Monday, October 14, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Things that make me slightly less sad when I am sad

1. Saltines.
They’re just so salty. Look at those little crystals of happiness:

But they have to be U.S. saltines, not British salti --  oh wait, my bad. There are no British saltines. The closest thing you can find here are cream crackers, which besides having an unacceptable lack of salt are misleadingly not made of cream (which might have been a redeeming quality). At Spanish or Latin American markets, you can find Colombian saltines, which charmingly break off into little cracker triangles. They’ll do in a pinch, but are still not salty enough to sate my sodium-addicted American palate.

2. Marketplace.
As in the APM show hosted by Kai Ryssdal. That man is just so genial and comforting as he tells me how the world is falling apart one economic issue at a time.

3. Italian greyhounds.
I’ve written before about my favorite kind of dog, the pit mix. I love them, but they also make my heart ache a little bit. Maybe it’s because I know that they’re often rescued from dog-fighting rings. Maybe it’s because I’ve been conditioned by Sarah McLachlan-soundtracked ASPCA ads that spend a whole 90 seconds zooming in on their sad little cubical faces. Maybe it’s because I’m always a little worried that they’re going to topple over from the weight of their massive heads. But an Italian greyhound? Those dogs are fucking ridiculous. How could this fill you with anything but glee:

4. A dress that’s shaped like a bag.
Useful if you need to find a quiet corner in which to tuck your knees up into you like a ball and cry for a little bit (and then never return to within a half-mile radius of that spot in case someone saw you).

5. Taking the train in London.
Not the tube, the train. The one that comes to my station is the same train that goes straight up to Luton Airport, so you always feel like you’re going somewhere exciting, even if you’re really just going to Elephant & Castle (which isn’t as nice as the American pub chain of the same name would have you believe. Though there is a pretty good casino/bowling alley where they're sometimes too lazy to make you rent bowling shoes.)

6. Oversized grocery stores.
So many products! So many choices! So little time to think about your problems!

7. Henry the vacuum cleaner.

8. Photobooths.

9. Being tired enough to fall asleep without thinking anymore.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Is anyone else’s memory too abysmal to answer any of the “memorable questions” on website security forms? Actual options from a recent account I had to create:

What is the first name of the first person you kissed?
Who was the artist/band of the first concert you attended?
Who was your favourite teacher?
What was your favourite holiday destination as a child?
In what city or town did your mother and father meet?

If they won’t give me at least one “Mother’s maiden name,” I’m pretty much screwed.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

First day

I just started a masters in consumer behavior at what I’m told by everyone is a Very Good School. I didn't choose it because it's a Very Good School, I chose it because it’s the only place in London that has a masters in consumer behavior. This is the first year that the program has been offered, and so I’m very happy that they didn't have to cancel it due to no one applying for it. There are eight of us (I’m told that one of the course directors PRed the hell out of it to some innocent other-program applicants just to flesh it out), and we’re in a department with several other small courses, including Global Leadership, Digital Entrepreneurship, Management of Innovation, and other business-jargony titles. So in addition to classes like The Psychology of Marketing, we take ones called things like Innovation Case Studies and Organisational Behavior & Health. I mean, I guess these topics are related, in the sense that you can relate anything to anything else, but so far the whole thing seems a little confused. This is fine by me, really. I’m generally confused about everything at all times, so it would be pretty hypocritical of me to begrudge an educational program for having this same quality.

On Mondays I don’t have any real classes, but we do have a Guest Speaker lecture between 4 and 5pm, followed by drinks at a local pub to continue the inspired discussion that Guest Speaker is sure to have initiated. So this past Monday -- first day of school, metaphoric pencils sharpened -- we assembled in a lecture hall to listen to a very distinguished lecturer who possesses many intimidating degrees and has written more books than I've read in the past three years. The premise of his talk was this:

There are qualities that we associate with good leaders. However, we should be aware of the difference between optimal and excessive levels of these qualities, because in abundance, they can be negative and lead to dysfunctional leadership.

We were promised that this speaker would be engaging, and he was! As in he managed to stretch that one fairly obvious thought into a rollicking hour-long talk. (To be fair, he also filled up some time name-dropping the Fancy Companies for which he consults). Again, how is this relevant to consumer behaviour? Oh hell, think about that later! Everything is relevant to everything, innit? Now off to the pub!

I grabbed A., the closest thing to a friend I had so far. At our departmental meet-and-greet the week prior, we had bonded over our mutual desire to sneak out quickly and quietly without having to say goodbye or to talk to any of our program directors.  

“I’m not going to go,” she said. “I just don’t know what I’d ask him.”

I didn't either, but I figured nodding and smiling while other people ask things usually works pretty well. At the pub, I found a seat next to two other girls whom I had yet to meet. Speaker asked us where we were from. The other two girls were English. “Ah!” he said. “God’s chosen people.”

He went on to ask how we were settling in, before following up with everyone’s second favorite thing to say about our Very Good School (after the part about it being Very Good). “It’s a beautiful campus here,” he said. “But what a terrible neighborhood.”

Nods. Smiles.

“It seems like a very political place,” the girl next to me said. “I think the other day there was some sort of demonstration!”

“Oh yes. Very political," Speaker said. "And this department is very international."

Were we very international, comparatively, I wondered? I just assume that any well-known university has a lot of international students these days. It’s our radically inflated tuition fees that are paying for all those shiny new Macs in the computer lab, right?

“It’s wonderful that it’s so international,” Speaker went on. “But the problem with the international students is, after they’re finished they want to stay here!”

Nods. Smiles. Wine-gulping.

Speaker moved on to talk to another group of students soon after that. All I really heard was, “Beautiful campus, terrible neighborhood!”

Always nice to be met at your new institution by the Old Tory Welcome Wagon.