Archive for July, 2005

Thieves, thieves, caterers and thieves

I had an email exchange with a caterer, which I quote below.

Leon:So you’re saying that in addition to the prices on the menu, we must also pay for personnel and chafers? I really thought that would be included, since it’s impossible to have a buffet without serving dishes or people to deliver it.

Caterer:Yes, that is correct.

The upshot of this is that, though we need pay less than $12/person to have a catered buffet dinner (for a total of around $1000), we would also have to pay around $1000 to rent serving dishes, and around $1000 for personnel costs. Granted, this one caterer is better than the others, so the dinner personnel is only around $500, and the rental for the chafers (serving dishes) is below $500. Still, we’re talking about doubling our catering costs! How can they have hidden costs like that? But every caterer we contacted does it! It’s a scam!

Oh. And I already scratched my damn sunglasses, though I have no idea how. Today is not such a good day.

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Damn caterers

We just got a wedding catering proposal from The Pasta House. It clearly wasn’t built for us, as it listed 150 guests, but even so there were some pretty crazy pricings on it. I already used my grading pen to write comments over the proposal, but some of them I have to share here (in part because Kate won’t be home to see them for about an hour).

For instance: Renting plates is $0.35 a piece. That’s not so bad, and actually sounds reasonable. But the proposal includes “Salt & Pepper: $1.00 x 150”. We’re supposed to give every guest their own shakers–shakers that cost more than plates? Heeelll no. Honestly, how much pepper do they expect us to use? I guess this could come in handy when we’re attacked by Space Slugs(tm), but I think I’d rather just buy a box or two of rock salt. You know, just in case.

“Servers & Chafers: $100.00 x 9”. I was pretty sure that the serving dishes were included in the menu cost. Hiding a $1000 cost like that is certainly deceptive. If other caterers do the same, I’ll be very disappointed, but I’m hoping the others are saner so we can drop The Pasta House like a bag of rocks.

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Protected: Nobody loves a whiner

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Look, Ma; I have balls!

Today a man asked me for money, and I said no.

He spent quite a while making his pitch. He said that he needed money to renew his commercial driver’s license to get a job. He even spent quite a while telling me this; he motioned for me to sit down, and he talked for nearly 10 minutes. He claimed to have a wife and kids, and to be a recovering heroin addict. It was a good story, and a definite emotional appeal.

The thing is, I don’t need an emotional appeal. I’m willing to give someone money if they need it, but he failed to make the case that his story was true. He didn’t have his driver’s license on him. His speech was pretty well-prepared, as though he’d given it before. He said he was going to take a bus to the DMV, but I would have felt better to drive him there, since that would make it more likely that his story was true. He was smoking a cigarette, and he flicked the butt onto the ground when he finished it. I don’t buy cigarettes for me, and I don’t litter. I don’t see why I should help him do either of those.

After a while, I cut him off and told him that I wouldn’t give him the money. I told him it was because of the missing driver’s license and the littering. He didn’t say anything more to me, and he didn’t even look at me.

In the end, I think I made the right decision. How can you ask someone for help while you break the law by littering? This is Berkeley, after all, and people tend to care about stuff like that. Also, if you were going to go to the DMV to renew your license, why don’t you have it?

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Dorkus Maxiumus

I bought sunglasses on Saturday and was quite excited. Somehow, I keep thinking they’ll make me look cool. In reality, not so much. Ah well. At least they weren’t too expensive. And hopefully they’ll keep my eyesight good, even when I’m an old fogey.


I suck

I had a paper deadline on July 5th (originally July 1st), and I was working with Slav (another 2nd-year grad student) and Dan Klein (a 2nd-year professor). We were a little late getting in all our results, and Dan was at a conference, so Slav and I wrote the bulk of the paper. Then, Dan was supposed to help us revise our rough draft. Of course, this was complicated by the fact that Slav was going to Canada on June 28, and I was leaving for St. Louis on July 1.

Much to my dismay, Dan was too busy to help us revise the paper immediately. On the evening of June 29, I got a list of minor recommended changes. On the evening of June 30, Dan recommended major outline changes, which meant moving around and rewriting large chunks of the paper. I stayed up all night to work on it, and then I declared my part done, since I was leaving for my own trip.

From there, it all went downhill. I heard very little from my partners, to the point that I thought I would have to submit the paper early in the morning on July 5th, since I would be busy all day. That doesn’t sound so horrible, but it seems worse when you realize that means I had been the only one making revisions since Dan’s large outline recommendations. The writing of the paper was essentially all my work at that point.

That’s why it was so terrible to hear that we weren’t submitting the paper after all. Dan felt that we didn’t have a good enough analysis of the paper, that the writing felt hasty, and that the math wasn’t clear enough. Really, that’s all essentially my fault. The success of our efforts was up to me, and I failed. Admittedly, I don’t have any experience writing conference papers, and I’m expected to be learning at this point in my academic career. Still, I need to do better than this. If I can’t write a paper that sounds better than “hastily written,” I’m not going to have much of a future.

Of course, putting all the blame on myself requires neglecting how my partners utterly failed me. As the due date approached, I was the only one working, even though Dan (as the professor) should have been the one putting on the finishing touches and making sure it was up to standard. Slav, too, should be better at this than I, since he at least has his Masters. As poorly as I may have performed, they did worse by leaving it all up to me. I am certainly not entirely responsible for what happened here.

In any case, it’s clear that my writing and researching abilities need a lot of work. I thought the paper sounded fine and was okay with submitting it, though Dan evidently thought it was crap. There’s quite a bit I need to learn.

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