Fitbit is losing momentum

Why I am saying that?

I am the only active person among my “Fitbit friends”. So I assume it could means a few things:
1) All my friends stopped wearing Fitbit;
2) All my friends did not sync (or their Fitbit could not sync, which I admit is a real problem for Fitbit);
3) All my friends got Apple watch (or something nicer, good for them :-)

IMG_5651

The stock (NYSE:FIT) has been absolutely horrible YTD, or to be more exact since its IPO about 15 months ago. I am glad my trades worked out this year though :-)

FIT_trades

I am speculating one reason is Apple Watch is taking off. Although I tried to stay away from that $300+ “need to be charged daily, always on” gadget, it seems it’s the inevitable with the so called “series 2”. I feel the nike+ version with the swimming is the way to go. Now if I could offload a few items on ebay to make the $300 bucks…

Transition to first grade

Serenity started 1st grade this fall. Same school. I have some ideas on first grade, mostly around the homework, “more serious school” vs. the kindergarten which has more play time. I learned from fellow parents last year when they talked about it after MFS (I volunteered there).

Seeing is believing. Serenity now has been in 1st grade for over a month. Some impressions:
1) More work, either schoolwork or the work we gave her.

2) More seriousness, definitely, she got a tardy slip (her first) because we were late in the morning, we were probably late for 2 or 3 minutes (but still late, no excuse here), as I saw we were the only car in the car pool lane which is the only time like this.

3) More pressure, or expectations, besides on time, they were expected to listen more carefully when the teacher talks, and follow directions quickly, etc.

Those are my initial impressions, after a bit over a month school.

What kind of person I like my daughters to become

1) Confident, independent (not blindly follow other or influenced by others opinion), strong (not easily quit, grit, or perseverance) ;

2) Empathy, humility, know how to wear other people’s shoes and feel other people’s pain (同情心);

3) 不卑不亢(english translation? It seems bullet 1 covers this too. List it here as this is my father taught me, likely from his own life experience.);

4) Grounded, down to earth. Don’t take self too seriously, have a sense of humor. 平易近人, 幽默感。

Switch to Ting wireless, mistake on car insurance

I decided to switch my wireless carrier again, from H2O wireless to Ting. I stayed with H2O for over a year, mostly satisfied, except recently I started using its per minute data, which seems burn my money quickly. I heard about Ting from friend before, but I forgot to do the referral. :-( Anyway I switched my wife’s T-mobile prepaid to Ting last week, and I just did mine this evening. The only thing Ting needs is the IMEI number of iPhone, the account number or the pin from the older carrier. In the case of t-mobile, it’s last 4 digits of phone number; the the case of the H2O, it’s the last 4 or SIM card number. Here is how to find it on iPhone: Settings => General => About => ICCID number. IMEI number can be found in similar fashion.

By doing this, essentially I combined my phone and my wife’s phone into one account. Besides that, my wife also gets some data usage, which she does not have previously.

Car accident and the rental coverage in car insurance
I used to have the rental coverage in my car insurance. But in recent review, I decided not to keep it for my 2012 Sienna to save some money (about $13.25 per 6 month), as I thought the extended warranty (service contract) will cover in the case of repair. A mistake on my side. Yesterday my wife got into an accident while driving sienna, and I need to bring it to car bodyshop, which also means I need a rental car. The cost is about $30 per day from Enterprise. So I think I will shell out about $200 (assume 7 days) while trying to save $13.25. :-(

Also, looking back I really should not have bought the extended warranty (EW) for the used certified Sienna. For 3 years besides the routine maintenance, the main cost is to fix the squirrels chewing the cables, and replace four tires. Both were not covered by the EW. Obviously they don’t cover accident either :-( I would put my money in my own pocket next time.

PS: the minivan is already in shop. It’s a bit surprising that I mostly used the Geico app for appointment and status checking.

PS2: it appears Ting is using T-mobile network, the signal is not as good as AT&T which is used by H2O wireless. There is network degradation or no signal near my work place :-(

That sinking feeling 真的是狼来了坏事了?

Talking about tests exams and realized I made a big mistake, this happens quite often when I was in middle school. My solution to that was not talk about or think about it after a test. But that did not work for Gaokao. As we had to estimate how we did after the test, then decided the schools we wanted to apply (or realistically speaking, they will accept us). In Chinese it’s called 估分和填志愿。

Working days 开始工作: leaving work and on the car thinking about the automatic job running could have issues, and don’t know where I can find a useful wifi hotspot (like this afternoon). This is a bit like second guessing myself, which in many cases turn out my 1st attempt was good (including this afternoon). This is also a bit like in an exam, when I had time to review and was not sure about the answer to some question, I could make some change and basically changed some “correct” answers to “wrong” ones. Also keep in mind even in a few cases it did turn out I made small mistake initially, the mistake was mostly harmless, excepting waste some of my time or slow down other teammate (one example was the integration job during ugs/Siemens days). On a related topic, about working after hours. Try to stay away from those unless absolutely necessary. I know we are knowledge workers, in a sense we never stop working, we can think about work related stuff all the time. Don’t. Don’t pull out work laptop and start coding (or something else) if we think of some good idea. Instead put a note to yourself on a phone. We can pick it up the next day. That’s called work life balance.

Other situations (family related), when I call my parents at regular time and they were not there, I would start worry: are you getting sick, or something; once I missed the call from my daughter’s school bus driver, I was really worried kid may have issue on the way from school to home. Other kids related topic, I recall once I dropped my daughter on the ground (on her back, or back head), I heard her cry, and was very worried and felt guilty did not holding her tight enough 很遗憾没有把她抓住. After talking to a doctor, she reassured me in most cases a kid would still be ok. :-)

This reminds me for my on call (pager duty), many times when alerts go off, the wolf did not actually come. The real situation usually is not as bad as we initially thought :-)

Hit the hay 最近几年住过的酒店

十几年前我回国在上海一般就住一个如家或锦江之星,挑一个离地铁比较近的酒店,这样上班办事都比较方便。那时候没有小孩,旅馆主要就是睡个觉,干净清爽就可以了。快进几年,有了两个小孩,住的酒店要求也稍有提高。托酒店信用卡促销的福,攒了些点数或是free nights, 我也升级了住的旅馆。在上海常住的旅馆有,徐家汇的万丽酒店(courtyard Shanghai xujiahui), 她家所在的楼叫西藏大厦,出租车司机如不清楚可提这个名字。另一家是浦东的喜来登福朋酒店(four points by Sheraton, Shanghai pudong, 又叫由由酒店,楼的名字),注意她家旁边有喜来登酒店(Sheraton Shanghai pudong, 5 star vs four points 4 star), 不要搞错。这两家的房间起价大概是800人民币左右。

最近一次有幸住了回陆家嘴的柏悦酒店(park hyatt),这个标价是大概300多美金,我用的是hyatt卡的开卡free nights. 看了下用chase ultimate rewards points 的话是2万点一晚。小孩很喜欢,因为有一些没见过的features. 我的头被淋浴喷头砸了一下。Uncle Major 进大观园。:-)

在美国最近住Hampton inn 比较多。还是觉得Hampton inn 接地气一些。这家Hilton 系列的中档酒店设计简单,实用,且包早餐。一般我这样小兵级别的人出差就住它家。对有小孩的家庭包早餐是一个挺有用的feature. Other hotels have similar feature include Hilton garden inn, holiday inn express and clarion. Last but not least, hhonors is the Hilton hotels reward program. Hampton inn usually costs 20,000 points (roughly $100).

Last but not least, tips. I know it’s a sensitive topic, but typically I gave $2 tip for the maid at Hampton (or equivalent hotels), put the note stating “for the maid” on the top of the bill so there is no confusion. Interestingly, in China I noticed the tipping culture is popular in Shanghai foreign brand hotels (4 star or above), I do give tips for people who handle my luggages (roughly $1 for a piece, which is similar to US standard). But in less developed areas, there is no such things as tip. People will laugh it off and give back the money.

Under the wing 旅途点滴

上面这个照片是我在最近一次的去中国的航班上照的。来美国有快二十年,坐过很多次飞跃太平洋的航班,坐的最多可能是美联航的航班。从芝加哥到上海的直航也就13,14个小时,加上从圣村到芝城的一个小时再加上几个小时的lay over, 总共的旅行时间比我当年从宁波到武汉上学的时间(大概是37,38小时,包括两次中转的时间)还短些。当然还比当年的火车舒服些。飞机坐多了,难免会有这样那样的事。最吓人的一回是2004年夏天从旧金山走,说是飞机起飞时发现翅膀发动机有火花。飞机在海上把满箱的油放掉后返航。当时乘务员给大家出了一个题,多少油,多少钱一加仑航空油。我算了一下大概是30多万美元。随着航空公司这两年越来越追求利润,不知道现在还会不会这样做?

还有一次是冬天,圣村到凤城的航班因雪晚点。等我赶到去上海的登机口,飞机已起飞。求工作人员能否让我standby 还没走的北京航班。也许是被我的诚意打动,工作人员给我改签了到北京的standby。飞北京的航班也已快结束登机,这一次还有一个空位。工作人员把已关闭的登机口再打开(我是第一回碰到这种情况),登机不久,飞机就离开登机口了。

这几年回国免不了坐动车高铁,速度快,不拥挤。还有味道不错的快餐。

我在大学时的火车可没这么好:慢,在春运时非常拥挤。第一年春节回校,在杭州转车。记得那天天气很好,中午到杭州后晚上再坐车,就跑到西湖边来晃晃。印象中杭州的女孩身材不错,穿着也比内地女孩稍时髦些,很有特点(妩媚又很得体)。有一次在南昌转车,好像是南昌到北京的车(经过武汉)。不光没位置,而且连站的地方都没有。火车还在株洲还是武昌附近弄了很长时间的临时停车。记得当时一个武大还是华工科英的88级的女生给削了一个苹果,印象很深。在火车上基本上不想吃东西,也不怎么喝水。当时火车挤到什么程度?不知道80后,90后的同学有否体会?一个厕所里站了7个人,有个女孩想用洗手间,叫里面的男生出来一下,女生背对。结果没人响应,只能再挤一节车厢。另一次我记得我的一个宁波老乡在火车上说到家洗个热水澡,再抽根烟那是最美的事了。还有一个老乡,他家的条件好一些,就坐飞机去武汉,是运七飞机,螺旋桨的。我相信这些都是过去式了。

还有一些旅行的轶事和碰到的好心人,下回再说吧

Hotels in Shanghai I stayed in recent years

Courtyard in Xujiahui (formerly Tibet hotel, as you can see the rooftop design, tripAdvisor, marriott website). Good location and friendly people. I recall the first time I visited (2011), I used my Marriott rewards and silver status, the front desk especially got the leader over and greet. I suspect at that time, perhaps there were not many guests with Marriott silver status. In fact for me it’s just a benefit of Marriott card via Chase. The location is really nice. There is a restaurant next to the hotel. And some convenience stores in walking distance. It’s within the walking distance of Xujiahui business district. It costs 10,000 points Marriott points or about 700 to 800 CNY per night. I stayed there a few times.

Four Points by Sheraton in Pudong (starwood hotel website, tripAdvisor). It costs 4000 SPG points. It’s bigger than the Courtyard Xujiahui, in fact many things in Pudong is bigger than Puxi, think it as downtown vs. suburban in the US (as one of my Haigui friends once said). The cash rate is between $72 to about $200 per night (depends on room).

Another hotel, I have not stayed, but will stay this June, is Park Hyatt in Shanghai Pudong (tripAdvisor). I am going to use my Hyatt free night there. The going rate is a bit expensive, I think.

Note I used to stay at budget hotels in Shanghai back in 2006/7. Now with family and kids, I can no longer do that.

Time to say bye to Yahoo mail

I know I know, I must live in stone age by using Yahoo mail. I do have gmail, but since I had Yahoo mail earlier than gmail (1998 vs. 2004, I think), I still rely on yahoo mail for some online accounts. This is even after some horrible incidents happened, in which someone stole my yahoo mail and sent out spams to everyone on my address book. Another reason I kept it, is all these archives. Sometime I search information from the Yahoo mail, e.g., my frequent flyer number I could not remember, etc. This means I could not divorce from yahoo mail that easily. But it’s something in my mind, and today I started to pull the plug. It could take a while.

The main reason I did this, is in last 2 days, I received 2 spams in yahoo mail, that on the surface both looked credible. This and the incident above implies one thing: Yahoo could not keep up with the modern email esp. security and spam filter technology anymore. I expect Gmail could tell the difference between spam and good email, and I expect them to keep my email account safe. Btw, the 2 spams appeared sent from Amazon and Paypal. So the first thing I did was to change may email for those 2 plus eBay from Yahoo mail to Gmail. I will change more as times goes. And will share if there is any tips or gotchas. Stay tuned…

Inflight wifi

I’d read this one first, because it explains the technology and the players.

Gizmodo (Adam Clark Estes 5/04/15 3:41pm): Every Major Airline’s Wifi Service, Explained and Ranked

Some background why Gogo is the dominant player at this time.
Bloomberg (Sam Grobart | August 26, 2015): Why Gogo’s Infuriatingly Expensive, Slow Internet Still Owns the Skies

RunwayGirlNetwork has a lot of articles on this topic, such as the following:
US transcon war heats up as Virgin America taps ViaSat for Internet By Seth Miller

Gogo to launch global Ground-to-Orbit connectivity (a bit old, note 2014/03)

14 Oct 2015 JetBlue hits major milestones with Fly-Fi rollout By Seth Miller →

Now you know carrier wise, Jet Blue is the leader in terms of inflight wifi. This is consistent with the Gizmodo article above.

The Gogo AA dispute
Bloomberg: Gogo Plummets as American Airlines Eyes Competitor ViaSat Michaela Ross Mary Schlangenstein

16 Feb 2016 American looks to swap Gogo for ViaSat on 200 aircraft By Seth Miller →

Beyond sky
Wi-Fi on Cruises: Five Popular Ships Ranked Written by Cynthia Drescher May 15, 2015. Note the newer generation technology behind the inflight wifi and cruise ship wifi are similar: satellite. The thing impressed me (quote below): Speed tests on a preview cruise, with every passenger provided complimentary access, measured an average of 5.00 Mbps download and 4.33 Mbps upload.