The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Dinner break (Day 7 continued)

I walked across the Thames for dinner tonight—my first time out of the hotel in almost two days—and had a lovely risotto al fresco. On the way back I snapped a photo of the hotel where we've been imprisoned stayed for the past week:

For good measure I also took another gratuitous photo of Tower Bridge:

Because, really, you can't have too many photos of something that cool, right?

InterCultural Edge (London residency day 5 and then some)

It's 1:10 am London time, meaning I will enjoy no more than six hours of sleep tonight (including thirty minutes drooling on the breakfast table). Because I'm running on fumes, and therefore no longer playing with a full deck on the top floor, I have decided to post the assignment that kept me up so late.

(The essay that follows refers to the InterCultural Edge, an experimental tool for evaluating cross-cultural interactions out of Duke's business school. Otherwise I hope it stands on its own. Also, it's important to understand that the assignment was to post the essay in the program's community blog. I inferred from this a license to use a much less formal style than I would ever use in a business essay. I will report the accuracy of this inferrence sometime later.)

Imagine a crowded commuter train at the end of the working day. You’re tired, you’re on your way home, every seat is taken. You find a seat that has, instead of a person in it, a large, heavy, malodorous, aluminum-framed backpack. The kid across from this monstrosity grasps the situation after an uncomfortable moment and stuffs the backpack in the luggage rack overhead. All is well.

You open your newspaper, the train pulls out of the terminal, and you settle in for the hour-long journey home. Ah, good: your football team won, your shares have gone up, and—

—A large, heavy, malodorous, aluminum-framed backpack lands on your head.

On your head.

Heavy. Backpack.

It hurts. It knocks your glasses clear off, tears your newspaper in half, and for good measure falls bounces off four other people, just missing horrified kid who no doubt feels as shocked as you do but doesn’t have your torn newspaper, bent glasses, or bump on the head.

What do you do?

Before answering, some more context: You are going from Victoria Station to your house in West Sussex, a well-to-do semi-rural area of south-west of London. You are British. You were brought up a Certain Way. You don’t Do Certain Things. You have a Stiff Upper Lip. (You also have a Headache and Blurry Vision, but that’s Irrelevant Right Now.)

What you do, therefore, is this: you apologize to the shocked-but-suspiciously-uninjured American kid while he struggles, panicked, to put his backpack somewhere it won’t hurt anyone else.

Yes, you apologize, quietly and politely, to your assailant. For good measure, and despite your throbbing head, clearer vision (another traveler has unobtrusively returned your glasses to you), and anticipation of new challenges reading the Times, you help the kid wrangle the backpack to a different luggage rack, one that is actually wide enough to support it.

Many years later the kid grows up and, after taking the InterCultural Edge Survey, has a tool to describe what happened and why he found it so odd.

(You can stop imagining now.)

The above describes my first trip to the U.K., right after I finished college. I had heard about British stoicism and watched a lot of British TV in the U.S., but until then, I had never seen it in person. Watching my backpack fall on the guy horrified me; his reaction shocked me.

See, I grew up in Chicago and went to school in New York. In either city, had my backpack fallen on someone during rush hour, I could reasonably have expected being cursed out, sued, or beaten up, possibly with my own backpack. In New York the other commuters might even have held me down while he pummeled me. So why had this person apologized for having the temerity to sit under the thing while it fell on him?

ICE doesn’t explain the incident, but it does provide some vocabulary around it. The gentleman and everyone around him wanted to diffuse tension, avoid conflict, avoid disagreement, and avoid letting their feelings guide their behavior. In sum, they showed a preference for the “Reserved” communication style.

Of course, at the time, their reactions made no sense. I spent the four years immediately preceding the trip in a city not particularly associated with avoiding conflict or restraining feelings. New Yorkers typically tell you what they’re thinking, when they’re thinking it, and without caring if it starts a conflict, because to them, conflict means you’re “getting everything on the table;” they tend toward the “Expressive” communication style. Chicagoans, while more reserved than New Yorkers, stay firmly within the “Direct” style. (These are generalizations, of course. People in both cities range from Reserved to Direct to Expressive, sometimes in the space of a single day.)

In England, people seem to prefer the “Reserved” style. This comports with the popular understanding in the U.S. of British people generally, and of English people specifically. People on the Reserved end of things want to keep interpersonal interactions smooth and painless. Where a stereotypical American would argue with the statement “When I disagree with someone, I avoid direct conflict,” a stereotypical English person would nod politely. In the same vein, an English person might say, “I avoid clear-cut expressions of my feelings when I communicate with others,” while a New Yorker might counter, “When a heavy object lands on my head for no apparent reason, I swear like a sailor.”

I never found out what happened to that guy. I got off the train before he did, and he didn’t seem interested in getting my address or calling a lawyer. Possibly this is because he had a severe concussion, but none of the people around him chased me down the platform either. To this day I imagine him returning home with messed-up hair and bent glasses, answering his wife’s “What happened?!” with a quiet, “Oh, nothing, mustn’t grumble.”

Longest day yet (London residency day 4)

I haven't known the day of the week for a few days now, and after today I'm even less sure. My laptop tells me Tuesday.

Since I have about an hour of reading yet, then a class at 8:00 (it's 23:15 now), I will simply post this photo and write about building a raft and climbing a wall sometime later.

EEEEIE (London residency day 3)

The results are in, and for the fifth or sixth time in 15 years I've gotten the same result on a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. As expected, this result had some movement at the edges—I'm closer to the center on both Introversion-Extraversion and Thinking-Feeling than on my last test—but my overall type hasn't changed.

Notice, however, that I'm in business school. Business schools in general are overwhelmingly Extraverted. I am not. This, believe it or not, is one of the reasons I'm here. The title of this post refers to the composition of my team: 5 Extraverts and me. (Be careful what you wish for...) Fortunately I'm not so far on the Introverted scale that my head will actually explode, but I am acutely aware of working against my preference, especially in group meetings. My best guess at my team's types: ESTJ, ESTJ, ESTP, ENTJ, ESTP, INTP.[1]

I'm the INTP.

After using it for 15 years, I've found Myers-Briggs helps predict and resolve differences in temperament. For example: knowing that we're all Thinkers means we have to pay close attention not only to the human dimension in our group projects, but also it means we need to think through our group process. And: in an ideal world the rest of the group would understand what I need as an Introvert, but the 5-1 ratio combined with the absence of any Feelers means, really, I'm on my own. The most worrying potential clash comes from convincing the Extraverted Sensors that my iNtuition (I showed up more iNtuitive this time around than ever before) can actually help the group. We've already had two group meetings in which I perceived a conflict on the S-N fault line. Note, though, that being iNtuitive, I have a bias towards finding structural answers when more prosaic ones may be correct. The Sensors, I'm willing to bet, no such general issue, if they saw any issue at all, and they've already forgotten about it while I'm up here writing a blog entry analyzing it.

I would like to have had more opportunity to talk with my team about how we can use the MBTI to make a smoother go at things, but the residency is just too compressed. Perhaps we will, though. Like a good Perceiver I'll wait for the right opportunity.

[1] I might be wrong on one of the Ss and one of the Ps; also, two of the Es seem more to the center. We haven't all shared our results yet.

Crickets (London residency day 2)

School has started. Even though we had an easy day today, I'm knackered, and I still have to revise for tomorrow morning's classes. We did our first team project today, a scavenger hunt of sorts for our Global Markets class that had us wandering the neighborhood around the hotel looking for the prices and origins of a few consumer products. We'll repeat the exercise in each of the next four cities. It turns out you can buy a toothbrush at Tesco's for 54p, a 100-gram Cadbury's bar for £1.30, and an "I Love London" 100% cotton T-shirt made in Turkey for £8. The exercise will probably seem more interesting when we repeat it in Dubai, Delhi, Shanghai, and St. Petersburg. (For some reason we won't repeat the exercise in Durham.)

Off to study. Posting may slow down considerably until the 28th. This is, after all, a slow day, and this is the best I can do.

More photos from Amberley (London residency, Day 1)

More from yesterday. First, The Bridge Inn, where I had lunch and and after-hike pint:

Second, you may wonder what a stile is. It's a fence with a board sticking through it that humans can get over easily and cows cannot. Of course, any determined bovine can simply knock through it, but most aren't that determined. Here's an example:

Finally, a house in the village of Amberley. Yes, people actually live in houses like this in England:

I will now, in 15 minutes, start the CCMBA. Wish me luck.

Pity about the weather (London residency, Day 0)

Yesterday, the temperature in London got up to 25°C under sunny skies. Londoners panicked and fled into the streets. After getting my Oyster Card sorted, I joined the terrified masses and walked from Piccadilly Circus back to the Tower Bridge, 7 km according to Google Maps.



Today I'm going to flee the city (the weather forecast is for more of the same) and head into Sussex, to the site of the infamous Cow Attack of 1992, to see if this bridge is still there:

Full report later today.

Little adjustments (London residency, Day -1)

I've arrived in London after an enjoyable flight and a remarkably speedy trip through baggage and customs. I've also had a shower and a kip, and I'm about to leave the hotel and actually enjoy the city for a bit.

Even though in the Land of Uk "one mustn't grumble," one can certainly make ill-tempered observations:

  • Carrying a heavy bag down stairs is a much different proposition than carrying it up. And the Tube stop at Tower Hill has about 50 steps up and no escalators. As the difference between taking the Tube (£3.80) and a taxi (£75.00) is enormous, I will merely grin and enjoy the exercise.
  • My T-Mobile G1 is not allowing me to connect to any UK mobile providers, including, it must be pointed out, T-Mobile. The phone has three bands and certainly can connect, it just doesn't want to. T-Mobile Online Chat Mechanical Turk "Paison" is "researching the issue," but it means that I'm doing an online chat with T-Mobile rather than wandering London.
  • Once outside the hotel, I have to go to Piccadilly Circus to set up my Oyster Card (a stored-value card that works on the Tube and other parts of London transit) for auto top-up. I could do this online, except their online form doesn't accept international addresses, even though my account is an international account. It's stupid programming. Fortunately I have enough on my Oyster Card to get to Piccadilly Circus, and if Paison can research the issue faster, I can get there before the travel centerre closes in four hours.
  • Should I manage to get my Oyster card working, which requires leaving the hotel, which requires Paison to tell me how T-Mobile will let me give them more money, I have to buy two neckties. Why? Because all of my neckties are in my closet. In Chicago. Because my checklist for things to pack included many things, but even when packing my suit, my Oxford shirts, and even my cufflinks, I neglected to pack ties. Yeah. I'm in the Advanced Program.

OK, while typing this Paison figured out what setting in T-Mobile's computers was wrong, so my phone is working, having mysteriously connected itself to T-Mobile's UK network. I will now sally forth into this alien world and practice speaking the local language...

Quick update: I blamed Oyster's Website for the difficulty I had setting up my card. No, actually, the problem came from my bank's fraud detection department. They saw two charges from the U.K. and just blocked the card, knowing that I'd call them eventually. Keep in mind, my bank processed the charge for the airplane tickets (that included the itinerary, don't ask me why), and processed a charge last night at O'Hare, and could not draw a straight line between these things and a charge this morning for my hotel in London. But, hey, better safe than sorry, especially when you (i.e., the bank) have unlimited liability for fraudulent charges and I (i.e., me) have none. My inconvenience is your loss prevention.

Right. I really am leaving this hotel now.

Quick update redux: Nope, it was Oyster after all. They can't verify my postcode. Off to Piccadilly.

London Residency, Day -2

I need to buy a smaller bag.

I learned this checking in at O'Hare a few minutes ago. It turns out, American Airlines has a 32-kilo limit on each checked bag. However, if your bag wieghs more than 22.7 kg, they charge you $50 for the overweight.

My bag weighed 33 kg until I removed my one-kilo Financial Accounting binder—just the binder, not the textbook, workbook, or CD—and rearranged my other two bags to distribute the weight better. The final score: Checked bag, 31.7 kg on the nose; carry-on bag, 7.7 kg; backpack, 8 kg; doctor visit co-pay, $10.

So, once I get to London and, a few hours later, recover from schlepping 48 kg of baggage up the steps of the Tower Hill Tube stop, I may pop 'round to Oxford Street and get a new bag. Because, see, the bag I have at home that would have perfectly fit the bill is inconveniently still at home.

Another thing: when did American start putting winglets on Boeing 767s? Look:

Quick follow-up to people who aren't pilots: This week's "Ask the Pilot" has an explanation of winglets. He also has a description of Princess Juliana Airport as well, which is the reason I visited Sint Maarten last winter.