Monday, July 25, 2011

How I Deal With Stress

There is a famous saying: "Stop and smell the roses". I find this saying very interesting since I study human perception and performance. As the stress level rises people usually start loosing senses. First smell, then hearing, then touch, then even their vision starts to narrow. This tunnel vision does not bode well for me doing research since the whole point is to see tangential influences. So every day as often as possible (usually when I get to the tube station) I try to remember what sounds and smells I experienced on the walk there. If I can't think of any then I know I an experiencing to much stress and try to notice the smells and sounds of where I currently am. Forcing the mind to account for many senses breaks out of the tunnel vision and naturally lowers the fight, flight, or freeze response that stress can induce.
I find it funny that they realized so long ago that if you didn't remember the smell of the roses then there was a problem. The whole idea of enjoying the little things has become so important to me with the huge amount of stress that is hitting me right now. Normally in the past I would skip out on vacation somewhere. But without time, money, or a car that is a little harder. Instead I have been trying to focus on enjoying as many little things as possible to put a smile on my face. So again I have learned how important it is to just enjoy the smell of the roses.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll

Sex: This may seem counter-intuitive but stick with me. Exposing people to sex actually makes them have less sex. Talking about sex here is not as taboo as it is in the States. "Page 3" of the paper is notorious since it shows a different topless woman every issue. Late at night there are boobs on T.V. and I've been weirded out by being in conversations with friends about which is their favorite porn site. That being said, every person I've had the conversation with has had less sex partners then an equivalent friend I know in the states. So I guess the morel is if you don't want teenage pregnancy talk about it!

Drugs: Well I consider alcohol a drug (and I really like the making this entry fit to the title too.) I am just amazed at how regulated alcohol is here. A shot is either 25ml or 35ml depending on the pub but they have to serve it from a jigger. Also glasses of wine are served from a larger jigger. Any of the pint glasses have to be etched with a line at the pint mark with the official crown showing that the glass is really a pint and it has less of a 1/4" of head on it. The funniest thing is that every British person I know, knows all of this and checks for every pour the bar tender makes, not to mention bringing up the fact that there is 568ml to a pint.

Rock & Roll: Summer in Britain is the time for festivals. The equivalent I can think of in the states is Coachella. The thing is that there are so many here. The biggest is Glastonbury, but there is also the Reading (pronounced red-ing) Festival, the Secret Garden, the Latitude Festival, and others that I am sure I have not heard about. All multi-day, multi-band concerts that people go and camp out for a few days for. I guess there is much more of a hippy type culture here than I thought.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Evolutionary Government

Growing up I was always taught how revolutionary the American government was, but never really thought about it since it was what I had always known. After living here in London for a while I see just how different it is.
There is a recursive nature to the U.S. government. There is the federal constitution, and all the states have their constitutions, and for the most part the power structure follows the a similar path (e.g. The executive branch having similar powers just at a smaller scale: president, governor, mayor).
The U.K. works on something they call a living constitution. Basically, any new laws rule out old ones. This means that if there have not been any laws passed in a certain area for a while laws can date back a few hundred years. The way the power is structured makes it pretty obvious it has been slowly built up over the last thousand years with what just works. So guilds still have some sway and there has only been a mayor in London for the last 10 years or so. Weird stuff can happen like London has two different police forces. MET watches over most of London except the borough of London City which has its own police force just for that small area.
The Greater London Authority is the name given to the power structure for London. Different boroughs have different levels of power depending on how big those villages were before they were swallowed up by ever growing London. ( Can't say the city of London because London city is one of the oldest boroughs) Even the boundaries of greater London are something people have trouble defining. It seems like the greater London Authority just has less and less power the further the borough is.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Cultural Interpretation

I went to a Thorpe Park with some friends. (Think roller coasters). I got my adrenaline fix and had a fun time watching Chinese friends that have never been on a roller coaster before. The part that caught me off guard was the part of the park that was stylized as Americana. This meant that there was 50's American music playing, along with band stands complete with the stars and stripes bunting, and all the store signs were made to look like freeway signs (reflective green with freeway numbers). All the things individually made sense but putting them all together seemed a little off.
It gets worse though all the stuff that was supposed to be American still had British touches. On the ride "Tidal Wave" they had half a bathroom. The problem being the pipe size was the skinny British size and the sink and bath tub had the two faucets that are so British. But the kicker was the Dr. Pepper real estate sign. Another thing was the new ride for 2011. It was river rafting that tried to recreate what happens in a Louisiana. I'm not sure if they were going for the "Deliverance" angle or being a little crass that they would recreate Hurricane Katrina.
So this was the first time that I have ever been somewhere where they were trying to recreate my culture. It was interesting to see what comes through as representative of your culture at the same time that it seems a little insulting. I asked the Chinese students and they have felt the same thing when Chinese New Years happened.

Monday, July 04, 2011

4th of July

The 4th of July is obviously a very American holiday. The whole point though is that the celebration of telling Britain whats what. So it felt weird not getting the day off. Instead I just went to a pub after work with an Irish co-worker and commiserated over some of the weirder points of British culture.
At which point I went home and got training for becoming a warden. Yes, that is the term they use here for the people who help take care of the social functions at the student village. The good news is that I get to live in my own studio flat. The better news is that I don't have to pay rent. That is the pay in exchange for helping to plan social events, help out at the parties, and be available for calls once a week. I think it is a pretty fair trade.