18 entries categorized "Graphs"

The Path to Adulthood Is Paved With Hot Glue and Moderately-Priced IKEA Furniture

Becoming an adult is an incremental process.  For example, you don't go from shotgunning cans of Natty Light one day to keeping a well-stocked wine rack in your house the next--there are many in-between phases, like the phase where you start shelling out extra money for cans of Coors, which is followed by the phase where you class it up even more and start buying bottled beer, followed by . . . well, I'll tell you when I get there.

Anyway, today I decided to gauge my progress in a few areas of Growing Up.  Each of the following continua has been marked with endpoints I deemed representative of "typical college behavior" (on the left) and "grown-up behavior" (on the right).  Additionally, I've marked my own progress thus far somewhere in the middle of each.

Let's start off with an area in which I think I've made pretty decent progress since graduating: music downloading.



As you can see, I am more than halfway to the point of full adulthood in this area.  However, I think I'm gonna have to hold this position for some time, because I guess I still consider it a much less severe crime to download a song illegally than to actually purchase something by The Venga Boys.

I've made modest progress in some other areas as well.  My taste in decor has improved ever so slightly, as evidenced by the following two charts:





Additionally, I have abandoned (for the most part) my habit of repairing my clothes, shoes, purses, furniture, and other belongings with unsightly Duct tape--



--and upgraded to a more transparent (and thus classier) adhesive.

With respect to personal communication, I have found that AOL Instant Messenger is just so two years ago and that real semi-almost-adults in the know use Gmail chat when they want to procrastinate.



Of course, not every development is for the better; already I've found my tolerance for certain activities to be waning.



As old and creaky as I felt the other night at Broken Social Scene, though, I will have to concede that in the grand scheme of things, I haven't made too much progress toward being old.  There was, of course, that one incident when a girl on the basketball team I coach didn't know what a typewriter was and it made me feel like Father Time, but we'll call that a fluke for now.  In general, I will sum things up with a final chart.

                          THINGS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL OLD:



Too Lazy to Take the Stairs, But Strangely Not Too Lazy to Write Extensively About Not Taking the Stairs

In college you learn quickly that taking the elevator to the second floor is for inconsiderate d-bags and losers (and the occasional injured person).  I'm wondering, however, how strictly that rule applies to the office, because the stairs are really out of the way and inconvenient for me and I'm wondering if I can be pardoned for taking the elevator instead.  Here's the situation: on the first floor of my work building, the elevators are 20-30 ft. from the door--a straight shot.  The stairs, however, are around the corner and another 35-ish ft. down the hall. The (crude, hastily-made, way-off-scale) diagram below illustrates this setup, with the path to the elevators in orange and the path to the stairs in blue.


Already, it's evident that the stairs are a bit out of the way.  However, when you get to the second floor, it gets worse.  As you can see from the diagram below, in order to get to my office (marked with purple star) from the stairs, it is necessary for me to loop back in the opposite direction again, whereas the path from elevator to office is much more efficient.


On the times that I have taken the elevator to my floor, I have rationalized this by telling myself that I am justified and in fact correct in taking the most direct route to my office--it's efficient, and the elevators in my building are fast and plentiful. Nevertheless, I can't deny that when someone else hops into the elevator behind me and hits the "5" button, I am unable to make eye contact with that person for fear he or she will give me a dirty look.

People, I need your help: should I feel guilty about using the elevator?  Should I banish myself to the stairs?  Or should I hold my head high and take that elevator after all, because this is America and the Constitution don't say nothin' about second-floor people being second-class citizens who are relegated to the stupid stairwell?  I need you to decide this one for me.

Nothing Tugs At the Heartstrings Like the Plaintive Bleating of a Sheltered Suburban Kid

OK, I understand the concept of paying rent.  Loathe though I am to part with several hundred dollars a month of my hard-earned money, I can comprehend the fact that there is a price to be paid for living independently in the area of one's choosing.  It makes rational sense.  But I spend the majority of my life operating on a plane that is far removed from rational, so in the end, paying money for things such as shelter, water, electricity and other basic comforts only strikes me as unfair.

Perhaps you are thinking I am extremely selfish for complaining about the fact that for more than 23 years I have been able to take food, shelter, and utilities for granted; well, I happen to think that you take for granted the fact that you are here, on my piece of the internet, reading the blog that I have specifically created to insulate myself from your extraneous and unwanted opinions.  And if that doesn't convince you to feel more sympathetic, then maybe the following graph will help you understand the plight of someone who is forced to summarily take responsibility for her own well-being, existence and entertainment when, prior to now, she has only really had to stretch her means to accomodate the occasional Kit Kat bar.


Now, if the sight of my financial obligations all stacked up like oddly-shaped pieces in the lightning round of some sick Tetris game has not earned me your sympathy, then I'm sorry to hear that your heart is made of stone.  But for those of you who share in my misery--or at least understand it--I thank you for your kindness and want you to know that you are always welcome in my (furnitureless) home.

I May Have Overused Bold and Italics in This Article, But I'm Just Trying to Express in Some Small Way the Awkwardness I Experience Every Minute of My Life

The average American workplace is, reduced to its most basic elements, nothing more than just a bunch of potentially awkward situations swirling around in the air and waiting to be realized.  Basically, every single fixture in an office building is optimized for awkwardness.  Elevators are a great example of this, unsurprisingly (small space + 30 seconds of silence + two strangers = awkward situational equivalent of putting a roll of Mentos into a bottle of Coke: explosive and messy).

But if the awkwardness of the elevator is to be predicted, then that of the door is doubly cruel because doors are not supposed to be so bad.  In fact, in terms of popular symbolism, doors represent opportunity and possibility.  In my world, however, the only opportunities presented by doors are just more opportunities to engage in more awkward interpersonal dynamics.

Take, for example, this classic scenario: you're walking through a door.  Someone is coming up behind you.  Do you hold the door open for him/her?

On the surface, this may not seem challenging.  But view this diagram and stay focused while I try to explain how this seemingly mundane task causes me to break into a cold sweat:


Sometimes, the answer to the holding-the-door dilemma is clear: If the person is close behind you (Zone A above), stop and hold the door open for him.  If the person is far behind you (Zone C), you can let the door close behind you without feeling rude.  But what about that gigantic stretch of middleish distance from the door (Zone B)?!?!?!  If you just close the door, the trailing person may take it as an insult as it kind of shuts in his face; if you stand there and hold it, you may quickly realize the person is still a good 10 seconds from the door, so now you're just standing there looking dumb.  Also, to compound the tension, the person you're holding the door for will often feel obliged to break into a semi-jog to get to the door faster, which makes you feel even worse because you were trying to be polite and instead you ended up stressing the person out and forcing them to do a weird uncomfortable jog thing.

Perhaps what's most noteworthy about the scenarios I've described thus far is that they don't even directly involve talking.  That's a whole added dimension, one that can take a situation that was merely uncomfortable and turn it into one that is painful and humiliating.

Look: if I've got to work for the rest of my life, then fine.  I'll work.  I'd just prefer to do it in a place with absolutely no elevators, doors, or other people.

Generation Snick

Those of us who were born in America in the 1980s were able to make it through our most formative years without having to weather any truly big wars or depressions or other totally horrible universal disasters. On the whole, that is a good thing.

This dearth of tragedy and strife has, however, had an interesting impact on our generation: faulting a legitimate cause upon which to focus our human need to feel passionate about something, we instead became abnormally emotionally invested in our television programs.  The graphic below details this phenomenon.


The result is that the current group of American 20-somethings is still very, very attached to our memories of Nickelodeon and T.G.I.F.  We were young and impressionable and our brains were like sponges--something had to become seared into our memory.  Absent our own Great Depression or World War Two, we defaulted to being permanently traumatized by Zack breaking up with Kelly.

Our generational case of early-onset nostalgia is not just limited to former television shows, though--clothing, toys, games, books, movies and music from the '80s and '90s all fall within the scope of the obsession that I predict future anthropologists will refer to as the "I Love The" Effect.  This nomenclature is of course derived from the group of VH1 miniseries that epitomizes premature sentimentalization of our age group.  (Miniseries, by the way, that I enjoy watching more than just about anything else.)

Indeed, the "I Love The" Effect has not escaped even my own blog: my site traffic has seen significant spikes in referral links from search engines the three times that "Guts," "Salute Your Shorts," and "Jodie Sweetin" were incidentally mentioned in posts.  Meaning, there are a lot of people out there searching the Internet for those things.

Now, I'm not saying it's a bad thing that our generation doesn't have painful memories of recycling our bikes for scrap metal.  I'm just wondering what this is going to do to us as old people.  What will we possibly drone on to our grandchildren about, seeing as how we never walked uphill to school with potatoes in our hands, potatoes that we had pulled from the Victory Garden in our backyard? 

Get ready.  We are going be the lamest old people ever.

The First Sentence Makes No Sense, But Stick With Me

You know that feeling you get when the mechanics of whatever it is you spend most of your time doing begin to leak into the rest of your life and color your peception of your normal behaviors and thoughts before you have a chance to consciously correct them?  Like, when you play so much of a video game that instead of thinking "I'm tired," you instead see in your head a blinking red energy bar?  Or, when you're talking to someone and you say something totally stupid and your first instinct is "Control Z, Control Z," and it takes you a full second to realize that you can not apply "Undo" to human conversation? 

And you know how that usually makes you feel a little bit crazy?

Well, I have actually found it extraordinarily useful of late.  As some of you know, I spend a fair amount of time at work making documents look pretty, and a lot of the time that involves breaking up large amounts of text by creating charts and graphics.  As a result, my mind has gradually become trained to automatically take my thoughts and put them into pictorial form without my even asking.  Now, as I stand at the mall deciding whether to buy a new pair of shoes, my decision-making process is made much easier because something like this will pop into my brain:

Figure 1.1. Current proportions of work-appropriate shoe wardrobe.


"Oh," I'll think.  "Maybe I shouldn't buy these shoes, because I have so many pumps already."  Or, "Wow!  I don't even have a category for wedges!  This purchase is definitely merited."

Cool, right?  It's made me so much more efficient.  Like, I have a really small bladder and it is not unusual for me to wake up more than once a night to have to go to the bathroom.  It's really annoying, especially on those nights when I get myself SO comfortable and warm in my blankets and then I suddenly feel a stirring in my bladder and think, "Shit.  Should I get up and go now, and get it over with, and have to get all comfortable again, probably only to have to go again a little bit later?  Or should I just hold off for a while, but have the comfortablness of my comfort be slightly compromised by the niggling little knowledge that eventually I will have to get up?"

I used to agonize over this dilemma, until one night when my brain drew me a diagram.  (I'm not making this up.  I don't have to tell you that, do I?)

Figure 1.2. The LMNOP Principle of Bathroom Break Decision-Making.


Suddenly, it was clear.  The amount of exertion required to get out of bed is a constant.  It's never going to change.  However, the level of discomfort I feel as a factor of my need to pee is a very dynamic function.  I just have to find that point where my desire to stay in bed and be comfortable no longer exceeds my level of bladder comfort, and get up when I reach this point.

This has eliminated a lot of second-guessing and doubt during the middle-of-the night hours where critical thought capabilities are pretty fuzzy.  Now, I simply wake up and gauge my need to pee against my new, standardized metric.  If the lines of the graph haven't intersected, I roll over and go back to sleep.  If they have, I get up.

The human brain is an amazing thing.  Don't y'all kids never forget it.

(Also, I like how after I made these graphs and saved them as lowish-quality JPGs the text got a litttttle blurry and now they have the accidental but great effect of looking slightly like they came from a mid-1990s textbook.)


Awkward is the Universal Language

I love getting updates from my friend who is in Namibia for the Peace Corps.  This latest excerpt proves something I have long suspected: awkwardness knows no geographical bounds.

"And.  This is worse.  One of our Namibian trainers asked me for my phone number, which I didn't think was strange since we've all been together for so long, very innocent.  Then he started sending me text messages.  The first one said, "please don't feel offended.  I really like the way u are and would like to know you better.  Sleep well, hope you will make it with your test next week.  U may respond."  In Namibia the thing to do is send "missed calls" or call someone, let it ring once so that the person knows you called and then hang up.  He's missed called me several times and sent me several other messages. 

I responded and told him I wasn't interested but things haven't really gotten much better.  The really strange thing is that I didn't really talk to him much before.  He told me he wanted things to go back to the way they were before but that doesn't make sense since I never talked to him before.  Just really weird.  Luckily I swear in on Friday and then move to Mariental in the South.  He will be going to Cape Town for school."

What an interesting piece of the nature vs. nurture puzzle.  Namibia is rather cut off from Western culture, and yet it has a thriving awkward stalker infrastructure complete with regional terminology and practices "e.g., missed calling".  That officially bumps them up to Code Orange on the Hierarchy of Stalkerization (see picture) and provides firm new evidence that awkardness is programmed into the human genome. (Click to see larger image.)

Remember this diagram, you will be seeing it in a textbook someday.