Why a human is necessary to do this job

I was going through old emails and stumbled across one from yonks ago. I thought I’d share the following anecdote with you:

There was a guy I was about to post on Charley (he’s not on there anymore), and his details said he was Chinese. The problem, though, was that his last name was Nguyen. Nguyen is a Vietnamese name as far as I knew. It certainly didn’t sound Chinese, and it made me wonder whether they’d gotten his national origin wrong. Without further I contacted my friend John (you’ve heard of him before) to ask about it. Not only is John’s father Vietnamese, but John himself has a master’s degree in East Asian Studies with a focus on China. Oh, and he’s a lawyer too. He’s a genius and everything I might have become and didn’t.

Could a person named Nguyen be Chinese, I asked him, or were there any Vietnamese people living in China? He replied that Nguyen was most definitely Vietnamese and only Vietnamese, and although China did have a small Vietnamese population he thought it was much more likely that the agency had just made a mistake.

Just to be on the safe side I marked Mr. Nguyen as “Asian” without specifying where in Asia.

In another instance, even further back, a young woman missing in California was wearing a Bowdin College sweatshirt. I saw that and knew right away that it had to be a mistake: there is no such place as Bowdin college and as far as I know there never has been. There is, however, a Bowdoin College, and I think it’s pronounced “Bo-din.” And it may significant that Bowdoin College is all the way over in Maine, about as far away as you can be and still be in the country. It’s a stretch but that case is one of the “few details are available” ones so I’ll take what I can get.

Anyway, I don’t think a computer could have been able to figure out either of those things. Computer-generated matches and stuff are great. But sometimes a human eye is required.

11 thoughts on “Why a human is necessary to do this job

  1. Peter Henderson September 24, 2012 / 12:11 pm


    Bowdoin Collage is in Maine. My brothers long standing girlfriend Dr. Nancy Kravit, was a visiting assistant professor of biology at Bowdoin from 92 to 94. She is now at the University of Maine. My brother Ken is a artist, the fact that the two have completely different disciplines is probable one reason why they are still together.

    It’s a long shot but I am going to send Nancy a e-mail and see if she knows anything about Christine Young Ho Park. If she was a undergraduate at Bowdoin Nancy probably will not but if Christine was working on her masters or doctorate at Bowdoin its possible. I wish we knew why she was at the Arrowhead Springs Christian Conference Center. It seems that they host a large number of events from various organizations.

    For extra points who was the collage’s most famous President? Hint – think Maine, the civil war and one of America’s most famous battles. They even have a local beer named after him.

    • Meaghan September 24, 2012 / 12:20 pm

      Are you sure Bowdoin offers graduate degrees? Most places called “college” as opposed to “university” do not.

      • Lily B November 6, 2013 / 11:47 pm

        Hi. I hope it’s okay I’m dropping in—I was on Christine Young Ho Park’s websleuths page and googled her name, and found myself here.
        Just FYI Bowdoin College does not have a grad school. It is only undergrad

      • Peter Henderson Jr. November 7, 2013 / 6:33 am

        My bad Lily. I just checked again and it says “Some postdoctoral students and visiting scholars.” That sounds like visiting lecturers or postdoctoral students monitoring a individual class not full time students, so Meaghan as far as Bowdoin goes you are correct.

  2. Princess Shantae September 24, 2012 / 12:45 pm

    Didn’t Meadow Soprano go to Bowdoin? Or at least she went up there to visit?
    Peter, is it somebody named Chamberlain?

    • Meaghan May 25, 2015 / 7:46 am

      I have no idea why I’m replying to this two and a half years after the fact, but Wikipedia says Meadow went to Columbia.

  3. Storyteller September 24, 2012 / 12:45 pm

    Makes you wonder how and where this information comes about. The Connie Smith case discription drives me crazy when it states that she was seen picking flowers by the maintenance man, when you read other reports you see where she stops a few feet down the road to ask directions the neighbor said she looked to have been crying. Does that sound like a ten year old girl who just walked way from summer camp in an area she knows nothing about because she came from rural Wyoming. Sounds more like a girl on a mission to someplace to solve a problem where her camp couldn’t or wouldn’t give her a solution she needed.

  4. Peter Henderson September 24, 2012 / 2:42 pm

    Not entirely Meaghan, some schools still call themselves college’s even though they offer graduate programs. Bowdoin is one, Boston Collage is another. The rule of thumb used to be schools who referred to themselves as collage’s used to concentrate on one or two disciplines.

    For instance Western Connecticut State University was first called Danbury State Teachers Collage, then during the time I took classes there it was called Western Connecticut State Collage. But even when it was WCSC it offered advanced degrees in a number of disciplines, not just teaching.

    Yes Princess Shantae on the HBO series The Soprano’s, Meadow Soprano visited Bowdoin while looking at various schools. If you remember Tony killed a guy following them in Maine. Meadow eventually went to Columbia University, the same school my brothers girlfriend Nancy went to as a undergraduate in real life.

    Yes my joking extra point was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, regimental commander of the famed 20th Maine.

    My bother Ken and I have a standing joke, what’s the difference between the 20th Maine and the 17th Connecticut?

    Answer: the seventeenth Connecticut’s commander Lieut. Col. Douglas Fowler was blow to bits by canister grapeshot on the first day of battle.

    So while the 20th Maine became immortalized, first in letters and lectures by Chamberlain, then in film and Michael Shaara’s novel ‘The Killer Angels,’ the 17th Connecticut was all but ignored. Even though the 17th were fighting a equally desperate struggle on the opposite side of the battlefield. The good news is both regiments held their ground, drove the Confederates back, and the Union won. A estimated 3.5 million people were finally set free as the result, although it would take over a year and many more dead from both regiments to make that happen.

    Storyteller Connie Smith was seen by nine people that day. “Near Belgo Road, Connie tried to hitchhike a ride from Mr. and Mrs. John Brun, heading for their Lakeville business establishment. They became no. 7 and 8 to regret because they passed her by as she stood on the right (South Side) of the road. Through the rear view mirror Brun could see her walking along towards Lakeville. At 8:45 Mrs. Frank E. Barnett, a housewife, was driving from Millerton on Route 44 and just before turning into Belgo Road said she saw the little girl walking east on the north side of Route 44.”

    I think Connie’s tent mates were fibbing. I think the bloody nose and possible the injury the previous day were the result of a fight. This would explain why Connie was crying when she stopped at the first woman’s house to ask for directions.

    A bit of background. My mom’s brother Raymond Becker, his wife, and their six children, my cousins, lived up route 44 from where Connie vanished. Lakeville is a subsection of Salisbury. The small village had a few shops and a gas station back in 1952. The gas station had a public phone and I think that’s what Connie was heading for that day. I think she was planning on calling her mom in Greenwich to tell her she wanted to go home.

    If interested, you can read a bit about my wife Charlene and her interest and cemetery adventures with the 17th Connecticut at this link.
    “An Awesometalk With” CHARLENE HENDERSON: The 17th Regiment CVI Gravesite Location Project

    About Connie Smith

  5. Peter Henderson September 24, 2012 / 2:52 pm

    Sorry about Connie Smith

  6. Peter Henderson September 24, 2012 / 3:39 pm

    Additional note. I should have said click next on my Facebook pictures for additional photos and information about Connie

    A small side note. My uncle Ray was a former Boy Scout camp official. When Connie first vanished he helped in the search efforts. Years later when visiting my cousins they would kid me saying; “don’t wander to far you may end up like Connie Smith.” Back then I figured Connie was a Boy Scout camp fire story like the “green eyed monster” or “I want your liver.” Only decades later as a adult would I find out she was a real little girl – forever lost.

  7. Princess Shantae September 24, 2012 / 5:13 pm

    The sad part of the whole sad story is that Connie had been having a good enough time at camp that she asked to be able to stay longer, but her mother told her no. Guess she had some second thoughts.

    My favorite Soprano episode is the one where Tony sends Christopher and Paulie to deal with this Russian guy that either owes him money or has been stealing from him. They catch the Russian guy all hung over and in his pajamas and take him out to the woods to make him dig his own grace. He talks in Russian which they can’t understand of course but you see it on the screen. He says he was with the interiotr ministry in Chechnya and the cold means nothing to him because of his training in Siberia and all that. Then he jumps Paulie and Christopher and takes off in their car, leaving them in the woods with no idea how to get back to town and no way to get there if they did know.
    They blunder around the woods till night time when they find an abandoned plumbing van to sleep in, and it’s very cold and all they find to eat is some little ketchup packets. They try to call Tony on a cell phone but theyr signal is all messed up so you hear somebody talking in Chinese during their call. Paulie tries to tell Tony how dangerous the Russian guy is but in his simple mind he gets it all confused and says “He’s an interior decorator from Czechoslovakia!”
    And Tony is busy having a fight with his girlfriend so the two guys aren’t rescued till the next day. Its a very funny episode.

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