I need this post to sleep

June 1, 2010

[EDIT: This isn’t right. Sleep grogginess. Confusion. I hope I can come up with a correct-er post soon.]

I am immature and stupid, but I’m rebellious and still learning from life.

I hope this’ll make sense to my future self when he needs it: Morality is subjective. You did right. They won’t understand.


Verizon and its absolutely crappy customer service

March 29, 2010

I really haven’t seen anything as bad as Verizon’s customer service. This blog post is not lessen my frustration, but just to get back at them, I’ll make sure that none of my readers ever take a Verizon connection ever.

Now, there’s this theory, that for every internet provider, or wireless provider, there’s at least some person who thinks that they’re the worst company in the world. For Verizon, I’m one such person.

Here’s my story.

First around January 13th, I applied online for an internet connection with Verizon. Well, that connection never came (some credit issue? But they could’ve mailed me that something was wrong.) This was my first experience with Verizon customer service. Here’s how it works: you call up their number, they keep wasting your time asking lots of questions, and trying to avoid having to get a customer service rep speak to you (“you want to speak to an agent, but it may be faster to solve your problem here.. followed by the menu repeated“). After that, when you final press 0 a couple of times to keep confirming that “Yes, Dammit I do want to speak to a real person”, you’re told that they’re currently experiencing lots of load and it maybe a while before I can get to an agent. And they thank me for my patience.

And it is quite a frikking while. And after that quite a frikking while, I am also sometimes (right now) told that their offices for my location are closed. (9.30am.)

Couple of other times, when you do get them, they do everything possible to transfer you to somebody else (“New york region”, “tech support”).

Anyway, so the first connection that I applied for on January 13th never got connected, and eventually I had to apply for a new connection over the phone around Feb 8th or so. This was the only pleasant conversation I had with their agents, but mind you … be ready to talk for an hour on the phone for this.

Also, they take your credit card number for automatic payments.

So then, a week later I get my equipment. But my internet doesn’t work.

So now begins this whole drama of me calling them up, them saying that they’ll send a technician who never shows up. (I instead get a phone call on the morning of the visit when I stay at home just waiting for him, saying that my “problem has been resolved.” Really?)

Eventually they tell me that they need to downgrade my connection speed to 3mbps, from the already not impressive 7mbps.

So then I walked into a Time Warner office, and got a blazing fast connection that weekend.

The Verizon drama wasn’t over. I still had to disconnect my service. They had already billed me for the first month, directly on my credit card. No notification mail of any sort.

Most of these companies have a 30 day return policy. So when I eventually got hold of a customer service rep to cancel my account, I was told that I can return the equipment and I’ll be refunded for the first 30 days since the internet never worked for me. Oh wow, I say to myself.

That never happened.

Instead I just got billed for a second month. (This despite having a confirmation mail from them that my service has been disconnected.)

I’m getting quite sick of the seeming pleasant automated woman asking me to say “Billing or payment, or press 1, say Tech support, or press 2….” I’m down over 200$ here already.


The CMI Online Judge needs you

October 11, 2009

I’m willing to pay a small amount (very miserly, but I hope there are some CMI undergrads who are in enough poverty to take me up on this offer) to get some work done on the CMI/IARCS Online Judge.

  • 50 USD for a new professional looking CSS and layout. This is important for me, since I’m on the job hunt, and I link to opc.iarcs.org.in on my resumes, I want it to look good again. No partial credit. The layout will also have to explain considerations as to what is placed where. (For example, currently “Logout” comes on the top menu, which is completely unintuitive.) 100% XHTML Strict. Javascript/AJAX can be allowed.
  • 90 USD for a specification and implementation of a tar-ball structure that almost completely defines a problem’s data. By this I mean, I should be able to create a tar-ball with all the input and output files, the problem statement, constraints etc, and just have to upload it to the judge, and the judge should be able to figure out all the parameters to the problem automatically. I have made few attempts toward this, but every time I miss something or the other, which makes it completely useless. 10 USD for a complete written specification, 60 USD for implementation via command line. 20 USD for implementing via web-uploads, with some sort of permission mechanism to allow owners to upload the problem, and edit it if required.

Alright, I know I’m being cheap, but I really can’t afford to pay you a lot more. As a consolation, you could use this as “open source development” experience on your resume.

5$ for a name for the CMI OPC Judge. (It is referred to by several names even within the code. I am planning on putting it up on Sourceforge or something, but I don’t have a name for it.)

Mail me if you’re interested.

Grad Student, Season 2

September 16, 2009

Ah, the intoxicating smell of fear and tension:

For a bonus amusement, I found a Masters-turned-PhD student, who used to sit in the front row and ask questions every five minutes last year, sitting at the last row with a coffee and browsing the net on his laptop. The PhD effect.

People asking you the question:

Me being a PhD-turned-Masters student, answering this question becomes very tricky. I usually get it as “What-is-your-research-interest”. It’s even trickier if you are being asked that in a class filled with other people. The first time, I tried to use some fancy term (“Varied”) to avoid the answer; another time, I just didn’t answer it and kept the awkward pause going. Another time I had to write it down on a sheet of paper that was being passed around the class, and against my name and email address I shamelessly wrote a a long hyphen, in a column filled with fancy scientific sounding terms.

Inglourious Basterds

September 11, 2009

I usually don’t post movie reviews, but since I already made the mistake of posting about it before, I thought I should make my stance clear about Inglourious Basterds. Read the rest of this entry »

The one about “Leadership”

September 10, 2009

I would happily give the task of “management” of any of my open source projects to anybody, and his duties would include telling me what I should be working on implementing, what bugs I should be fixing, and when I’ve been procrastinating, etc. Basically, I wouldn’t mind hiring someone to order me around.

But sometimes I find friends or colleagues with no difference in seniority, telling me what to do, and when this happens, I get pissed off.

For instance, let’s say I’m working in a group of people. In school projects, typically what happens is that everybody is of basically the same seniority, and therefore there is no natural leader. And then as the project progresses, there’s this one guy who takes the initiative, and starts telling people what to do.

And I get pissed off when this happens. Note that I used the positive term “initiative”, and indeed this initiative by this person is in the best interests of the project; I wouldn’t take this initiative just because I don’t want the responsibility. Look, I would have voted for you if we had elected a leader at the beginning of the project, but I am not going to listen to your orders if I haven’t explicitly given you powers to order me. Yes, perhaps it’s my ego: if I elect you, then, in some sense, you’re working for me, and at the same time I’m working for you, and everybody is happy.

Sometimes, I’ve found myself indirectly giving this power to people: for instance, if there was an almost implied leader for a plan, I usually say some self-deprecating remark about how bad I’m at managing stuff, and that therefore I’m leaving everything in their hands, and that I’ll follow orders. When this happens, I would probably listen to them when they say “Sit Arnie, Sit! Good Boy!”

Today I’m pissed off with a particular person, who seems to be assuming some kind of leadership role, and basically giving me sweetly-worded orders. So what happens is that since they are sweetly-worded you have to keep nodding your head, “Oh okay, sure I’ll do that”, “yeah no problem”, and so on. This is not the first time this is happening with this guy, and the last time I ended up doing more work than I should have done. It’s not that I’m stupid to keep accepting, it’s just that I don’t see any way of saying No, unless I show him this blog post, and tell him that I just don’t like him taking the “leadership” initiative.

(Additionally, this guy talks way too much, so I agree to everything he says without argument just to make him stop talking.)

The one about If

August 31, 2009

In a recent conversation a friend, he said something which amounted to, “If A happens, then I plan to do B,” to which I informed him that A is not going to happen.

I’m sure that this person probably does not even remember this, but my reply is making me feel guilty to the point that I can’t sleep.

There’s a reason I feel guilt. I’ve been at the receiving end of this several times over the past few months, and I’ve slowly begun noticing a pattern, and I get more and more frustrated each time it happens, because it simply destroys any logical conversation between the two people involved.

For those who haven’t yet understood what I’m talking about: when I tell somebody “If A, then B” (or “I’m doing B just in case A happens”), I have not implied anything about whether A is true, and have not implied anything about the probability of A being true. Simple logic.

Yet, when I have debates (you know, political issues, and the like) with people, the moment I mention “If A, then B”, everybody jumps on me claiming that I’m stupid to assume that A can ever be possible.

For the same reason, when somebody asks me what my plans for the future are, I would avoid the “If A, then B”s, and find the C that is most likely to happen (which happens to be: nobody hires me, and am jobless, as opposed to A being getting a job in Wall Street), and simply say “If C, then D”. When I do get careless, and break away from this format and say, “If A, then B”, I’m attacked as if I’m the most stupid person ever because I’m actually planning for the possibility of A happening.

If the discussion is of value to the attacker (Notice the If), and if the attacker makes me feel stupid about mentioning the As, the attacker learns less from me, and stands to loose.

So should I never question an If-A-then-B? It’s not all that simple.

What if somebody tells me: “I’m raptor-proofing my house, just in case the dinosaurs attack.” At this point, the if-clause is absolutely utterly stupid, and I’m allowed to question it. What’s the difference here? In this case, there’s a cost to taking into consideration the possibility of A. If raptor-proofing is free, I should shut up.

Therefore, in the interest of sane, logical conversations, I propose the following mechanism for determining whether you’re allowed to argue an If-A-then-B. Think of insurance. I had an argument once about why I prefer an expensive medical insurance, “Sure, in most cases I won’t be needing it. Heck, I’ve hardly used a few hundred dollars of it last year. But if a medical emergency does happen, and I don’t have an expensive insurance, I’d get bankrupt and my whole life would be ruined”. At this point, your only valid argument should be whether my annual premium that I pay being worth the small probability. You do not have a right to simply tell me that the probability of such an emergency is too low (worse: telling me it will never happen!), without talking about the cost involved.

And therefore, in the future, if I ever say “If A, then B”, and the cost involved in taking A into consideration is Zero, then heck, you have no right to argue the possibility of A. If needed, argue B given A.

If I say, “If A, then B”, and there’s a cost involved in taking A into consideration, then you have a right to question whether that cost is worth it. Even in this case, be mindful of the differences in valuations of cost between you and me.

And since, in the recent conversation with the friend that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I claimed that A is not going to happen, in a situation where there was no cost involved in planning for A, I sincerely apologize.

(P.S. I didn’t have the right words while describing the If-A-then-B construct. Any pointers to proper linguistic terms for these if I need to discuss this again?)