webcowgirl: (London Biker)
Today I went to a graduation ceremony in Cambridge. Now, we can all accept that maybe people will dress differently here than they do in America for graduation - more strange colors and more fur, plus much better built mortarboard hats (without tassles). But did you expect that they would doff them (the hats) to each other? And would you have thought the ceremony would mostly be conducted in Latin, and would consist of the various graduates coming up and kneeling before the dean of the college (or something like that) while he holds their praying hands and, essentially, welcomes them into the fellowship of scholars (in Latin)? I did not. It was very peculiar. Groups of four would come up and a woman (in a hat) would say something like, "I hereby affirm these people are suitably ready to be given the title of Master of the Arts," then she would let go of their hands and they would be be individually called up to get their blessing. I kind of thought that after the woman introduced the groups of four scholars to the seated, robed, dean-type fellow, that when she let go of their hands they would all bust out with lighting bolts and magic wands and we'd have some Griffindor versus Slytherin action, but it didn't happen. However, when it was all done, [livejournal.com profile] wechsler and I did go to Auntie's Tea Room and had some scones, which were very yummy.
webcowgirl: (Default)
Yesterday was the "big day" for football fans - the afternoon England match.

This started while I was in a meeting, a video and teleconference with about 7 people attending, including a rotating roster of people who come in and present to the group.

About 5 minutes before kickoff we finish with person X and then skip ahead to person Z because "everyone who was scheduled to speak in the afternoon has for some reason cancelled." We call person Z to tell him we're starting early and he needs to call in now. On my side, the screen we've had the powerpoint presentation on suddenly gets turned into a live video feed from the soccer field. In the video feed from our office on the other screen, the two people sitting in that room suddenly move much closer to the laptop they've got on the desk. The woman in that room has already told us that people keep walking by and waving to her as they head across the street, that the office is like the Marie Celeste.

The guy finally gets dialled in and proceeds to read every line off of his slides for 20 minutes while my side keeps fidding with the TV (at one point freaking out when the computer goes into sleep mode and the display is suddenly replaced with a picture of a cute white dog), while meanwhile the other people we can see on the conference do a "wave" at the same time we hear loud roaring from the employee lounge outdoors. The whole thing is a huge farce; absolutely nobody is paying attention to the guy making the presentation (and he can't see us.)

The last person to speak is the man we can see on the TV, and I say, "Hey, let's see if we can get through this one quickly." We do his report "by exception" only and finish in five minutes - with no questions from anyone on the line. He runs away, the woman left behind actually reviews the action points from the meeting, then we clear out. I wind up sitting in the lounge where about a hundred employees are gathered watching TV and wind up watching through the end of the game, not realizing there was still almost an hour to go, totally bored 20 minutes before the end. But there, I did actually watch some World Cup. Now I can go back to saying I really don't care about sports - because I well and truly don't - but I did watch for a while. I think I would have gotten lynched if I hadn't, actually, especially five minutes before the end when I desperately wanted to get back to my desk and do something useful.c
webcowgirl: (Default)
Earlier this week I read someone's snobby comment about how American is "supposedly" a classless society: more interesting, I think, is reading this article and its conclusions about the boys depicted in the photograph.

Later: GAH. I did not use an apostrophe in that ITS. Only I did.
webcowgirl: (Morning cuppa)
I really find the medical questions intrusive.

They say it's to know if you have any conditions they need to accomodate but in fact to me it looks like a reason to avoid hiring you if you would cause too much "trouble."

In America, the baseline is that any disability you may have canNOT be an excuse for not hiring you, unless in cases of things like if you're blind you can't drive, obviously, and you have to be able to "lift 50 pounds regularly" if that's in your job description. But if you have a bad back or a heart condition, they can't turn you down from some desk job - they have to accomodate you.

I also find the requirement of disclosing what I would call psychological conditions very bad. Where is the right to privacy?

Of course, in the US if you had some kind of pre-existing medical condition your employer found out about, and it could raise their insurance premiums, they might try NOT to hire you, but keeping that an unknown is all part of the hiring process, that they must not ask about "underlying medical conditions" so as not to prejudice your application.

The thought that I might be turned down for a job because of having high blood pressure, and of having to disclose my prescription medications to my employer, which IN MY MIND is only between me and my doctor, really boils my blood.
webcowgirl: (Default)
As another reminder of how uptight Americans are about drinking, we have this article saying the new Harry Potter movie glorifies alcoholism, and, basically, causes it. It's like a headline out of the British tabloid press. I realize Americans are shocked to see under-21 year olds drinking, but, seriously, isn't it maybe time the American Puritan attitude toward alcohol got in line with the rest of the world? Drinking and driving is one thing but I see no reason why 18 year olds oughtn't be allowed to drink.

Now, fixing the alcohol culture in the UK is an entirely other kettle of fish, but clearly it's not an issue with age (which is the same in France and Italy) but with other cultural factors (buying for your mates being one thing that comes to mind) and not something that higher taxes is really "fixing" (let's admit it, it's not reducing consumption, therefore what it's really doing is just raising more money for the treasury).

Anyway, back to work ...
webcowgirl: (Blythe)
Living over here, I find there are a few elements of American culture that just haven't translated very well in England and are a bit of a mystery - high school, "the prom," and our race obsession being three of them.

Read about all of them in this article in the New York Times.

Class? In America, we're generally not concerned about it. Race is still our big problem.
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
I think this article captures nicely what it's like to be poor in America.

English people: do you think it's different here? In what ways?
webcowgirl: (London)
I think this list of puntastic London shop names really captures a cultural difference between here in the states. In this case, it's one I very much enjoy.

Note also the link to "Part One," in case you find yourself enjoying this and want more.
webcowgirl: (Status report)
Just for the reference: if it says 12 people ahead of you on the phone queue, you can expect 27 minutes wait for someone to answer the phone.

Fortunately I can send of a fair amount of emails and such while I'm on hold.

15 MINUTES LATER: Well, the good news is that our council tax is going down by about £30 a month (from £88 for E to about £60 for C band, whatever that means), but the bad news is that we'll have to pay for three months all at the same time. Bleah.
webcowgirl: (Morning cuppa)
I'm getting a real kick out of the article on what makes the British British, per the British, especially since I've often felt talking about the weather was a very Seattle thing ... and we're also known for being good at queueing.

So I wonder ... just what is "curtain twitching," anyway?

Also, the whole "being good at queueing" thing ... how does it explain what happens with EasyJet? First people fight to be near the front of the line, then people run off of the tram across the tarmac in a mad dash to the stairs going up to the plane! It's like a preview of what would happen if there was a nuclear apocalpse - or if a new Primark opened downtown.
webcowgirl: (Jasper Morello)
I was very much caught up yesterday in this very long article from the New York Times Magazine about the variations in birth rates between different countries in Europe ... and in the US. It said that in countries where men help more with housework and childrearing, the birth rate is higher, but it's also true in countries where the state supports women substantially by, say, providing free childcare.

But then there was this whole other line of thought as they tried to examine why rates were relatively high in the US compared to places with better social support structures. And here, it seemed, the ability of women to easily return to work, or to work with more flexible hours, was key.

Ultimately, though, there was a very interesting link between having many children and being poor, and the fact that the high cost of living in these countries practically made it obligatory that women work after having children.

I am fascinated. Thoughts?
webcowgirl: (ActionFigure)
I believe the official Miss Manners' guide to party manners goes, "I invite whom I choose and whose company I enjoy. If those who are invited don't get along with each other, that is their problem and they are free to decline the invitation if they feel they are incapable of restraining their resentment for the course of an evening and for the purpose of showing their friendship with me - it's not my job to choose one or the other."

I need to get a copy of her etiquette book. It seems the questions she answers keep coming up a lot and I need a good reference!
webcowgirl: (Default)
So, in case you were wondering what Eurovision is (I wasn't, particularly), I'd like to give you the opportunity to see the best performance of the night. I'm sure, if you're American, every now and then you wonder about some of the stuff that becomes popular over here in England (such as the person they call "Kylie" here, but whom, as an American, I refer to as, "Who?"), although of course what with brilliant musicians such as Amy Winehouse there's not much to be said in general. This, however, is a whole different school - the school of "Europop." (In my mind it's what would happen if Adam and the Ants were going nowadays, something which I consider a very tasty idea.)


Musically speaking, I enjoyed best the contestant from Armenia (good voice, knows how to work her skirt) - but those Latvians, they were playing to the back of the stadium.
webcowgirl: (ponies cufflink)
A few of you have talked with me about class in America and the difference between class perception and identity in the US and the UK. I've found it a very intersting topic: for example, no one in the US ever uses the phrase "middle class guilt," as far as I know, and I think if I tried to explain it, my American friends would dissolve in giggles.

A report has come out that's generated two major news stories in the last week and addresses some of the assertions I've made rather directly. First, do Americans really feel like they can "work their way out of poverty?" Per this report, 60 percent of people born to what I think they call the "working class" here (but we call "the poor" in America, or more often these days "the working poor") move into the middle class. To me, that means there is in fact a great deal of mobility, so my belief that people think they can go up if they want to is not so much based on being fed a line but on actual reality.

The sad thing is that one of the very best ways of pulling your butt out of the trailer park is education, and a college degree is becoming increasingly difficult for the poorest people to get. (Is there a correlation between rise in the cost of college prices here?) The study also showed a strong correlation between your race and your ability to graduate from college, or, for that matter, start going in the first place. The good news is if you're [white] trash like me and graduate from college, you have "a 19 percent chance of joining the highest fifth of earners in adulthood and a 62 percent chance of joining the middle class or better." (BTW a big callout to my sister for joining me in clawing our way out.)

So good public education can make a difference, but ... hearing that "[t]he small fraction of poor children who earn college degrees are likely to rise well above their parents’ status" is not much consolation when so many other people are out there who won't. And head in the sand morons are saying that the poor aren't really poor because they are able to spend beyond their means. I still say class identity in the US is weak, but reading this article makes me want to quit my job and go work as a high school guidance counselor. "Studies show that many poor but bright children do not receive good advice about applying for college and scholarships, or do not receive help after starting college," and I think that has a lot to do with why they don't graduate. I wonder how I could make a difference?
webcowgirl: (Default)
Shall I get my sweetheart the gift set with "Sally Bowles" green nail varnish or traditional black? (Seriously, who is buying this crap for Christmas? Is 2007 "dress like a hooker" year and did I miss the announcement?)
picture.jpg

webcowgirl: (HotTomato)
I went to the butcher's shop after work to get some stuff for dinner and the weekend, and while I was there, I thought it was a good time to ask about ordering a turkey.

"Just let us know a week in advance," the butcher said.

"A week?" I asked. "Is that all you need? I like to know there's a bird out there waiting for me."

"I'd like to have a bird waiting for me, too, but I think you'll have better luck than I will!" said the butcher. ("Ho ho ho" said the studio audience.)

Anyway, me and my lambchops are going home now for a very quiet night at home, which will involve doing laundry, eating the above plus some kind of pasta with pesto, and the ever popular, "is it or isn't it going to give me cancer" bacon/garlic kale recipe, and probably playing Puerto Rico.
webcowgirl: (Tiara)
So at work today we were dealing with a tricky localization issue. Basically, in Swedish, if you enter 20,00 (ie $20.00), our program strips out the comma and reads it as 20000, which causes the user to get a message along the lines of, "You don't have enough money to do that." There are all sorts of side errors associated with this and other problems, and we spent a lot of time today trying to work out the variations of it, the locales where it reproduced, and the method to fix it.

Asking my boss about how plans to deal with this issue, I said to him puns ahoy ) And there were groans.

In other news, I'm reading the fourth Harry Dresden novel, and I find it extremely ironic that I'm using a Metro Transit Authority card as my bookmark.

For my American friends who need laughs: there's this comedian, Catherine Tate, that someone sent me a video to last week. Here's a sample of her stuff. I think she's supposed to be what they call a "chav" here but I'm not quite sure as I don't have the different local slangisms down quite right. She's definitely playing this character as trashy and poor. I can't quite figure out whether or not she's funny, but I do really get a hoot out of the way she and her comedy co-stars talk.


I get really irritated by her going off on her "I'm not bovvered" bit - how sad to be a comedian with a catch phrase! - but I did get a laugh out of the first four minutes of the wedding skit (Amber, you must watch this) and the cheerleading one. Anyone want to explain who finds her uniformly funny, and why?


Work has been very dull otherwise but I don't want to pollute you all by complaining about it. I'll just read my silly novel and call this a night.
webcowgirl: (Mano Poderosa)
The lead developer from our new Romanian development outpost is in the local offices today.

They took him around to meet the team.

I held out my hand for him to shake, and he kissed it.

I am so revolted. I would barely tolerate this from a friend of a friend, much less a peer in a business environment.

I'm tempted to corner him and tell him it's inappropriate behavior, but I didn't want to do it right in front of my boss, whom, I assume, was also creeped out. Or not. It's hard to tell around here.

Yuck.
webcowgirl: (London)
I finally have understood the mystery that is the Sunday Pub Roast. Why, I ask, would people be eating a big-assed, meat-filled dinner between the hours of noon and four on a Sunday? Who would want that much food at that time of the day, ever? What about brunch and bloody Marys?

Well, now, at last, I get it. The point of the roast it to have something for all of that liquor to land on that you're drinking in the afternoon on a Sunday. On a nice day like today, that's exactly what you want to be doing, sitting out at a patio bar, working you way through pint after pint or, better yet, a jug of Pimms (unless the bar you're drinking at is, sadly, out).

The other big option is to be napping. I did that today, too, after my brilliant debut at noon. Look at me, I am a power sleeper! My napping was from about 2:30 until 3:30, which meant no tube journey to the Southbank Center's grand reopening party, no trip to Cambridge to listen to Fretwork play evensong, no excursion to some beer/cider festival in the hinterlands. No sir, my grand outing for the day was to walk a mere half an hour down the river bank to The Crabtree, favored pub of my coworkers, where I was amazed by the glory of the many Sunday roasts being consumed by my fellow Sunday afternoon tipplers - with half a chicken sitting on a pile of potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower, with a "Yorkshire Pudding" (microscopic puffy batter thing) holding a puddle of gravy and a scoop of stuffing on top of it all, it was more than enough for the two of us to split. Yum.

Anyway, J and I came home to a [livejournal.com profile] wechsler, who was up for a round of Citadel (I won), which was, I think, improved by the Pimm's based alcoholic beverage I was tossing back. Now we're all feeling tired and (me) lazy. I've been blowing my nose constantly for the last half hour, and while I'd imagine it is allergies, fact is, there's no new pollen since yesterday and I fear this is actually a cold. Plus my body is a bit achy, more than it should be. Bah. Here's hoping it gets cleared up before tomorrow. And still, all in all, I think this was a good, lazy Sunday, and a very nice weekend.
webcowgirl: (Morning cuppa)
1. I have stopped having cereal with milk for breakfast.
2. I am frequently getting up and not making tea before I leave the house. (I do make it at work, though. And the Red Peach Keemun has run out. I'm sad.)
3. I don't read the newspaper over breakfast anymore.
4. I eat more eggs.

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