BART, Americans, and Attitudes, vs The East

This is what the best BART station looks like.

Yesterday I had my only trip on American public transportation in recent memory and it was even more disappointing than I expected. I love trains, I love cities built around trains, I love being able to go places without having to lug around a huge metal box, but now that I’ve bothered paying attention to it, Bay Area Rapid Transit does not run a metro. It’s not a heavy rail system. It’s not even a light rail system. It will never be a heavy or a light rail system. Comparing my experience riding BART to the one riding Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway and it became instantly obvious that BART is just a glorified parking lot shuttle that just happens to run on the rubberless kind of wheels.

But this isn’t only the BART’s fault. Even if by some hand of god all the people in the administration on down were removed and replaced with perfect candidates to fill every conceivable need, including the contracted union construction workers who are the mafia in all but name and the Department of Transportation guys who are all bought out, BART would still be garbage – because it doesn’t go anywhere by itself. If your destination is Oakland, Berkeley, or San Francisco, fine. If you’re going anywhere else, you take BART, you get off at your final station and then what?

Walk the rest of the way?

BART… and I’m back in a parking lot.

“But the population density is too low! We’re not crowded like Hong Kong!” is the common response and until now I grudingly accepted it as the truth, the reason why everything is shitty. If only we had more people in the San Francisco Bay Area, if only more people wanted to come to Silicon Valley, home to the most valuable companies in the world, everything would be fixed!

Then I realized that it’s exactly backwards. Low density isn’t the reason for lack of results, low density is itself the intended result – among a bunch of other intended results. Sure, the people want a fast high quality public transportation system. They probably want it to be free too. But god have mercy if it comes at the cost of their backyard, or if it causes buildings with more than 3 stories to pop up anywhere before the horizon. If someone really wants something they know they can’t have everything and can usually come to some sort of compromise. But the public, uneducated on little and sold on everything, compromises for nothing. So, as a result, we pay a few billion dollars every few years to keep it afloat, and otherwise keep it out of sight out of mind, ignoring that the system was outdated when it was introduced almost half a century ago, and with all the money poured into it has essentially never updated since.

Everyone who’s gotten to highschool has this figured out, even if they only believe it’s true of people they disagree with. This is all fairly common knowledge:

The people will accept politicians being stupid and wasting billions of dollars on pork barrel projects, so long as the people get to sit comfortably in their sofas at home calling politicians stupid for wasting billions of dollars on pork barrel projects.

Now what’s not common knowledge is that it’s wrong – specifically, it’s not “the people”. It’s not a function of homo sapiens, it’s somewhat a function of masses and democracy, but there’s something more accurate we can say, that no one will ever say:

The American people will accept politicians being stupid and wasting billions of dollars on pork barrel projects, so long as the American people get to sit comfortably in their sofas at home calling politicians stupid for wasting billions of dollars on pork barrel projects.

BART sucks because Americans suck.

I don’t mean this in the ‘you allow people in power to screw you!!!’ sense; democracy is a sham, and it’s unreasonable to say that unorganized masses are “allowing” organized interests to do whatever they want. I mean this in the sense that the American pasttime of schadenfreude against their political leaders is an attitude they take everywhere. There are the big problems which, fairly, only a very select few with power can do anything about this moment. Then there’s ten thousand little ones which everyone can do something about. Things which add up and eventually make the world a better place.

Things which Americans won’t do, and will defend to the death not only are they right in not doing it, but that you’re wrong and weak in wanting it done to begin with. It’s not important if you’re actually wrong or weak. It’s not important if they’re wrong either.

What’s important is they get to call you the names, and being comfortable while doing it.

This is what one of my rides on BART looked like. I don’t have pictures of the other ride, but there were a bunch of really dirty people “teens” in really dirty clothes each taking up a whole bench, and empty boxes and bottles here and there.

I suddenly don’t like software engineers.

Two doors per side per car, seats are arranged front/back except for doors, which have one side-bench per. Not shown in picture is the map of the system, which is either once per side or once per car.

This is what an older MTR car looks like.

Some of them have TVs mounted on top of the central bars too. 2 per car.

4 doors per side, all seats are arranged as sides, no padding, bunch of things to hold onto.

All these differences aren’t so important. Lower density system, you can afford put in wider comfier seats. Comfy is good. Makes sense. What is important is that BART had a paper printout of the system occurring 1 or 2 times per car, while MTR had 8 of these:

Does Silicon Valley not have that because of lower population density too? We can’t scrounge up enough money because lower ridership, and who cares it’s just an unnecessarily fancy display that only has one purpose anyways?

How about the audio announcement then? I could never make out what the operator was saying on BART, partly because half the time riding BART is louder than flying turboprop, but also because the PA system was trash and the operator didn’t enunciate. MTR I could hear everything just fine, even if I had to wait for the English version of it. It was also all prerecorded. I guess the population density isn’t high enough to justify prerecording. It isn’t high enough to justify the operator saying the name of the station before the train arrives either. Or sometimes, saying the name of the station at all!

Man low population density causes a lot of problems.

This was at the Kam Sheung Road MTR station, effectively about as backwater as you can get in Hong Kong. It is on the inside door of the restroom. The restroom at the time had the janitor chilling in his utility closet; in Hong Kong public areas in general you can often see janitors and other custodials doing their work.

Oh, thanks for reminding me.

I’d show you a picture of what the inside door of a restroom in a BART station looks like, but there are no restrooms in BART. Apparently though the janitors which I’ve never seen and which think trash littered cars are fine are paid 270k a year (USD not HKD). Because they deserve a living wage. Or something. Overworked understaffed? Maybe throw a little bit of higher cost of living in there too.

Now, on the BART website, they claim certain stations actually do have bathrooms. Supposing they bathrooms do physically exist in the stations as they say, they don’t fit the definition of public. What kind of restroom is it if a member of the public who wants to use it can’t find it?

Someone who alighted at my station on a train before mine asked where the exit was. I can’t blame him, because this is what an aboveground BART deck looks like:

The far side actually does have its exit in-frame.

This is what the Tin Shui Wai deck looks like. I specify because they’re all obviously visibly different in some way. If you memorize the colors on the walls or pillars, you can tell where you are in the line. BART is the same concrete wherever you go.

There is no exit in this picture.

Both of the above depicted stations have their exits below their current floor. One of them is significantly easier to find than the other. Are exits easier to find if it’s higher population density? An inch of glass is more expensive than another foot (thick!) of concrete?  I’ll admit the sign isn’t particularly helpful but that’s one error out of a hundred corrections. Why are there two decks instead of one, anyways? If someone mistakenly missed their stop and got off at the next one, one of these stations would fuck them if the return train arrived at the same time, and the other wouldn’t.

Obviously, the American one is the better one.

Am I just salty? Y I Mad Doe? No, it’s impossible that I might be right on top of that. Everyone claims debates and discussions are about truth but most people jump to pointing and laughing at the other guy the first chance they get and declare victory after that. Sorry – most Americans. Call someone salty or anti-American or any number of names and it doesn’t matter what they say anymore. Am I anti-kid if I don’t give a fat kid candy? These are the same kind of people who will recoil and put their hands up if you start calling them imbeciles, but we’ll get into that topic another time.

American attitudes toward everything is can be summarized in

  1. Fuck you got mine” and
  2. I’m/We’re the best“.

Must be because I’m not AMERICAn enough.

Who cares about the rest of the world when you have AMERICA?

To begin with the state of public transportation is mostly an afterthought because when it’s brought up it’s simply written off. Who cares about public transportation? I have a car. I can get where I want to when I want to. What, too poor to have a car? None of my business. Don’t ask me to pay taxes to fund someone else’s life. Then they’ll turn around and complain about how traffic is so bad lately and they have to get up earlier and earlier so the freeway moves at the actual speed limit rather than at 10mph.

It simply doesn’t occur to them that everyone else thinks the same thing and cars have geometries and physics which cause certain effects. It isn’t some economist rational actors model where everyone’s carefully and quantitatively measured out how much they value each thing and voila, now we have a shitty public transportation system as well as a shitty private transportation, but all of this is okay because we value detached single family homes so much. None of that goes through their head. It’s literally just “I don’t care, I don’t see a problem, why are you yelling at me? I was promised owning my own home in the American Dream! If you say I shouldn’t have one then fuck you!”

Why do aboveground BART stations have two decks instead of one?
Because if you miss your stop then it’s your fault you’re an idiot.

Why aren’t there bathrooms in BART stations, or if they exist, why can’t they be found?
Because you didn’t look hard enough, or if they don’t exist, why didn’t you just take care of business before leaving the house?

Why doesn’t BART have a clear announcement system or a display that shows where in the system you are at all times?
Because you should know which stop you’re stopping at anyways.

Why does BART allow trash on its trains?

Are you saying you saw trash and didn’t clean it up? Why aren’t you doing your part? If you did, why are you complaining? The problem got solved, didn’t it?

If you’ve heard the line “You didn’t get the job because you just weren’t passionate enough”, this is the same thing. Every systemic problem that’s brought up turns out to be the result of a lack of individual responsibility, effort, and faith – until they also happen to have a problem with it, then it’s always a call for somebody to do something, as long as it doesn’t turn out that “somebody” includes them. Not my tax money. Not my car. Not my backyard.

Or in case of BART employees, Not my job.

Hong Kong Central Library, not MTR.
I don’t want to talk about the state of American libraries.

Whose job was it to put this label up? Did it need to be put up?

Do you think he was paid more or less than 270k a year (USD not HKD)?

Considering it’s some text on laminated paper secured by tape, it was probably decided and put up by someone lower down the chain than whoever put up this other one:

This is on a pedestrian path on the side of a mountain.

These little things put life into what’s otherwise an environment that just happens to have other people in it and is just somewhere you have to be in order to get to the next place. It’s not just some path, it’s a paved path with clean railings and cleaned plates that have a contact number on them indicating someone is involved in maintaining it and they care about their work. It’s not just an elevator to the library, it’s one whose surfaces are cleaned every hour and someone decided it was important to let people know it’s clean – clearly not someone at the top but someone much further down.

Meanwhile, BART operators could care less if you heard them or if you know where you are. BART police could care less if you’re getting robbed by 50 “teens”. Or murder, which I won’t bother linking because it happens so often none of them are worth noting anymore. Everywhere you go in America you feel that people are basically just showing up for the paycheck. Nothing is improved, nothing gets better over time, and if really terrible things happen as a result of ten thousand little things not having been done and not building up to anything larger, hey, I was just collecting my check. That wasn’t in the job description. Hell if I’m going to let you add things to it. Better pay me more next year though. I have a union.

And this attitude goes all the way up.

A high-speed railway connecting Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, railway was brought up in the late 1990s by the Government of Hong Kong. This Regional Express Railway (RER) proposal was developed in the 1994 “Railway Development Study”(RDS); it foresaw a continual growth of Hong Kong’s population over the next two decades and strong demand for cross-border passenger traffic. The Hong Kong (SAR) Government commissioned a second Railway Development Study in March 1998. The Study went further on the British proposal of connecting Hong Kong and China from Kowloon. […] Since the typical timeframe for rail projects, from conception to completion phase, would take eight or nine years, the Railway Development Study recommended that the Hong Kong (SAR) Government should commence as soon as possible, so that the new express railway could be constructed in time to meet capacity demands.

This sort of talk of foresight seems fairly common among public planners.

Wow, 2040! They’re planning 20 years ahead!

But you look at the past 20 years and for BART it’s taken 15 years to still not completely build a single new station 5 miles away from the current terminal. They’ve been using the same train cars since the system was built in the 1970s, and the technology was outdated even back then, and they have the gall to talk about 20 years in the future.

America has the best people in the world though right? Immigration land of opportunity diversity is strength blah blah blah wow, train stations must be the hardest thing ever to build if it takes them 15 years. Maybe we should get Elon Musk to build them.

Meanwhile in China:

“But Chinese stuff always breaks and they always break regulations” Should I compare how often MTR or Shanghai trains are delayed or broken down, to how often BART trains are delayed or have murders? I’ll be the first to preach mainlanders are terrible but there’s things that are objectively better and things which are objectively worse.

“But China is communist and uses eminent domain” what’s wrong with eminent domain?

Let me repeat that: What’s wrong with eminent domain?

In broader terms and different words:

Why do cities exist, and what would an ideal city look like?

Rich peopleville.

This is the BART station in Walnut Creek. Out of all the stations, this is probably the one where most Americans would ideally want to live next to. San Francisco has rent out the nose for a tiny box, Berkeley same idea, Oakland has “teens”… This, on the other hand, is perfect. Single family homes, short distance to highway, to public transit, to shopping malls, to DMV, and if there’s parties or events in the bigger cities, there’s no need to haul a car there to find or pay ridiculous prices for parking. All you’d need to do is

I think I figured out where the creator of this tagline lives.

The problem is Walnut Creek can only be true for a very small number of people. Works fine for people who already lives there, Fuck you, got mine, doesn’t work for everyone else. And unless some Lee Kuan Yew appears, the land divisions set in that image will always remain. There will never be any development into higher density housing on the left side of the freeway because people will always hold onto their house, and if they let go they aren’t going to let go at the same time. And the city planners will never go against The Will Of The People because democracy.

But, also because of democracy, they do want to create more business and more jobs so they can make more money, which means more people will have to come from elsewhere to do the work or at least be customers and pay the bills, and they will come via… cars.  There’s only so much BART parking space, which at most stations is always full, and it’s not like it’s that close anyways once you get there. A train that’s louder than a plane, doesn’t run on time, only comes every once in a while, has trash lying around like it belongs there, and when I get there I have to see this?

Closest buildings on one side of Walnut Creek station.

I have to walk through parking lots where I as a pedestrian am clearly an afterthought? You want me to use this train, which means leaving my car, but at the destination I have to wait 10~30 minutes for a bus, there’s no taxis, no light rail no pedestrian paths with any nice scenery, all of which put me right next to with no barriers inbetween, one or two ton cars going by at 30+mph? I have to deal with this as I walk 10~30 minutes just to see how many shops? And I have to carry everything with me the whole time because coin and baggage lockers don’t exist, because it’s just expected everyone has a car?

Closest buildings on the other side.

Might as well just take my own car the whole way then.

So then we have clogged freeways. And the attitude towards this is “oh well”.

So are you going to tell city councilors off? Or is it not a journalist’s job description to do that?

The American people will accept losing extra hours of their life 250/365 days a year waiting in line to go to work, so long as they get to sit comfortably in their own little metal boxes with speaker systems tuned to their favorite radio stations playing their favorite music, and read some journalist on some website say “Ouch” about their daily experience.

The average person can’t do anything about traffic or how cities are set up. They want their own things, live their own life, and that’s about it. Having a place to live, being able to get to work, being able to shop at nice places, and being able to visit a lot of friends, without a lot of time – these are all things I think everyone wants.

In other words, these things are why cities exist.

This is the equivalent of Walnut Creek station in Hong Kong:

Station is underground. Park on roof. Lots of residential + 1 commercial building on top.

A mall of 3 floors and 123 shops awaits you the moment you step out of the paid area.

A whole grocery store without having to step outside.

I should’ve taken more pictures.

The park on top.

Ignoring the cost: How many people live in those buildings? How many people can get basically whatever they want, see the sights, go to work, without ever having to leave this complex?

One article estimates that there’s 70,000 residents, hotel guests, and office workers occupying this space: about 0.14 square kilometers.

The population of Walnut Creek in 2014 was 67,673 and its square kilometers is 51.

Imagine how much parking/road space 70,000 cars takes.

Kowloon Station/Elements/Union Square is a really nice place and I’m sure a lot of people around HK come here for various reasons. And they get there by… train. Buses are frequent, pedestrians get elevated and undeground walkways to not have to walk on sidewalks all the time, where there are sidewalks there’s rails so it feels safer, light rail connects to heavy rail, heavy rail comes so frequently they don’t print schedules, and, even though there are backwater places in Hong Kong, new developments aren’t spread out single property divisions anymore. The MTR corporation with the assistance of the Hong Kong government gets land and develops it as a single vision, Kowloon Station being the current newest and largest one completed.What we currently see wasn’t even developed all at once; the station was done 94~98, the current mall opened in 07, and the buildings on top opened in years from 00~10. But it was all done under one architect, one corporation, one government.

This isn’t the only way to do things, the Japanese do it much more organically, but in both cases there is no “NIMBYism”. The Japanese accept it when someone decides the land is worth enough to start building higher than all the surrounding buildings. The Hong Kong government opens up or claims lands and decides that certain things need to happen, and is generally effective at it. I’m sure HK and Japanese residents more informed on the details will have their valid complaints, but overall, the major desires are met for a very large number of people.

Compared to what BART did over about the same period (1997~2011):

The invisible station in the center under the highways, a parking lot north and south. Maybe a few of the apartment blocks starting with the inverted triangle? I don’t know where exactly BART-owned land begins or ends here but it doesn’t really matter. No matter how you cut it this 15 years had, to say the least, a lot less accomplished.

It’s not so much that there’s not a Kowloon Walled City v2: 2 American Boogaloo popping up near/in Silicon Valley (though it should).

It’s that there’s nothing.

You built a dinky station… and like a building or three?

Are you serious?

What have these fuckers done with 15 years of their life? Remember when you were still in diapers and daddy showed you a highway and a field and said there’d be a train station? Well now that you’ve finished highschool and college degrees are worthless, daddy can get you a job at that station! Nevermind that its floorspace is about 3 minutes long. It was really hard! Kids these days don’t understand hard work.

While doing a bit more research on dates I found this image on wikipedia. It’s the newest station, which started construction in 2009, currently in 2017 is half operational, and was supposed to open in 2014. This is what it looked like in 2014

The rails shown aren’t BART rails, they’re national freight rails.
In other words, they’re unrelated.

It took five (5) (V) (五) years to build the amount shown in the above image.

Okay whatever no use shedding tears over lost idioms. Now that it’s built, next to old NUMMI new Tesla factory. Great! Finally BART serves a purpose other than being a glorified parking lot shuttle for San Francisco. People all over SF Bay Silicon Valley can now work for Tesla and not have to drive! Saving the planet is awesome! Insert more boomer marketing taglines here. Maybe we have to drive to a BART station first, but BART… and we’re there! Just hop off the train and walk the rest of the way to work!

See that T-shape above “Tesla Delivery Center”? That’s the factory entrance.

All 2 miles of it. Pop quiz, what’s the average human walking speed?

Given that number, would you spend that amount of time walking to work? After spending the probably 10 minutes or so to drive to the station, assuming you can find parking and get on the train just as it arrives (trains are every 15 minutes during rush hour) the probably 30 minutes on the BART ride itself, after all that – would you walk the amount of time you calculated on a path that looks like this?

This is a 45mph road. It’s also half the walk. No, the other side has no sidewalk either.

“But Tesla looks good on a resume”

Yes… Tesla’s the best. If you’re really passionate about helping mother Earth, you’d do it. America’s the best, if you really treasure your freedom, you’ll put up with 60 minutes every day each way to go 20 miles, a distance which might as well be in the middle of nowhere because it’s all single family detached residential around here. Stop complaining already. Everyone else has to deal with it too. If you don’t like it why don’t you leave? I just suck it up like a real man. I’m proud of my country. I don’t like it either,

but look at me,

I don’t complain.

This attitude is why I hate Americans. “My country, right or wrong” – except worse, because it’s not about foreign vs domestic, it’s about “Fuck you, got mine“. There’s no reasoning going on, there’s no considering of alternatives, there’s no constant seeking for improvement, it’s “eh, who cares, fuck you, got mine”. American gamers say those who are better than them “have no life”, and say those who are worse than them “casuals”. Americans who are more successful than them are “lucky or “talented”, but when they taste success themselves it’s because they have “passion” and achieved it through “hard work”. It’s so prevalent everywhere it’s would almost be funny, except they get really serious when the shit hits the fan and still refuse to believe that any of this is related.

People want housing to be close to jobs and shopping. Higher population density means more people are closer to the same amount of things. Metro systems, which have guaranteed right-of-way on their rails, connect speedily and reliably even more people to the same amount of things. This speed simultaneously connects those people to more areas than before, meaning there’s more areas competing with each other, driving the price down of, among other things, rent. All of these things are objectively desirable. All of these things are required in an ideal city.

But the people don’t care. And the city planners don’t care. The public transportation workers don’t care. The public transportation leaders don’t care. No one cares, until it looks like it might be time for them to get their cut. Then it’s not in my backyard, not my job, sorry the project was more complicated than expected, it’ll cost twice as much and take three times as long, man that janitor worked really hard this year, he deserves a raise. And then it’s back to not caring. Maybe once every five years we’ll do a week’s worth of work. Maybe once every four years they’ll pay attention. And we’re the world police superpower anyways, it’s always going to be better to live here. If those slanty eyed chinks start getting uppity we’ll just nuke them. Time for a nap.

“That’s just how America works, you have to learn how to play politics”

Americans are so far up their own ass in marketing they can’t see what’s real anymore.

I say “they” because I don’t identify with any of what I described. I say “Americans” because that’s the largest and most accurate group for which I can see these traits. They appear in idiots everywhere, but in America they appear in general from bottom to top.

I also know, from bottom to top, it’s not true in Hong Kong, and from what I’ve heard it’s also not true in Japan. It’s not a “people” thing, it’s not genetic or inherent in human nature. It can be changed, it can be fixed. Hong Kong has problems with their attitude toward society, and so does Japan, but there are always imperfections, and the attitude towards that is “we will fix them“. Whatever the actual distribution, the rule of culture is to do your part. Society there naturally pushes people to contribute more and more.

Thanks to the isolation of suburbia, I’m not fully AMERICAn.

What does society in America tell its people? How do Americans treat each other? Not just the hello how are you nice weather today, but the actual systemic results?

BART… and I’m…

What does America think about anything that happens outside of America?

What do Americans think of anyone who has ideas about how the world could be?

Because fuck you, that’s why.


A More Special Snowflake

[12:36:10 AM] KS: really the only trouble i have is something entirely new
[12:36:14 AM] KS: namely
[12:36:16 AM] KS: job applications
[12:36:21 AM] KS: fuck job applications jesus fucking christ
[12:36:34 AM] KS: this is worse than staring into nietzche’s abyss
[12:36:50 AM] KS: because this time the abyss is filled with fatasses doing autofellatio
[12:37:06 AM] KS: “Searching for jobs makes searching in general look bad. It’s the worst possible representative for the concept. Whenever you’re looking for something everything is always pretty good and sometimes you get really pleasant surprises. But when you’re looking for jobs, every place is just “Hello, I’m here sucking my own dick, would you like to suck it too?””
[12:37:24 AM] KS: “why are we perfect for you”
[12:37:29 AM] KS: you’re not, i applied to 10 other places
[12:37:34 AM] KS: “why are you the perfect applicant”
[12:37:48 AM] KS: i don’t fucking know, how bout you give me the info on the other applicants? who the fuck does a trade study on just one object?
[12:37:58 AM] KS: it’s like asking if a jet is faster
[12:38:21 AM] KS: the amount of retardedness is too high
[12:38:23 AM] KS: i didn’t train for this
[12:38:46 AM] KS: nothing i have learned helps me on this
[12:40:58 AM] KS: wtf wasnt it just midnight
[12:41:05 AM] ML: wat
[12:41:06 AM] ML: anyway
[12:41:10 AM] ML: make connections.
[12:41:21 AM] ML: companies want people who are going to work hard for them
[12:41:24 AM] KS: i can’t suck enough dick to make enough connections in this time
[12:41:26 AM] ML: and if that’s not an honest motivation
[12:41:30 AM] ML: to at least fake it
[12:41:34 AM] ML: make the company seem better
[12:41:40 AM] ML: play the PR game for yourself.
[12:41:42 AM] ML: this is what I’ve learned.
[12:41:47 AM] KS: ?
[12:41:51 AM] ML: public relations.
[12:42:01 AM] KS: i meant the “play the PR game for yourself”

[12:42:08 AM] ML: become your own public relations agent.
[12:42:33 AM] ML: if you were a celebrity
[12:42:33 AM] ML: if thousands of people were watching you and you had to make a good impression
[12:42:37 AM] ML: what image would you push
[12:43:06 AM] ML: who do you want to be to them
[12:43:06 AM] ML: think about it
[12:43:06 AM] ML: then do it

[12:43:06 AM] ML: even though I just ranted about how narrative structure doesn’t work
[12:43:06 AM] ML: I believe it works in the short term
[12:43:17 AM] ML: all my jobs have been through connections
[12:43:22 AM] ML: because I convinced them I was the kind of person they wanted around

[12:43:26 AM] ML: am I really that kind of person?
[12:43:27 AM] ML: idk
[12:43:34 AM] ML: part of me thinks “If they believe it it must be true”
[12:43:41 AM] ML: part of me thinks “Nah you pushed that image”
[12:43:50 AM] ML: I’ve stopped caring

[12:44:29 AM] KS: so i have to be an idol

[12:45:27 AM] ML: yes.

[12:45:56 AM] ML: it’s difficult, but if you can do it, it works.

Doesn’t Matter Got Paid, Doesn’t Matter Got Laid

I’ve cited one of my friends as an example a couple of times here. 3.9 student (actually 3.98) in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, been doing undergrad research and tutoring since forever, hadn’t gotten anything. Recently by seemingly a stroke of luck he got an internship for the first half of the summer, which I thought was pretty nice. Another one of my friends at 3.6 also got something really good, an internship and then a co-op at NASA and is basically set to work there after he finishes his degree.

But it wasn’t luck. 3.6 apparently got those two things because he spent afternoons or lunches or whatever working to build a wooden windtunnel with a bunch of other people, and the professor whose pet project it was was a former astronaut. 3.9 was talking with his professor the other day, vice chair or chair (not relevant) of the department, about how he had applied at Chevron two years in a row and this second year he got even less of a response than the first and the professor said

“[name]. If you want a job at Chevron, I can get you a job at Chevron.”

I’m sorry, could you say that one more time?

They both have their own things to say about it, but this is a rose bullshit by any other name. They have to know you. You have to get connected to them on a personal level. You have to understand who they are. Then they’ll connect you and you’ll become a part of their network, just like how we’re friends and not just because facebook says so, there are networks more than just because linkedin says so.

“Connection”. You know what’s another word that starts with C, ends with n, and has exactly the same amount of letters in between?


Let’s review how you are supposed to get a job: You are the best qualified available in the given timeframe. Connections, theoretically, are only supposed to lower the information barrier. It’s like finding a wife, perhaps the problem resides only in the fact that you have not been able to meet someone good for you due to the fact that humans are spatially separated and the internet search terms aren’t powerful enough to connect you with someone compatible without much effort and time. A friend or family member introduces you to someone who they think might work out and you two strike it off? Great. And often this is necessary; if you want to get married and have good children and an enjoyable (sex) life you have to fuck before either of you are over 30. Same with jobs, you don’t have forever to get things done.

Is that what this is?

A week or so earlier I was going with my dad on morning walks and he was talking about this VP who had been fired at the factory he worked at and some of the other people who also got fired/laid off (I still haven’t figured out the difference) because they were only there because the VP was there. They had offered a job at the factory to one of their friends, and this was done through the normal publicly available openings or “requisition orders”. The guy wanted them to guarantee him a manager position after two years, they didn’t, so he didn’t apply. Some time later they opened it again, and the guy was promised what he wanted. He applied, and got the job.

That job was specifically designed for that person. As in, however the logistics worked out, no one would be able to fill that position but him, because what the goal was was not to find someone who had the listed traits and experiences, but that friend in particular. It’s not as if no one else applied for the position. They just all got an email or phone call or whatever telling them “This Position Has Been Closed”, or later, “This Position Has Been Filled”. Those notifications weren’t lying, of course. It’s not untrue that such a position or person was deemed to be no longer necessary. It just also failed to provide the pertinent information.

“But no money or gifts were exchan” How naive does one have to be? Maybe this has to happen to you and something you’re interested before you will buy it, as long as “you” are a westerner or have a western education. This isn’t just “connections”. We’re not talking about random people who happened to be a perfect match and were only able to meet up because of a random person they both knew. We’re talking about people who specifically want their friend to work where they work and specifically opened a position just for him, with the promise that regardless of what he did (outside of that which would lose a lot of public face, obviously) that he’d get manager in 2 years. And he did. To call those two things the same as in they’re both “connections” is like refusing to call out the difference between a rotten apple and a good apple or a human who’s alive and a human who’s dead. Or a human who’s male and a human who’s female, but I guess that would explain a lot wouldn’t it.

My dad told me to not worry so much about it because it’s only 20-30% of jobs. Only? As in, Only 1 out of every 5 to 1 out of every 3? If only one out of every 5 people in some city somewhere had cancer it’d be recognized as the new Black Plague. I had treated a lot of things told to me as bullshit. This will be important when you get a job, you have to show this and that and the other thing on your resume, don’t ever do the ten things on this list when you’re at the shitty promotional dinner for students and alumni, professionalism means x, communicating well means y. But that I treated as bullshit in the sense of all of those things were platitudes: they were nice and could occasionally get you something, but all in all optional, like most manners and standards of etiquettes seem to be these days anyways.

This is bullshit in the sense of all those things were lies.

Lies? It’s not like I was promised anything by anyone. Those professors didn’t guarantee that the only way to get to a decent job was to kiss their ass, and my friends never said anything of the sort either. Why does it feel like a lie? Because it is a lie. A murderer who says that killing is wrong is lying. A professor who says cheating is wrong but copied his exams and homework problems from someone else and faked his resume is lying.

Everyone who said I had to go to school to learn to do real work was lying. Don’t worry about the bad kids, the bullies, all the boys who are out playing with girls and footballs. You’ll be their boss someday, and get to tell them what to do. Just go to college, a good college, and do something in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics, get a degree, and you’re set for life. A house will appear, so will a car, and a job with career opportunities, and a wife with a happy family will all just magically plop themselves in front of you. Private Jet? CEO? President? Woman of your dreams? Maybe time travel, or colonizing space? All of this is possible… if you go to college and get a degree! But only if you do it properly. Show up to class on time, and that means 15 minutes early, study ahead, ask questions in class and go to every office hour, go to every job fair and try to talk to every representative. Do community service, preferably with Rotoract or some other club like that so you can network. Play hard, but study hard. Eat well, sleep well, focus on the goal and you will get there.

Don’t try to become a pro sports player, or a rock star. Only a very few people get to do that. If you want a steady, solid, and proven path, go to school and study hard.

3.6 didn’t get his job guarantee off of studying. 3.9 didn’t get his job guarantee off of studying either. 100% of my friends who have jobs got it through methods completely unrelated to their subject matter, and 100% of my friends who don’t have jobs, didn’t. “Then you must not have many friends” It’s more that I don’t count serving coffee at Starbucks as a job. Highschools boast about what percentage of their students they send to college, well that doesn’t tell us the distribution between how many they send to Stanford + Ivy Leagues vs the community colleges and art schools does it. Colleges and Universities (don’t know the difference here either) boast about what percentage of their commencees/graduates find a job, but that doesn’t tell us how many are actually in their field, or more importantly, because lest we forget this is why we all bought into the higher education crap to begin with, what the distribution of incomes is. “Got a degree and then found a job” sounds great. “Busted my ass off while getting little time for rest and no time for girls or socializing because I was studying for Mechanical Engineering all the time and now I’m working with Mexicans as a contractor as in I’m the guy running the nails” does not sound nearly as enticing.

Is this what the world is like?

Is this what I was going to live in all along?

I mean strictly speaking there’s nothing particularly wrong with it. There’s always going to be corruption to some extent. You’re going to want to work with your friends regardless of how you end up getting them there. Some of these things I find distasteful, but I find many things distasteful that I deal with anyways because I can’t change them nor does it matter too much if I change them because I can’t touch the principle. It’s not even that there’s no enemy to strictly fight in the physical sense, so I can just brawl with someone, knock them out, and then have all my problems related to that person be over with because they know not to fuck with me – I certainly would prefer this for many things, but abstracting and manipulating isn’t something I’m weak at. I can fight some things this way, perhaps even all things this way.



“hur baddies gonna bad”

3.9 was telling me that he likes seeing things from different points of view, and I should talk to his professor about it. He’s vice/chair, he has some power. And then he turns around sometime later in the conversation saying that the vice/chair is human too, and he can’t simply change the system on his own either. Everyone has their own personal side too, and you have to empathize with them.

Being someone who actually can see things from other people’s point of view- no actually, this is my fault, and I say “fault” in the “What Is Your Greatest Weakness” sense. I see things from other people’s points of view too much. It literally took me all of my life up until when I wrote Frame Control to fully understand what it means to hold my own point of view. From 0 to high school freshman I’d be seen as arrogant everywhere, but this was literally because I did not envision other people as humans in any way. Minus the arson, it really was like TF2’s Pyro. Now imagine if Pyro’s mask was broken and he saw what he was actually doing. Everything from the most fundamental roots of his world would’ve been undone and he’d have to learn everything all over again. From high school up until Frame Control, I was so good at absorbing the other point of view I’ve never failed at becoming better than the original. I had wanted redemption, and I sought it anywhere I could.

But I am not going to seek it from this fucking professor.

Gee, you have a hard time getting your department to do what you want? You have a hard time understanding what a student is going through? That must be real fucking nice. If that’s the only thing you really have to worry about, your life must be real fucking comfortable. Because here’s the rest of us, paying in 15k a year in “tuition” alone, studying our asses off, actually no, I’m not even going to say “the rest of us” because now I fail to believe other students actually work hard. I was in a group because the lab required us to be in a group and we were finishing up our final report this summer session and one of the guys asked me to help him on the other final project in another class we shared. And I found out he didn’t even know material from literally week 2 of the prerequisite class. How did he get to the last week of this class? A friend did everything for him because it was group projects too. So I’m going to speak only for myself. Here I am, paying 15k a year in tuition alone, spending four hours per problem in one of my four classes, read that again because I didn’t type incorrectly, attempting to figure out shit because what was taught in class was pure unattached theory and I have to wade through the two hundred or so equations with about half as much different symbols per chapter, even though classes are a six hour block three times a week, and literally zero companies I’ve applied to have had anything to say to me.

So if I think the system which has been sold to me by everyone from my parents up to individual professors (in varying quantities) to supposedly give me at least a greater “foot in the door” than the high school graduate into the supposedly high paying high prestige profession that is engineering, I should come to you to respectfully voice my grievances?

And then if I do that enough and do enough work for you, I can get a job at Chevron?

Hey man, the police just want to feed their family.

If I was my old “Pyro” esque self I wouldn’t be talking with this guy at all. If I was my highschool suck-everyone’s-dick self I might actually write some letters or get this vice/chair for his point of view, then go back to my corner and think about how the whole system is actually justified. As it stands, this whole thing is just a tragedy for me. Which he doesn’t disagree with, except for the fact he sees it as a neutral tragedy. In the rational, “it doesn’t really matter” sense. In the “a million deaths is just a statistic” sense. Not in the “My sister just had her head hack-sawed off” sense.

Not in the “twenty one years out of twenty one years of my life have been wasted so I’m actually completely useless” sense.

From “Corruption is always bad” to “Corruption is only 20%-30% of everyone“, to “You should try to understand their point of view”, to “Connections are good”.

“You have no one to blame but yourself” yeah that’s the problem isn’t it? It’s because it took me until this long to figure out that I had been completely duped and now the most productive thing I’m going to do for civilization is flip patties, broom linoleum floors, and, if I’m lucky, reprimand employees if they don’t remember a customer’s name after turning around from putting the cardboard sleeve onto the cup at the coffee machine. That’s the only productive thing I can do for anyone, from the other side of the planet to the people right next to me. That’s the only way the world wants for me to get food on the table. On top of the new Obamacare stuff requiring the poor to pay twice (first for taxes second for premiums), you can kiss your American Dream goodbye, and any hope of children too.

College is depopulation.

“Don’t take it personally” Fuck you and fuck off.