Archive for the 'Rant' Category

Computers

I hate computers.

I used to love computers. I used to want to study computer science and write computer programs.  I taught myself HTML back when it was new and the only thing to use to write web pages, and designed web pages and choose-your-own-adventure games.  I was one of four girls at computer camp in 7th grade.

I don’t know what happened. Something inside me snapped, or I came to my senses, or something. But I hate computers.

This is why I use a Mac.  See, you hardly even realize that you’re operating a computer. You don’t have to do anything to make it work properly.  It knows what to do when you want to open a PDF or a photo editing program.  It already recognizes the file extensions you work with without you having to program them all in. No command prompts or run file lines or function this- or- that. Nope. All there.  It just works, all by itself.

Until it doesn’t.  Your Mac mysteriously stops working, and it is reduced from a beautiful, easy to operate, high functioning machine– nay, it is practically a personal assistant, that’s how little you thought about “using” it… it just does its job–  into a useless hunk of plastic who’s production is destroying the atmosphere and precious metals that were probably mined by child slaves. I’m not kidding about the child slaves.

And then you’re screwed, because the vast majority of people who operate Macs have no idea how to actually use them. And so when it breaks, it is catastrophic. Unless you paid the extra $100/year to ensure that a Mac expert (ahem. a “Genius.” those cheeky bastards.) is standing by in case your Mac decides to self-destruct.

But nooooooo.  Macs are so effing reliable. They never break.  Why would I need to buy Apple Care?

$%&#*@.

PC owners, particularly those with Linux-based machines, on the other hand, know how to use computers, because they are constantly having to do things in order to make the PC function properly. Installing drivers (what the hell is a driver anyway? I have never had to install a driver on a Mac), running commands (I don’t even know where the Mac command function is, or what I would use it for), configuring networks (my Mac just “found” my wireless network without my having to instruct it): these are all things I have had to do or wished I knew how to do  in the two or so days that I’ve been trying to operate a PC.  You have to know how to use an effing computer in order to operate a PC.

And I hate computers.

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RIP Macytosh.

Okay, okay, ONE more feeling-sorry-for-myself thing.

My computer died. Officially. It’s gone. The machine turns on, but it just sticks at the Apple logo. I probably need to reinstall the system software, but no one in this city uses Macintosh.  And, obvio, I left my discs at home.

(Amusing note: searching for a place that worked on Macs, we passed several stores with the Apple logo on their signs. Upon entering and asking if they could repair my computer, they looked at me like I was completely loca. No, of course they don’t work on Macs.)

I’m waiting on some less-than-legal discs from a place called “Discolandia” that may or may not be a temporary fix. Otherwise, I now have a 4 lb. paperweight in my bag.

I think I’m going to buy a PC when I get home. Apple has disappointed me.  Someone talk me out of that.

Now I’m over it. For realz.

Moral Dilemma

My former [female] roommate, with whom I had quite a few “issues” while she was living here, moved out in July and neglected to have her mail forwarded. I gathered the mail for her and brought it to campus and gave it to her. I asked her to please register her new address at the post office, her bank, and the University.

Two days later, our mail delivery stopped. We didn’t get mail for four days. We were all expecting textbooks that we had ordered, bills, and paychecks.  I called the post office, and they said that a “hold” had been placed on our address. All of our mail was being held at the main post office. The hold was placed in the name of my old roommate.

Now, had she simply registered her new address, they would have forwarded her first-class mail, and ONLY her mail, to her new address. I have moved several times. I have had to register my new address several times. My roommates’ mail was never held or forwarded. I know how this works. She has had to do the same. You would think that perhaps, by now, she’d understand how it works. INSTEAD, she had a hold placed on all of the mail to this address. Does everyone reading register the difference?

So, now the “hold” period is up, and we’re getting all of her mail again. My moral dilemma: throw it out, or arrange further (possibly never-ending) on-campus meetings?

I should note that I paid her last water bill in the high hopes that I would never, ever again in my life have to deal with this woman again. That is how much I did not want to see her.

Facebook “Friends”

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.

Yes, I have a Facebook account. Yes, I regularly update my stupid little “status message” in an attempt to be witty or whatever about what I’m “currently doing.” (obviously, I’m procrastinating by updating my status message!) I even have pictures and stuff on my profile, and try to be clever about my “Interests” and “Activities”. I admit all this.

Recently, I received two “Facebook messages” from ex-boyfriends that I had not spoken to in THREE years. Three. Years. They both stopped talking to me within months of each other: the first because I started dating boy Number Two, and boy Number Two after he stood me up at an airport in Guatemala. Oh, irony.

So the first one: we’re “Facebook Friends” from long before he stopped talking to me (yes, I’ve had my account that long). He wants to be ‘real’ friends again, which is cool by me because we were pretty good friends even after we broke up. I respond and tell him how I’m doing and promise to call when I’m in Chicago again.

The second one “wants to get back in touch.” How precious. I respond with a short message saying “yeah, I’m great, how are you?” Now he can read my profile (I have it blocked to non-friends otherwise). No response. Seriously. WTF? Why go to the trouble of looking me up on Facebook, and then messaging me, if he has no plans to reply? Lame-o.

Even funnier is that, since I replied to his initial message, he has updated his profile several times to include “cooler” profile pictures and some crap about working as a photographer for an Environmental Anthropology research project in Guatemala. Uh huh. Sure.

But all of that is beside the point.

Both of these fine gentlemen have my email address. It has been the same for FIVE years (I think that’s a record or something, seriously). Why not just email me??

And then get this! I was clicking around on other friends’ profiles, and saw that another friend had been writing on this one guy’s wall. So I check out his profile to see what he’s been up to– and find that he’s no longer my Facebook Friend! He un-friended me!

We went to high school and college together! We were the only two people from our high school at Michigan! I let him “sublet” my apartment for free the summer I worked in Seattle. FREE! (And he trashed it and destroyed my non-stick pan). I have Facebook “Friends” that I haven’t spoken to in more than a decade! And he un-Facebook Friends me? Super lame-o.

Average

People told me that the hardest part about grad school would be getting used to being ‘average.’

They were wrong.

The hardest part about grad school is getting used to being BELOW average. Or at least, feeling below average.

Think about it. People in grad school, at least in non-professional programs, are generally used to getting good grades and being dorky overachievers that are genuinely interested in what they’re studying. Throw them all together, and they’re suddenly ‘normal.’ These are the kids that got made fun of for studying in high school (or hell, undergrad). Now we’re suddenly ‘normal.’ Isn’t that what we wanted? Errr…. sure.

Now, I haven’t discussed this much with my fellow grad students, in SNRE or in Anthro. Maybe this is just one of those beat-you-down-so-we-can-build-you-back-up sort of things. I’m getting grades I don’t like* right now to teach me to work my butt off, and then perhaps I’ll succeed later.

Or perhaps my grades in undergrad were so severely inflated that I can’t even cut it at the SAME DARNED INSTITUTION as a grad student! Eeeek!

I feel like maybe I never really learned how to read or write. Or how to think. Everyone seems so very much more intelligent than I am, able to formulate thoughtful questions and arguments, and very much able to shoot mine down (this is in reference mostly to Anthro. We don’t argue much in SNRE). I had a note on my essay the other day asking me to please visit the Writing Help Center. Oh, awesome.

I’m a remedial grad student.

After one conversation with a fellow anthrogeek, and struggling through the MathCAD labs with a couple of fellow SNREds, I felt a tad better. I guess I can stop lamenting that I don’t have as much time as I want to focus on school (like I lamented in undergrad– what with work and work and bikes and work — and bikes).

I’m here to learn. I’m here because I want to learn.** Punto, fin.

I just hope I learn quickly, because my ego can’t take much more of this B(elow)-average nonsense!

*People tease me that I’m just not used to getting (ahem) ‘grades I don’t like.’ But I should point out that I have to keep a B+ average to stay in my Ph.D. program, and a B average to stay in the MS program. As an undergrad, I would have laughed my ass off. Considering the highest grade I’ve gotten so far is a B+, I’m not laughing so much right now.

**For some people this is a change from their attitudes as undergrads. I majored in three freaking unemployable fields as an undergrad. You think I was doing that for a job? No. I’ve always been here to learn. I’m just doing it the hard way now….

The Unmistakable Odor of Burning Tomato-tops

After a Moka Cappuccino, very dry chocolate panqueque (muffin), (transfer to a different restaurant) another café Americano, tamales chiapaneros, and some pozo (corn and chocolate drink), I’m feeling stuffed and slightly more human. I also got some quality reading in, which I was not able to do on the buses.

I decided to venture in to the 24-hour hot shower offered by my hostel. It’s clean (good news) but the hot water runs out about 3 minutes after I get my hair wet. Nevertheless, being clean feels good! And the hostel thankfully had towels (the last place did not).

As I was drying off, I caught a whiff of the unmistakable sweet scent of burning tomato-tops. My mother will know what I’m referring to, because that’s what she compares this smell to.

Pot.

I went from “This is a business of God” at the hotel last night in Todos Santos to marijuana. Great.

I am not a smoker of any product, legal or otherwise. I never have been, and unless something drastic about my personality changes I never will be. That said, I have absolutely no problem with people who do choose to smoke (I’ve dated a couple)—your brain cells are none of my concern– but frankly I try to avoid situations where I’m inhaling smoke of some sort.

First of all, I’m asthmatic. Me + smoke of any sort = bad. And the smell of weed makes me feel queasy.

In places like this, where I think I’ll find some camaraderie with fellow travelers, I end up feeling alienated. It’s at (lonely, homesick) points like this that I really, really wish I could find someone like-minded to travel with.

It’s really tough to find someone who doesn’t mind taking the chicken buses, eating in $1.50 comedores, avoiding pre-arranged tours, and staying at $10/night hostels, but will still want to go to bed early in favor of getting up to see the sunrise, forego the extra drugs-and-alcohol, and avoid the gringo-party places.

I feel like there are two main types of travelers that you always run in to (at least in Latin America): 1) Tour-groupies, seemingly always American, Canadian, Australian, or German, who travel everywhere in private shuttles to see the “historical” and “scenic” places in a country, stay in hotels that cost at least U$40 a night, and eat at gringo restaurants that serve sanitized, international food; and 2) Backpackers, of international breed (Americans tend to be around my age, or mid-twenties; Israelis just released from the army; Australians, Brits, and Germans on a gap-year) that take semi-local transportation (a mix of chicken and first-class buses, the occasional shuttle), hang out in budget hotels, go on hiking or other adventure tours, drink and smoke a lot, and party in the gringo bars. They also carry all their possessions in a backpack (and you can usually tell their nationalities by the brand of backpack they carry!)
→ I carry a backpack also, and you can tell I’m from the States because my pack has “REI” written all over it!

Traveling (in my opinion) shouldn’t be a constant party and bar-hop. I mean, c’mon. The gringo bars in these places are all the same. Same “tropical” décor, same drinks, same music, same people!!

Plus, if you stay up late to drink yourself silly, you won’t be able to get up for the 6 am market.

I’m fine with hanging out with the occasional group-o-gringos (and in this case, gringo refers to any foreigner). It’s fun to hear peoples’ stories, what brings them to a place, where they’ve been, etc etc etc.

But, take for example this German guy I met last night. I have no (well, little) problem with his style of travel. He seems like a “go your own way” sort of guy. He whipped out his stack of snapshots that he’s taken from a number of “exotic” places around the world (Ethiopia, Morocco, Ladakh) and told us how he would go in to hospitals and jails in Guatemala and Mexico to take pictures. He didn’t speak any Spanish. (there’s where I have a little bit of a problem)

But he started grilling me, like he refused to believe that I didn’t exactly match the stereotype of a traveling American college student.

I told him that I had been working in San Mateo (he assumed I was teaching English), and was going to Chiapas to see the Indigenous Photo Archive/Project. “No.” he said, “this is bad.”

Thinking he had maybe visited the archive before, I asked him why he said that.

“Well, how would you feel if busloads of people were driving by to take pictures of you all day long?”

Ummm, wow. Not quite what I was talking about buddy. I tried to explain to him that this was an organization that supported indigenous artists—with training, supplies, publishing, etc.

“It is always a project with you. Projects, projects.” He said. Oh really?! Since when does he know me that well?! He admonished, “Don’t you ever just want to visit a place and get to know it?”

Yes, in fact, that is my entire goal here! But I don’t think that I’d get to know this place by not speaking Spanish, going to see the tourist sites (ie: Palenque, Tikal, Lago Atitlan), and hanging out exclusively with other travelers in budget hostels or expat-owned gringo bars.

I really feel that you have to work to get to know a community, and not just over a week or two of vacation—and the best way for me, personally, to do that is to work with a local non-profit organization. Given my personality (kind of shy and timid at first) I’m not able to just walk in to a place and start “knowing” people. It helps if I have a purpose, and if that purpose comes with some built-in insta-friends.

I really prefer working with locally-based organizations, and I explained that to him. I don’t want some group in the USA or Europe (no offense) getting a cut of whatever “fee” I’m paying for them to arrange everything for me, when my time and money could be better spent helping people in a locally initiated and run project. That way, you get to know people in the place that you’re visiting beyond just the “where are you from” formalities. You can learn what their community means to them (through whatever work they’re doing) and you can contribute to a good cause. Better than supporting expat-owned gringo bars, in my opinion.

Wow. That whole tirade there stemmed from my smelling pot while I was in the shower. Scary what that stuff does to you!

And look at me, I’m in one of the most touristy places in Mexico (after Cancun and Puerto Vallarta) and I’m going to go sip coffee and read all day tomorrow. How…gringo.

I’ll read a local paper, I promise. Maybe I’ll even buy an EZLN t-shirt (oh the irony).