Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ssstand Back-- I'll Strike

Personal Space. It's something so valuable, yet in my opinion, so rarely respected. People violate my personal space ALL the time, and it has been a constant source of irritation for me. I'd like to create a warning system for personal space violators, such as the method of hissing that has so elegantly been evolved by our friend the snake.

I have formulated my own Laws of Personal Space. They're exactly like Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, except angrier. They are as follows:

Law 1. In an area where there exist multiple spaces in which persons are present, one entering such an area must choose to exist in the space which is furthest from any other person, or at least a reasonable distance away. Exceptions include extreme disparity in space quality, such as a dirty table.

So hello, freak in the bathroom who wants to pee right next to me for some reason-- when I'm in the end stall and all of the other ones are clean-- go to the fucking other side of the bathroom. This situation is even more enjoyable when said person talks on a cell phone while doing whatever it is she's doing. Please, I do NOT want strangers on the other end listening to my digestive and endocrine systems' functions. Bathroom doors close for a reason: it's called privacy. Do you really think your friend wants to listen to flushing toilets while you blab on about your weekend? Not that there's a difference in sound to me.

And to the guy who sits at my table in the coffee shop when I'm clearly doing work and there are at least 2 other tables available-- get out of here, asshole. No, you cannot sit next to me, although the bullshit laws of society say that I'm a bitch if I tell you that no, you cannot in fact sit next to me, because I am trying to work, and your presence-- especially when you are slurping your coffee and rustling your stupid free newspaper-- is highly distracting and makes me want to stab you to death with my mechanical pencil.

Law1, Article A. If you are talking loudly on a cell phone while the background noise is otherwise ambient-- AND at such time you are in direct violation of Law 1-- the degree to which you are an asshole is proportional to your proximity to me raised to the 3rd power.

Ass=Id^3, where I is the Irritation Constant, expressed in units of [assholes m^-3], and d is the distance from me in meters.

This means you, girl who sat at an adjacent table to me when there was literally no one else at any other table and proceeded to discuss your lame ass weekend with whichever flaky girlfriend of yours was vapid enough to pick up the phone. Why couldn't you be considerate and sit at another table 20 meters away from me? You saw I was absorbed in work and even if I wasn't-- why would you assume that anyone wouldn't mind listening to your verbal garbage sputtered with omg!s and like,s (yes, the comma is supposed to be there)? You're like, totally lame.

This also means you, guy who came into our tiny apartment complex workspace room when I was the only one in there doing work, and proceeded to use the room for your business calls. You live in fucking LA, which means there is a plethora of quiet spaces outside in the beautiful weather where you can sit talking on the phone for literally hours and not be a bother to anybody. Why did you choose to sit in the small room next to the girl with piles of papers, a calculator and computer splayed out on the table? Why did you do it? Oh, and then you propped open the door to the lobby, where a receptionist was talking loudly on the phone, music was playing, and kids were yelling. When I closed the door 10 minutes later, you opened it again. That wasn't at all inconsiderate.

Law 2. If you observe someone doing work, absorbed in conversation (cell phone or otherwise), or involved in any other activity which would be impertinent to interrupt, do not bother that person, especially not to ask inane questions.

So that means you, large and flaky woman who interrupted my cell phone conversation the other week to ask me directions in an area I was not even remotely familiar with-- go eat a baby or something. Don't flag me down and block my path on the sidewalk so you can ask me a question you could have asked 1031413813 other people who were NOT engaged in conversations or who perhaps were working at the convenience store right on the corner. I hate you so much and I hope you never made it to whichever ice cream store you were seeking. (Harsh, I know. But I was involved in a serious conversation and she very rudely interrupted me.)

Law 2, Article 1: If you see someone wearing headphones, do not try to communicate with that person, and more importantly, do not assume said person can hear you. Allowable exceptions to the ban on communication include the case of fires, earthquakes, threatening criminal activity, and snakes on a plane.

So random guy trying to hit on me on the train. No-- I cannot fucking hear you. If I had an interest in talking to you, perhaps I would, I don't know, take off my headphones? I certainly wouldn't keep my head down and my nose in a book. Yes, maybe you got my attention because you waved your stupid hand in front of my face, forcing me to take off the headphones and mumble that yes, my book is good-- but then I put them right back on and proceeded to ignore you. Get a clue. And middle-aged woman asking what stop this is (or whatever it is you're trying to mouth)-- I can't hear you, and there are plenty of people who can whom you can ask. I have the right to ignore anyone I choose, and I choose to ignore you for so many reasons.

Law 3: The asshole relation for one handing out flyers on the street or local campus cobblestone walk can be expressed by the following simple exponential relation:

Ass = I(l) d^4, where I is the Irritation Constant as a function of the location and frequency of which I have to walk by, and d is once again distance in meters.

This same law applies to any sort of solicitor, such as telemarketers (I=1024), promoters, and retail sales people who refuse to accept that you're "just browsing".

UC Berkeley overly zealous activists, I'm looking at you in particular. Especially the girl who literally followed me halfway down an entire block to hand me a flyer because I pulled a Peter Gibbons on her (she was in my path and I simply ignored her and walked around)-- while wearing my headphones, I might add. I found her in direct violation of Law 2 Article 1 AND Law 3. I didn't take her flyer, and I have absolutely no idea what she was promoting, because the music was blasting. Score. I'd like to thank New York City for helping me develop such an astounding capacity to ignore those around me.

So yeah, I really like my personal space and being left alone. It's funny, because I'm not at all the type of person who will freak out if someone touches me or who won't let others in because I'm such a recluse-- but I like being left alone by those who really just don't matter. I realize there are various social "duties" to be nice and converse with strangers, but those really aren't for me, and frankly, I think they are bullshit-- unless one actually gains joy from such things. I understand there are people who do, so good for them. Have your conversations with the Greenpeace folks and let weird squirrelly guy sit next to you at Starbuck's. Fine. But that's not me. I can't be bothered, and I think the people who think I should have to be bothered are rude. I suppose they have the Constitutional right to bother whomever they wish, but I have that same right to ignore them. Yet somehow, I'm the asshole.

As I am writing these sentences, a girl just sat at the table next to me, 4 feet away and initiated a cell phone conversation in gibberish (really, I have not a clue as to what language she is speaking in-- only that it is at an amazingly high decibel level). Guess how many other equally good tables are empty.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Constants Aren't Constant, Apparently

So it's really late (4:20am, to be exact), and I am still working on a problem set which I swore-- after reading a few questions-- was going to take me no more than 6 hours to complete. I was way off, and now I'm even more off, because I am taking a break to rant about it on the Internets.

Of course I should have started my work earlier (not the day before it was due as is familiar in my usual routine), but it just looked so easy. And of course the usual excuses (not to mention serious ADD) outweighed my desire to get my work done early this particular week. Those excuses included a move to Southern California, a wine-tasting trip with some newly acquired friends, and the need to help my artistically-challenged boyfriend map out dungeons with an algorithm we invented while playing Phantasy Star 2-- an awesome RPG made for Sega Genesis. (If you enjoy RPGs and you missed this one in the 90s, you should seriously download it. It has the best music ever, too.)

Right, so back to the problem set. It's for one of my courses called Semiconductor Device Fabrication, or something. Basically I learn how microprocessors (and other devices) are built, which includes their physics, technological advancements, and the mechanical/electrochemical processes by which they are made. This is really cool stuff-- and it can be complicated at times-- but really, the problems looked so simple. They were much simpler than anything I was ever required to solve as an Astrophysics major, anyway.

And I was right-- the problems were SO easy. But the rub is that I was given about 1/3 the information required in order to solve them. There was a serious lack of constants, conversion factors, atomic data, and sometimes entire equations. This doesn't sound terrible, but believe me, it is. And I'm one of those people that knows off the top of my head things like, one electron-Volt is equal to 1.602 x 10^-19 Joules . Figuring out constants is not something which is normally a challenge.

I have wasted approximately 8.73 (+/- 0.6) hours of my time looking up this missing information on the Internets. Obscure physical constants are not terribly easy to find on the web, nor do they often appear in the units you desire them to. A simple search for "So-and-So's Constant", or "Blah Blah Equation", will often lead to a plethora of high school science experiment websites, none of which can provide me with reliable information.

A Wikipedia search yields the exact opposite result: topics on Chemistry or Physics are written by know-it-all asshats who can't wait to shout from the rooftops everything they just learned in last week's lecture, so they spew it all onto the Internet in a format not at all dissimilar to that found in their textbooks. While the page-long paragraphs of facts they display are usually quite accurate, there is not one iota of useful information contained in them.

I searched for the equivalent units of amu (atomic mass unit)-- because (*gasp*) I don't remember my high school chemistry unit conversions-- for nearly an hour, because 3 different websites gave me 3 different (and yes, conflicting) definitions. No, this information is not in the course text book. I realize it would not be such a big deal to look this one detail up on the Internet-- but the problem was that there were literally 297 of these little details to look up. Seriously, why is there not a sheet with useful data on it!? I realize this is a graduate class, but having to research constants should not be impeding me from doing the actual work! Sssssss.

The sad thing is that I have at least a dozen wonderful Physics books, each with a plethora of this sort of information contained in neat little tables in Appendices A through C, or sometimes even as far as D. Those books are in boxes which weigh 8 tons each, and are all stacked on top of one another, waiting to move from the sublet to the new apartment. I think this coming week, I will be doing some temporary unpacking.

In addition to the sheer lack of necessary information, some of the questions are just ridiculous. One of the problems from my textbook asks me to "Find the resistivity of pure-silicon at temperatures of 77K, 300K, and 1000K." FIND? Don't you mean calculate? Surely there must be a temperature-dependent equation for resistivity somewhere in the text. No, there was not, nor am I aware of any such equation which doesn't go way beyond the bounds of this course. After scrutinizing the text for several minutes (it was like motherfucking Where's Waldo), I managed to "find" one value for resistivity, which corresponded to 300K, but no where in sight were the values for the other two temperatures. There was also no graph or any other piece of information from which I could derive a relationship or make any type of inference as to the values of the mystery resistivities. My final answer was that the resistivity at 77K was greater than that at 300K, while the value at 1000K was smaller. True, though not so much accurate.

I'm currently working on a problem which features an equation that, based on an example given in lecture, does not equal itself. The units are correct, but the numbers (or clearly something else) are not.

All I can think about is wine tasting in Santa Barbara later today. I think there's a good chance I'll be passing out in a vineyard.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Give Me My Textbooksss, You Bitch

I don't even know where to start. Perhaps I'll start by informing everyone to never, ever order books online through the Columbia University Bookstore if you ever hope to receive them.

I made such an error last Tuesday, when I purchased Wave Transmission and Fiber Optics and Microchip Manufacturing to be delivered overnight via air to my summer address in Chicago. The books should have arrived last Thursday, which was good, because we were set to drive back to California on Friday, and I was excited to get a head start on my reading over the weekend. Well, Friday morning came and as I had still not received my books-- or a UPS slip saying they made a delivery attempt-- I called UPS to track my package. Whichever Drone on the Phone I ended up speaking to informed me that my package was all set to be delivered-- on time-- on Tuesday, September 4th!! There was never any indication of overnight air shipping-- only an order for ground transit UPS received from the CU Bookstore. (Note: the confirmation email the bookstore sent me explicitly stated that my package was set to arrive by next day air.)

I called the CU Bookstore, and after speaking to a manager who made it all too clear that I was "bothering" him, rather than being apologetic-- or god forbid helpful-- I managed to have him agree to call UPS to change the address on the package to my apartment in Berkeley. I called back less than an hour later after not hearing an update from him, and he made sure to inform me that he not only called UPS and had the address on the shipment changed, but that he was nice enough to spend the better part of the last two hours working on this problem. (Since when forty minutes became two hours is news to me. Perhaps there are some things about the space-time continuum they did not teach us in Astrophysics.) Also, asshat (I just added asshat to my spell check dictionary), you aren't being "nice" in fixing my problem. Your department fucked up, so it's your responsibility to correct the error. You aren't doing me a favor, you're doing your job. Stop acting all mighty.

But no matter. I was happy that my package would now arrive in Berkeley on Tuesday, September 4th, even though that was the first day of my online classes. At least I'd have my books on time, and I was able to get the $18 back that I paid for air shipment.

Yesterday, September 4th, my books did not arrive. Now perhaps you're thinking I should have checked online over the weekend to see that my information was correctly updated. There are two reasons I did not do this. One is that my situation was a relatively rare one-- though I'm sure not unheard of-- for UPS, and I did not trust that the information online would necessarily be the information held by the people actually shipping the packages. The Drones on the Phones, too, seem to have access to only this information, so I couldn't be certain that they'd have the correct updates. The second reason is that I was on the road until Sunday night. There was nothing I could do between then and Tuesday, since Monday was Labor Day.

Tuesday I called UPS, who happily informed me (why oh why did I get connected to the singular chipper person who answers the phones in Bumblefuck Texas?) that my package was delivered to Schaumburg, Illinois that very morning. Seriously. There was no record that my address had ever been changed to Berkeley, and there was nothing they could do about this, since-- get this-- someone had signed for it. Who the fuck signed for my package?! It was certainly not the management of the apartment, so it must have been a new (mildly retarded) tenant, whom I have absolutely no way of getting in touch with. I hope this person wants to learn about fiber optics and microchips as much as I do.

Once again, the error did not lie within UPS-- which is surprising, because it usually does-- but within the CU Bookstore's Department of Totally Incompetent Idiots Who Are Obviously Not Columbia Students. This time, I spoke to a different manager, who again acted like I was bothering her. I give her credit at least for profusely apologizing, but she did not seem to understand the urgency of getting my books out to me, nor did she have a plan of action. I was told I'd receive a call back either that night or the next day (which, incidentally is today), and I still have not heard. I am going to call again now, once I get myself geared up to yell, argue, and threaten.

I feel the need to explain that whenever I make calls such as these, I am always very polite and understanding, because I realize that whomever I'm speaking to is surely not the one who screwed up. Unfortunately, though, this never gets me anywhere, because everyone I talk to simply throws the responsibility on someone else, and no one ever cares to fix the problem or help me out. Instead of trying to correct the error, everyone is so caught up on telling me it wasn't his fault, and thus not his responsibility. I'm not trying to blame any one individual (although I know it had to be the guy-who-sent-out-my-order's fault); all I'm asking is that someone-- anyone-- say the bookstore as a whole made a mistake and will do something about it. So I am eventually forced to be a bitch, and I hate this. I'm not a snob or a demanding person, but I certainly do not want to pay for something which I have not yet received when I ordered it over one week ago. All I ask for is for a business to be reasonable. I want my books overnighted to me, and I want a serious discount.

Is it wrong to report your Alma Mater's Bookstore to the Better Business Bureau?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tailgating Is Only Appropriate When Beer Is Involved

I realize I just wrote a long rant about people who can't drive, but this next venting session is necessary for my sanity. The following is an incident worthy of no less than seven hisses.

So earlier this afternoon, I was driving in the rightmost lane of a 3 lane road, when I was forced to slow down as the person in front of me made a right turn. Another car caught up to me in the meantime, and I noticed that even after I sped back up to 45 mph (the speed limit was 40), he was still way too close. I don't mean he was 5 or so feet behind my car and it was mildly annoying; he was so far up my ass that I actually felt violated. I couldn't even see his headlights in my rear view mirror.

Not wanting to speed up and thus tail the car in front of me, I lightly tapped-- not slammed-- on my brakes to let this asshole know he was way too close. Normally when one does this, the tailgater backs off, having realized (oops!) he inadvertently failed to keep his distance, or that the vehicle in front of him does not plan to speed up despite his obnoxious road-nagging. I find the need to reiterate that I was in the RIGHTmost lane of the road-- not the left, which is the "fast" lane-- and that I was going a good 5mph above the speed limit.

In response to my brake-tapping, the guy on my tail immediately became enraged, sped up around my car, and cut me off, nearly taking out the front left corner of my car and causing me to seriously slam on the brakes. I gave a very angry honk, which did absolutely no justice whatsoever in expressing my anger about the highly dangerous and unnecessary situation in which this guy had placed me. This asshole was (shocker!) in an SUV, and I observed him as he left my vicinity, and proceeded to tail the poor person now in front of him. Despite the strong urge to get close enough to give him the finger or throw a nest of poisonous snakes into his vehicle, I decided it was best to keep my distance. I then watched (from afar) as Mr. SUV made a turn into a housing development by the name of-- get this-- Friendship Village.

The moment I wondered, "Where the hell are the cops when things like this happen?", I passed a coffee shop and saw two police cars in its parking lot. At least it wasn't Dunkin' Donuts.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Motor Ssskills

Despite having only lived here for one summer, I have come to the conclusion that the motorists of Suburban Chicago are perhaps the worst sort of drivers I have ever encountered. And I have lived in places with some of the worst drivers in the United States. I have lived in New York, where everyone gets cut off, honked at, and flipped off an average of 7 times a minute. I've lived outside of Philly, where I can witness the reckless "Jersey Slide" in all its glory first hand on the NJ Turnpike. Currently I live in California, where the people behind the wheel are the flakiest ever. ("I'll let you go. You were here first." "No you should go. You don't even have a stop sign. I do." "No you go." "No, really, you have the right-of-way. Well, OK then." *CRASH.*)

First, I'll comment on New York, which gets a much worse reputation than it deserves. The reality is, people have to be "bad" drivers in order to get around the city efficiently. They have to cut slower drivers off, honk when someone is in their way, and don't always have time to use their turn signals when making a last-minute route decision. Despite all of this supposed sloppiness, the average NYC driver has an extraordinary reaction time, is nearly always aware of his multiple surroundings, and is able to keep the flow of traffic moving, for however "moving" can be defined for such a congested city.

In contrast, New Jersey drivers are really just assholes, as their reputation suggests. They drive like one should in New York City-- with the cutting off and the honking-- but they do so inappropriately on the highway and in the suburbs, as anyone who has ever witnessed the Jersey Slide can attest to. The Jersey Slide is defined as an abrupt and highly illegal lane change whereby a driver in either the leftmost or rightmost lane of a multi-lane highway "slides" over to the opposite side. This manoeuvre must be made in one continuous motion, and sans turn signal for it to be considered an official Jersey Slide. I have classified various forms of the Jersey Slide as follows:

Class A (a.k.a. The Real Thing): Driver makes one continuous motion across a highway with out the use of a turn signal. If said highway is the New Jersey Turnpike, any observation of such an act is akin to watching one's favorite sports hero break a record in his home stadium.

Class B: Driver makes one continuous motion across a highway, but uses his turn signal.

Class C: Driver stays in each lane for a fraction of a second longer than usual, making his motion slightly choppy. No turn signal is used.

Class D: Driver exhibits the same choppy motion, but with the use of a signal.

As aforementioned, California drivers are simply flaky. The way they drive is the same way questions are answered on a typical Celebrity Jeopardy: very erratically, always with a large degree of hesitation, and with the eerie feeling that they don't quite understand the rules. My boyfriend and I play a game in CA called Asian, Old, or Stoned? (I hate to negatively stereotype, but there is a clearly a reason thousands of people have made the same observations independent of one another. Understand that it doesn't apply to every member of a particular group.) The rules of the game can easily be inferred by its title, and I'll just say that by noting a few basic trends and observations, we can usually guess quite accurately just who is behind the wheel.

The drivers of Suburban Chicago-- specifically Schaumburg-- exemplify the worst characteristics of the three regions I mentioned above, and add a few highlights of their own. Rampant impatience is one such trait which seems to be common to this area. Because they live in the suburbs-- albeit a rather busy suburban area-- these people somehow developed the mentality that they should never have to stop in traffic for any reason. Whenever they are required to stop at stop signs or traffic lights, they are positively enraged, as evident by their angry stops (yes, the way they stop is angry) and-- if I can see them-- their facial expressions. At traffic lights, even in very busy intersections, many drivers will "inch up", sometimes as far as 1.5 car lengths past the stop line! WHY do they think this is going to allow them to reach their destination quicker? I have never seen anything like this in my life. Having lived in many cities, I am used to people stopping AT the stop line, where one is legally required to stop, because there are usually pedestrians, and no one wants to block the box. Even when I drive in Suburban Philly, for comparison, people only ever pass the stop line due to lack of distance judgment or because they are making a right hand turn on red.

Another Schaumburg driver enigma is that of waiting in long lines of traffic. There is a double left hand turning lane at a major intersection in the town which frequently has many more cars on the right side than on the left. Often the discrepancy will be something like 8 cars-- as in, there will be 10 cars in the right lane and 2 in the left. I am in no way exaggerating. I logically assumed that most of the cars in the right lane needed to make an immediate right after turning left, and thus didn't want to be in the wrong lane initially. But after turning several times at this light, I found that this is simply not the case. Only about 1/3 maximum of the people in the right actually have to make an immediate right hand turn. Why then, do they all wait in the longer line, sometimes missing the green arrow? The only conclusion which makes sense is that they are idiots.

In addition to being impatient and often total idiots, Suburban Chicagoans have a bad case of road rage. There have been multiple examples of drivers-- who were themselves in error-- following us for 5 or so miles down the highway to give us the finger and cut us off. One notable incident happened during a lane merge while exiting a toll booth area. Our car was by far ahead of the other couple of cars in the vicinity, which means that when the lanes merge and it is not specified which one is "ending", that we-- the car in front-- get to go first. However, Jackass in his SUV tries to speed up to cut us off, nearly sideswipes us, and then pulls up next to us to curse us off. He followed us for miles down the highway before we finally slammed on the brakes and caused him to be blocked by several cars ahead of us. Seriously, what the fuck?

I am very much looking forward to returning to California in one week, where I can fight with hippies over who gets to go first at a four-way-stop. Because clearly-- in California at least-- it's not always the car which arrived first.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Introduction and Disclaimersss

Welcome to my Internet Ranting Site. I refuse to call this a "blog", because one of the things I hate is annoyingly trendy, yet not-even-so-clever web lingo. So from now on my site will go by the affectionate name of the IRS.

This is a new place for me to vent my frustrations and rants about the world and the 99.9% of stupid people who live in it. My decision to start Internet-ranting began a few weeks ago, when I noticed there were several things I was pissed about, but wanted to remain silent for fear of sounding like a raving bitch. I then realized I can use the Internet to vent, without my friends having to experience my frustration first hand and then chiding me for not taking precautions against high blood pressure. Instead of bitching as usual about the swarm of crying children at the aquarium and the woman who toasted my bagel when I clearly asked her not to, I can now channel my frustrations into writing.

That being said, I am not a writer. I have a B.A. in Astrophysics, which means that I know very complicated math and the entire Greek alphabet as represented in Physics equations. However, this does not by any means make me a good writer, nor does it enable me to write creatively. Please don't criticize me for lack of symbolic rhetoric or sentences which sound like they belong in lab manuals.

Additionally, I find the need to declare that I am not in any way a miserable bitch who hates the world, as may not be so evident from the majority of my posts. Those of you who know me will know that I am a generally happy and easy-going person who loves life, but who at the same time happens to get caught up on the doings of idiots. I am not sure why this is; I certainly don't have anger issues or anything of the sort. Perhaps it's that I think idiots make things complicated, and being such an intelligent person, it's hard to understand why things don't run as smoothly and efficiently as they could in the world. Regardless of the reasoning, it usually follows that once I get the chance to go off on my annoyances, I calm down pretty quickly.

The title of my rantings, of course, is self-explanatory. It also happens to be a slight play on the title of one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, The Man in Me. If you know me, you know that I love snakes. Snakes, as you may also know, can get ridiculously angry at even the slightest hint of a threat. They usually hiss at their enemies to warn them of danger before striking violently. These posts are metaphorical strikes, complete with much hissing. I like to think that everyone has a little snake in him.

The inspirations for my rantings are the craigslist New York City rants and raves section, and the few friends I have who are very like-minded. You know who you are.