Thursday, February 22, 2007

make me a drink, and don't ask questions!

last weekend i was at bar called the orbit room with a number of people. it was a unique experience and i thought i'd yelp about it, because there was both good and bad. here's my review:
interesting drinks, but slow service and what attitude! perhaps not the best place to go on a saturday night. they only had one bartender, and it was really busy. when my girlfriend finally got to order, she just specified the flavors we wanted, and after much effort the bartender produced a fantastic fruity rum drink (but not like punch) that i enjoyed sooo much.

this only took 20 minutes!

as for the attitude: another one of us really wanted a drink with orange and mint flavors, and he told the next friend who was going up to brave the long wait and get us a round. this gallant soul returned after 10 minutes with no drinks, telling us that the bartender needed a new order because he objected to the orange and mint combination. supposedly, it's just not done...

now, if you read other yelp reviews of the orbit room, you'll find that some people love it, and some people hate it. anyway, in my review i thought it was a bit ridiculous that the bartender wouldn't try to make something that sounded pretty reasonable (orange and mint). anyway, i received the message on yelp below with the subject "reconsider your thoughts":
well, obviously the bartenders are more knowledgeable at mixing drinks then the custoemrs. so you shouldnt be angry or upset because they wouldnt make the drink. they obviously are more aware of what flavors would go together better than the average drinker. and if you said the first drink was amazing then you shouldve just trust it instead of trying to purposely upset them. they are artists and shouldnt be treated this way and i hate when people say things unfairly about them making them look badly, because you canst get a drink likethe way they make it anywhere else!
my personal feeling is that the customer is almost always right, and unless they ask for something totally out in left field, the idea of rejecting a request is just bad, in a service industry. at least discuss it! i will say this: i never want to work in the service industry, if i can help it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

being respectful and bitterness

today i reached a classroom for one of my lectures a bit late. i looked in and it didn't look like my class. there was a woman with a name tag milling about outside so i asked her if this was my class. she said no, it had moved today because of a conference, hadn't our professor told us? i said no, and asked her where the class had moved. she mentioned the location (a location i had walked by on my way to class). i laughed and said "i guess i'm not going to class today. it's not worth it" and then i walked away.

as i'm walking away, the woman shouts in my direction "what a great student you are. i'm sure you'll make an excellent professor one day."

i look back at this woman like she's insane, but say nothing.

bitter administrators. i've encountered quite a few of them while at graduate school. this woman knows nothing about my class or me, and she has the audacity to loudly offer her sarcastic opinion, when it is not asked for. my comments were in no way antagonistic towards her, in fact i didn't even address her when i said i wasn't going to attend class... in reality, i decided not to go to class because (a) our professor is irresponsible enough not to provide us with this information, giving some indication that he doesn't care too much about our time or class experience (he can easily send email to all registered students). (b) the lectures aren't that great to begin with (mostly regurgitations of the textbook), and i usually find my mind drifting to other topics, so the idea of having to walk yet farther to go to a potentially useless lecture is not very appealing. i could get other things done. she knew none of this, but decided that her comments were worth voicing.

honestly i don't understand all the reasons many of the administrative people i encounter appear bitter and angry, but i do know that i treat them with respect, because they deserve it (as do i, and you, dear reader). maybe this person was having a bad day. but my consistent experience with this group of workers is that they can be quite unhelpful, bordering on mean and bitter in the tone of their responses. i wonder if their job really is so bad that they stop showing students respect?

my dad's college friend once told this funny story about my dad. at college they had one friend who my dad would always respectfully refer to by appending some word to his name. this person didn't think the word was needed, and would not use it himself. anyway, my dad would always do it, and finally this friend started accepting this more respectful reference, and also used the respectful form of reference when talking to my dad. one take away from this story was that you'll get back what you put in -- don't just expect a certain treatment if you're not going to give it in return. the second is that consistent behavior can be contagious -- and if it's the behavior you want to convey, you might derive benefits if you think others should adopt the same behavior (an aside: my dad is a rather mischievous person, so i think that perhaps he was doing this to playfully annoy his friend).

and now the conclusion to the story:

anyway, when i got to my office, i found grant, who also hadn't gone to class. he convinced me that despite our lateness, we should walk over to class. the new location was near my next meeting, so i agreed. we get there and the class hasn't even started, despite it being 20 minutues past the start time. the prof had just arrived! ridiculous, irresponsible, but not surprising.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


i love how the social networking sites have appropriated the word "friend" as a catchall for everyone you're connected to. i saw this image today on yelp when i was looking at someone's profile and it made me feel sad for a second:

then i remembered it was stupid yelp "friends."

my oral exam

a week ago i had my big prelim exam. i haven't chatted much about my exact work at berkeley, but i'll give a quick summary: unable to find a problem that stoked me in theoretical computer science, generally unhappy with theory and fearing that i couldn't meaningfully contribute to the field, i decided to expand my search for topics of interest and i landed in a class on human-computer interaction.

the entire semester was fascinating, with many neat readings (which i've discussed on this blog here and here) and research possibilities that i am intrigued to explore.

so i decided that this was the area for me, at least for now, and i dove in. diving in requires taking an oral exam where professors ask you 4 questions concerning a large set of papers covering the major ideas in the area. in case you're interested, you can find a slightly different reading list here.

now, you pass the exam if you get 60%. i botched one question, in my opinion, quite royally. i was stressed to no end because of this mistake, because with 2 of the other questions it was hard to read the professor's reactions, and some of the inquiries were quite open-ended.

after the exam, they tell me that they'll let me know my result in 1 or 2 days. so i'm freaked out for the next two days. as i'm driving home, i get a call from my friend who also had an exam, and he tells me that he passed. at this point, i restrain my foot and attempt to drive the speed limit as i head home to desperately check my email.



i passed! and i didn't do as badly as i thought. now that chapter's over, and i can focus on research and learning.