. David Zhu shares insightful thoughts on “finance/economics, careers, education, US-China relations” as well as his own thoughts and musings. Elle Christine blogs about her life as a junior at Columbia, her travels, and her future as it shapes up.

It’s also with sadness that I’ve removed my link to Insignificant Thoughts, as Mr. Ferrari has decided to retire it. I’m sure he’ll be launching a new project soon, it’s not like him to not be creative by nature.

Enjoy reading great blog content, and supporting bloggers!

Thanksgiving Thank-Yous 2011

This past month many people I know have taken the time  each day on Facebook to post a status update listing something they were thankful for. In the same spirit, I figured I’d write one very long post in which I thank specific people who have made my life the enjoyable experience I have to look forward to every morning when I wake up. Since I suspect this will take some time, let’s get started… Continue reading “Thanksgiving Thank-Yous 2011”

Still Here!

Wow, this place gets really empty when I don’t pipe in my daily activities! About 2 months ago I turned back into full blog posts, without any republishing of my content from Thoughts Media. My site is broken and I haven’t fixed that yet, and I’ve been bogged down with a writing project (Windows Phone 7 book), oh, and I also resurrected and have moved some of my content over there.

So in summation, I’m still here, and still plan on writing in this Blog, just as soon as I have some time Winking smile

Scan Directly From Your Office to Evernote

Many of us work in offices that have multifunction printers / scanners / copiers / faxes / latte machines (OK, maybe not the last part), and these machines typically support sending scans via e-mail as PDF attachments. This is great for those of us (like me) who are making a real effort to go paperless as much as possible. But it’s still a pain to get the email and file the paper away in it’s right place. So to speed things up, I hooked up my personal scanner (at home, a Lexmark) and the office scanner at work directly to Evernote via some crafty GMail filters. While this works best if you use Gmail for your e-mail, you could set this up even if you don’t use GMail primarily  by simply having your scans sent there. Here is the filter I set up:

What does the filter do? Well first it skips the inbox so that I don’t have to see the notes there. Then it marks as read so I don’t see it in my unread pile. Then it throws a Label on it that I call Evernoted so that I can keep track of these things if I ever want to. It then forwards it to my address, which I’ve obscured. I have an Evernote notebook named “Incoming Notes” that is my default notebook. This is my “sorting space” that I use to sort notes out after a sync. Finally the filter never sends the e-mail to SPAM, because it’s not likely those two addresses will be spamming me anytime soon (since they’re both printers).

Pretty efficient, and there are other possibilities too. For example, a group of people could set up a shared evernote account and shared gmail account to make an impromptu document scan repository using Evernote’s public sharing of notebooks. Do you have a twist on this as well? Go ahead and leave it in the comments!

Congress – Don’t Waste My Money Recognizing Me!

So apparently there is a drive to make this week “National Postdoc Appreciation Week”. When I heard of this initially, I figured it was just some fanciful idea, something fairly harmless. That was until I got an email today (Full text below) asking me to write to my congressional representative asking to sponsor a bill to actually make this official. Here’s an excerpt of the email:

Dear Fellow Postdoc/Postdoc Administrator:

We URGENTLY need you to contact any and all members of the US House of
Representatives THIS WEEK and request that they co-sponsor H.Res. 1545
to formally recognize Sept. 20-24 as National Postdoctoral Appreciation
Week. It is currently in the US House Committee on Education and Labor.
We just found out today that it requires 25 or more co-sponsors to be
passed by the Committee and be put on the suspension bill calendar for a
vote next week (those are non-controversial usually non-partisan bills
like this one where they suspend the House rules and vote quickly).

Now disregarding the false urgency implied here, the rest of the e-mail goes on to detail all the good things about having a whole week dedicated to recognizing postdocs. I was a bit annoyed though. Remember my rant a few months back on Post Office Renaming ? Well, it immediately came to mind, so I drafted the following response to the originator of this movement:

Dear Aaron,

Recently your e-mail was directed to me through our director of postdoctoral affairs. I’ve only recently learned of the movement to create a National Postdoctoral Appreciation Week and as such, I was surprised to see your impassioned plea that this be made an official recognition through congressional action. Unfortunately, I believe I disagree with your position.

While I believe that postdocs make a substantial contribution to academia both in teaching and research, I find it disagreeable that the resources of my congress be used in such a manner as to bring national attention to them. As I’ve outlined on my own personal blog, congressional resources are not free, as a taxpayer I am financing in some small part all business of the legislature. Honestly, I believe my money is better spent by the legislature in attempts to fix social and economic ills rather than on recognition for any group of individuals. In this case, I do not believe recognition can bring about change such as better pay or benefits for postdocs – only negotiations between postdocs and their respective institutions can do this. Obviously our employers already know of the contributions we make, their ignorance of our needs is not something that this bill would provide in any way. Therefore I believe it is my duty to write to my congressional representation and request they do not sponsor the bill you advocate. I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Sincerely yours,
Jon Westfall.

As I said before in the Post Office Rant. Recognizing someone for their contributions is an excellent idea. I try to recognize all of the people I work with for the unique contributions they bring to our group that help me be a better researcher, scientist, and even person. But what good does it do for me to recognize people I don’t even know? Why should I recognize a profession as a whole when it would be much more genuine to appreciate individuals. Recognition weeks, months, days, etc… make people feel as though they’re recognizing someone else, when in reality, they’re simply handwaving. If you want to make someone else feel special, do it on a personal level.

And don’t use my money for it!

Full Text (Please feel free to contact Aaron to let him know if you think I’m an idiot and he’s doing a great thing):

—–Original Message—–
From: Aaron T. Dossey []
Sent: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:14 PM
To: Aaron T. Dossey
Subject: Urgent: Need help with pro-postdoc advocacy.

Dear Fellow Postdoc/Postdoc Administrator:

We URGENTLY need you to contact any and all members of the US House of
Representatives THIS WEEK and request that they co-sponsor H.Res. 1545
to formally recognize Sept. 20-24 as National Postdoctoral Appreciation
Week. It is currently in the US House Committee on Education and Labor.
We just found out today that it requires 25 or more co-sponsors to be
passed by the Committee and be put on the suspension bill calendar for a
vote next week (those are non-controversial usually non-partisan bills
like this one where they suspend the House rules and vote quickly).

Earlier this year I wrote a resolution on behalf of the National
Postdoctoral Association and submitted it to the congressman for my
district on a whim. We were fortunate that his office was interested in
it right away and over the summer he (Cliff Stearns) sponsored it and
submitted it to the Committee. (see URLs and emails below)

Now we need your help for it to be voted on DURING National Postdoc
Appreciation Week. Please contact any and all members of congress and
ask that they contact Rep. Stearns’ office and co-sponsor it THIS WEEK!
This will be very beneficial for many advocacy efforts on behalf of
postdocs and all young researchers and their careers, as well as
innovation, science, technology and education as a whole in this country!

Here are some URLs for the bill itself and that will help you find
contact information for various members of congress to contact. Also,
below is the usual “Dear Colleagues” letter you can also distribute to
the congressional staff members you talk to – it’s the official one from
Rep. Stearns’ office and contains the name and email address of his
staffer in charge of this bill (Nicole Alexander).


Aaron T. Dossey, Ph.D.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Satanic Possession via Justin Bieber

Ye Li, an incredibly talented co-worker of mine who is well versed in pop culture and Internet Meme-ery sent me a link the other day to the “How Many Justin Biebers Could You Take In A Fight” Quiz (It was hot in NYC that day, and apparently that caused a Justin Bieber song to revolve around Ye’s head like a pack of wild wolves revolves around hurt prey). I decided to take the quiz because, well, it was late in the day and I wanted something fun to do after a pretty stressful afternoon. The first question asks you to listen to a Bieber song on YouTube and give your impression of it, with such whimsical answers as “Is that a guy or girl singing” and “OH GOD MAKE IT STOP!”. I pressed Play on the embedded player and got the video going, and Google helpfully provided me some ads in the lower third. The first ad amused me more than the quiz though:

That’s right ladies and gentlemen – if you listen to Baby by Justin Bieber, Google thinks it’s quite possible that you need to take the Demon Test. Gotta wonder what the analytics data was that caused this association to occur!

Happy Weekend everyone – steer clear of possessed Justin Bieber fans and have a great couple of days off!

Adjectives & Nouns

Last week, for about 3 days, my GTalk status (As well as my AIM status) read the following:

“If you’re reading this, open up a new e-mail and put my address in the To line, a noun in the body, and an adjective in the subject. I’ll write a story about them and send it back to you”. After a few days, I had two responses. Here’s the stories, in case you’re interested:

Story 1: diluvial Cinnamon

Old man Cinnamon knew it would surely be a horrible day as he gazed out across his farm. Earlier in the week his favorite cow, Bessie (a stereotypical cow in name only, as she had a graduate degree in physics, was an expert markswoman, and of course could talk), had lost the state sharpshooting contest when she was disqualified for using performance enhancing grass. Later that night, Bessie drowned in the diluvial lake after smoking way too much weed. Cinnamon was inconsolable, until he heard a shot ring out from the barn and knew that Clucky, his penultimate favorite chicken had decided to take up Bessie’s legacy.

Story 2: Battered Goldfish

Robert Goldfish knew that the evening was sure to be delightful as he entered the mortuary. Bob (as his friends and enemies knew him) was tired but looking forward to the 42 embalmings awaiting him. As he prepared his work area, he read the report on the first deceased. She’d been bludgeoned, beaten, hit, belted, bonked, slapped, swatted, wallopped, chopped, and banged on the head repeatedly in a case of domestic assault, truly a sad case. As the night went on, he grew even more excited at the prospect of finishing the dirty yet somewhat calming work he enjoyed doing only at night, when the direct sunlight would not hit him as he entered and exited the mortuary. As morning rays of light started to peek through the tepid clouds, Mr. Goldfish left the mortuary, went home, and battered up some pork chops for breakfast.

Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have always used the noun as a proper noun… Anyway, if you’re reading this and want your own story, send me an e-mail and put an adjective in the subject and a noun in the body!