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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Trust me, I'm a spin doctor 

Due to running round meeting ridiculous deadlines last week I missed what could have been an interesting TV programme. Entitled "The Dirty Tricks Election" it followed an undercover reporter who worked as part of Labour's campain team during the recent general election and 'exposed' what I believe is known in the US as 'astroturfing', ie faking grassroots support. I did manage to read an article about the programme the day after though, which expressed the writer's shocked reaction to learning that the people pictured at poster unveilings were in, fact, party workers and that letters written to newspapers came from political activists etc, etc.

My reaction to this was "well, duh". It is, after all, pretty standard behaviour for any campaigning organisation, although I realise that everyone might not know this. Those news stories you see of Greenpeace protesters 'invading' oil rigs or chaining themselves to Range Rovers, well the people in orange are members of staff I'm reliably informed by an ex-employee (of Greenpeace, not me). I've been involved in campaigning in previous jobs, and yes I've encouraged supporters (or 'activists' if you prefer) to write to newspapers and provided them with materials to help. I've written to newspapers myself. I don't think it's that suprising that people who are motivated enough and interested enough in an issue to put pen to paper are also motivated and interested enough to get involved with an organisation that campaigns on that issue. And if you're motivated and interested enough to work for such an organisation, does that mean you have to be condemned to silence? If the people at the poster unveilings were rent-a-crowd actors or the letters came from professional writers and non of them cared tuppence for the issues, just for the fee they were paid, then I think everyone would have a right to be outraged. But as far as I'm concerned support from someone who genuinely holds an opinion about an issue remains valid support even if they are part of an 'activist network' or an employee.

What angered me about the whole thing was the horror from journalists. Are you really teling me they weren't aware of this? Of course they were! And if they weren't thenI'd seriously question their professional competnecy. News-generators and news-reporters are very much two sides of the same coin - one wants coverage, the other wants something worth covering. A poster unveiled with a crowd of cheering supporters makes for much better pictures than a poster with just couple of rather dull politicians there. A letters page with letters is a heck of lot more desirable than one without. The media is perfectly aware that politicians, and others, attempt to manipulate it, and will let that manipulation happen if it suits.

And it's not as if the news media has much right to the moral high ground either. Another thing that too many people aren't aware of, or just don't think about, is that the majority of news-outlets are commercial concerns. They exist to make money just as much as a car manufacturer, or a bank, or a retailer. They have outright owners or shareholders who want profits. To get profits they need advertisers and/or sales. They need readers/viewers/listeners to generate the sales and advertising reveues, and they need 'attractive' stories to get those people. So, given the choice between something that reinforces their audience's world view or one which suggests it's wrong, which are they going to opt for? A fair and balanced but maybe slightly bland story, or one that takes a narrow perspective and produces a 'newsworthy', if skewed picture? Hmmm, tough choice. I'm not saying that there aren't journalists and editors and news-outlets with high principles and motivations much more noble than making a name for themselves/keeping there job/making sure the chairman's happy. I know that there are and good journalism has done a lot of good. But there's too much bad, or just lazy, journalism around too, and too many people who sit on their high horse while seemingly ignoring the stink coming from the stables.

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Just had to share this one 

Today's Dilbert - hope for every British accented male heading to a US business school

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Warning, cuteness ahead 

If you're missing the pictures from Megami's blog (which appears to have disappeared!) then pay a visit to Kitten War (no violence involved). It seems this is the current 'thing' in the blogosphere - may even be getting more traffic than Poweryogi!

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Happy Birthday to me 

When I was young, I used to have three birthdays. The day itself always fell during the school half-term, and that was when we had our fortnight family holiday. So I had birthday-number-one when I had my party before we went, the day itself, and then birthday-number-three when we got home to a waiting pile of cards and presents that had come by post. When I went to secondary school that half-term holiday changed to one week rather than two, so we stopped going away then, and I had to make do with just one celebration like everyone else (except the Queen). But because the last Monday in May is a public holiday, I was 23 before I actually had to work on my birthday, which I think is pretty good going. The downside of coinciding with a holiday though is that there isn't a post delivery today, which people seem to have forgotten, so I'm hoping to come home to an avalanche of cards tomorrow!

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Potentially a nice note to end on 

The deadline that I was complaining about last Monday was met succesfully on Wednesday evening. Despite my moaning, I actually quite like working under pressure and running on adrenalin, and I don't mind putting in long days doing something that I enjoy and find interesting. What was annoying about the whole thing was the fact that it needn't have all been turned round so quickly if the other organisation involved had got their finger out earlier. At least I had the luxury of being able to drop everything else that I was doing, my colleague who needed to put some financial information together had two other deadlines on the Wednesday and was struggling to keep all the plates spinning. But we both now have the satidfaction of knowing that the submissions are in, and it's looking hopeful that things will work out the way we want. It'll make a huge difference to the organisation if they do, and will be a bit of a personal coup as well, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The decision comes at the end of June.

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More on maths 

As I mentioned previously, maths in general, and calculus inparticular, has been on my mind. Last sumer, I read Snapshots from Hell ( supposedly an account of the writer's experience at Stanford GSB, but with small print that points out that it's not entirely factual). Somewhere in the book he reproduces a page of calculus equatiosn( can't remember whether it was differentials or integrals). I saw them and immmediatley my stomach somersaulted, my knees buckled and my pulse began to race, and although the symptoms may be pretty similar, it's safe to say that I wasn't falling in lust.

I've done calculus before, but a long time ago, and I wasn't very good at it. At least I don't think I was any good at it, but the memories aren't very clear (psychological protection from trauma I imagine). I think there were three major reasons behind the difficulties. Firstly, I was lazy. Up until 16 I'd pretty much breezed through education without having to put in much intellectual effort to get good results, and it took me a while to realise that I was going to have to start working harder. Secondly, I'm not big on memorising things. Ask me to learn and understand a concept and then apply it, and I'm fine. Give me a list of formula to memorise, and I struggle, mainly, I think, because I get bored. So I failed to memorise things like trigometric identities, which caused problems. Thirdly, I couldn't see the point. Sure, questions were shaped around 'real world' problems like calculating the speed and acceleration of a car, but I could never imagine a scenario where would need or want to do that. All in all, it wasn't a combination of factors destined to result in success.

This time round, that needs to change. In order to start to make that change and overcome my fears, I bought Calculus for Dummies last weekend. I've just about reached the end of the section on differentiation (integration is still to come), and things are beginning to improve. I get what differentiation does, and I can see how it's going to be useful. I can also see that there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to do it. More generally, over the last decade and a bit I've learnt how to put the effort in to master things, rather than expecting to pick them up instantly. Memorising by heart still isn't really my thing, and I have found myself looking at formula and thinking "do I really have to remember that?", but I guess I'll have to get over it. Now I need to sort out some practice problems to make sure I really am understanding things and that the learning is sticking. So all in all, I'm feeling rather less faint, rather less sick, and rather more hopeful that second time round I might just master calculus, rather than letting it master me.

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Now this brings back memories 


Thanks to Anand for the picture Posted by Hello

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Number crunching 

Over the last few months asI've slowly been preparing for the start of b-school, there's been one thing constantly rumbling in the back of my mind - maths. I don't consider myself mathematically incompetent by any means, but it's fourteen years since I was last in a maths classroom. The GMAT made me realise how much I'd forgotten, and I know that a lot of the stuff I reminded myself of while preparing for the test has floated out of my brain again.

So, I've been sort of doing a distance learning maths course to get those mathematical muscles in my brain working again. 'Sort of' becasue it became apparent early on that, with everything else happening, I wasn't going to be able to get all the assignments in on time (and I'l have left the country before the exam). As it's the learning I'm interested in rather than the qualification, that's fine with me.

Yesterday, while ploughing through numbers for work, I had a bit of an "aha!" moment. I looked at some figures, thought "how do I calculate what I want to calculate?", and then this little voice in my head said "it's obvious, you need the fourth root of that divided by the other". A small victory perhaps, but a sign that my synapses are starting to fire in the ways that I'm going to need them to. Now if I can just get myself to the stage where I can look at a differential equation without feeling faint . . .

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Your lack of planning is not my emergency 

Except, of course, when it is.

I've been working on something at work which has entailed months, literally, of trying to get someone to respond to letters, followed by a month of trying to get them to return phone calls. This afternoon I finally managed to have the conversation we've been wanting to have since December, and it amounted to - I need a metric tonne of information from you by the end of Wednesday .Oh joy!

I would like to formally express my appreciation of on-line pizza ordering systems, which mean I can order dinner while discussing budgets with a colleague; digital cordless phones, which mean I can take delivery of dinner while discussing presentation strategies with my boss; and Radox "Calm Me" Seaweed and Watermint Arromatic Bath Essence, which means I have a hope in hell of getting some sleep.

Night night.

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Number wars 

In the last few weeks, the UK media has been giving a significant amount of space to the growing popularity of a game called Sudoku, or Su Doku, or various other spelling variants. To explain this game briefly, it consists of a grid nine squares wide by nine squares tall, which is divided into nine sections of three squares by three squares. The object of the exercise is to fill in the grid so that each row, column and nine-square section contains the numbers 1 to 9. The initial grid has some of the squares already filled in with a number, and you then have to use a process of logic, deduction and elimination to complete the rest of it. Apparently the game originated in Japan and fulfilled a similar function to the crossword puzzle (crosswords not being viable in a character based language) and it started appearing in newspapers over here late last year.

I first came across it when reading a newspaper someone had left behind on the train (my usual newspaper doesn't carry it). During the General Election campaign I swapped newspapers to get an different perspective on issues, and started playing it on a semi regular basis. It can be quite fun, although I've found that there's a pretty narrow challenge range that I enjoy doing - the easy and moderate ones are too easy to be interesting, and currently the very difficult ones can be just too frustrating and/or time consuming. As I've done more and got better at doing them I can sense that there may be a point where even the 'fiendish' ones aren't enough of a challenge to make it fun.

What's been more interesting than the puzzles, is watching their use by newspapers. As Sudoku's popularity has increased it seems to have become an increasingly important part in their circulation wars. The Times offers one puzzle, with different degrees of difficulty, and a prize draw for correct entries e-mailed in before noon. Then The Independent starts offering four puzzles a day - easy, moderate and advanced on the inside of the paper, with a 'quick' one on the outside. The Times sets up a 'Sudoku by SMS' service. The Independent launches a national championship. How far this will go and how long it will take before people get bored with Sudoku (as I suspect they will) remains to be seen. I wouldn't be at all surprised if when I land back in the UK in December I find newspapers with five pages of news and fifty five of Sudoku.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

On blogging 

Another thing on the list of things I've been meaning to blog about is a reflection on why I blog, and now seems like as good a time as any.

I started blogging for a number of predominantly selfish reasons. Back in February 2004 I knew no one who was applying to Business School and barely anyone with an MBA. I was approaching the B-school application experience from the isolation of my corners of the world, and I could see the advantages to connecting with other people putting themselves through the same thing. I'd stumbled across the B-week forums (thankfully after I'd taken my GMAT, decided the result was good enough, and thrown my books away), found blogs via there, and had seen the mutual support there was between bloggers, as well as, of course, finding their experiences both informative and fascinating. So blogging seemed like a good way to make the application experience less isolated. I also thought it would be a method of working through my ideas and practicing putting them into words before I shaped them into essays. More altruistically/egotistically, I thought I could maybe add something to the totality of B-school blogging viewpoints. There weren't many women blogging (how things change!), few non-profit types, no Brits that I knew of. And then there was the "well, why not?" factor, which has been the rationale (if you can call it that) of some of my best decisions in life.

The experience of blogging has been, to unashamedly use a cliche (and split an infinitive), everything I hoped it would be and more. The application experience was far from isolated. I've felt part of a very real, if virtual, community with which I've shared problems, wrestled with ideas, pooled advice and passed on lessons learnt. I've felt genuine excitement and disappointment for my fellow bloggers as decisions have come in, and have been immeasurably buoyed by them and everyone who's left me a comment or sent me an e-mail. I think my applications were better for having blogged, and I think the blogging process has enriched me just as much as the application process. I've also got a written record of the whole thing that I can look back on. Not to mention that there's something strangely addictive about pouring words into cyberspace, and a wonderful freedom to having total control over something which, as hbar observed in my comments, is very akin to a newspaper column (except without an editor to write me a pay cheque, or a sub to make it look like my GMAT verbal score was justified).

Even though I know how much I've gained from reading about the application and student experiences of other people, I still find it strange that people read and respond to these blatherings. It is, of course, terribly flattering and a great ego stroke to have people formally say that they like what you do, but I get worried by terms like 'best'. I'm with wakechick on this one. To my mind, the 'best of blogging' is in its totality, rather than in any individual contribution. We all come from different backgrounds, have different perspectives, and are looking in different directions. The person who's a bit like us speaks to us, as does the person who's studying where we want to study, or going to/coming from a career that interests us. But so too do the people with a completely different take on things, those who surprise us with an idea, or who challenge us to take a fresh look. The viewpoint of one person on studying for the GMAT, or writing a particular essay, or preparing for an interview gives us a certain amount of useful information, but it's when you combine it with those of other people that you get real value - what does one person say that another doesn't touch on? where do people agree, where do they differ and why? what can I take from this mass of information that is relevant to me? One person alone can only contribute so much, lots of people together give much more.

To anyone reading b-school blogs, I'd say keep up with as many as you can get away with without being fired / made to sleep on the sofa / causing your cat to leave you. And to anyone writing one (or thinking about it), the intrinsic rewards add more than extrinsic recognition, nice as that is.

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Good luck! 

To all the Wharton r3s and waitlisters waiting for news later today.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Yes, I'm the one with 'hobbit' feet, dodgy ears, and the accent 

Over the last few weeks I've kept thinking of things that I really should get round to blogging about, but it's been pretty difficult to sit down at a keyboard and do it lately. Hopefully I'll manage to over the next few weeks.

One of the things I've been thinking about is the issue of anonymity (some earlier thoughts here). It's raised its head in the b-school blogging community from time to time - Would things we blogged come back to 'bite us'? Did adcoms read blogs/'triangulate' them with applications/let them influence decisions? Did anonymity equal honesty while identifiability equaled caution-related blandness?

Unlike some others (bskewl springs to mind) I've always taken a pretty relaxed view on whether I could be identified from my blog. My guiding principle was that I wouldn't share anything that I wasn't happy to have people know about me when they met me, whether in person or in the form of my application. I honestly don't think that this has caused me to self-censor. Have I shared every aspect of my life vis the blog? No I haven't, but then a lot of my life isn't relevant to it. But I've never felt "I shouldn't say that", or "this is something I'd better leave out, just in case". And I'm a big believer in the value of context. I'm female, I'm British, I work for a non-profit. I think all those elements add to my blog and it would be the poorer if I'd attempted to cover them up. I knew from the outset that those three characteristics in combination would put me in a pretty small subset of applicants, although I didn't realise how small a subset they would make me part of once I added WG07 into the mix. So I suppose it's a good job that I'm not too worried about anonymity, because realistically I had zero chance of maintaining any.

As I observed earlier, it is kind of odd being recognised as britchick and having people know things about me when I know nothing about then. It's also been occuring to me that in lots of ways I'm a pretty private person, so despite what I've said about only blogging what I'm happy for people to know, I realise that I've shared much more with a group of heaven-knows-how-many mostly complete strangers in cyberspace than I ever would with casual aquaintances in the real world. On the whole though, I think the good about that outweighs the bad. After all, what does it matter? Plus, I know that I'm not always the most personally forthcoming individual in person. Maybe knowing that some things are already out there in the ether will make a bit more open, or seem less reserved. Similarly, while I'm told that <insert real name here> and britchick are pretty consistent, I know that there are things I like about britchick which don't always come through in <irnh> as much as they could, but which I've noticed becoming a lot more evident while I've been blogging. Maybe I've got to know myself as much as other people have got to know me.

The big issue about identifiability and blogging that's been on my mind relates to blogging as a student. As an applicant, this blog has been about me in isolation - my thoughts, my feelings, my experiences. No one I know in my day-to-day life is aware of its existance, so they're certainly not reading it, and by and large I'm not blogging about other people. But while an applicant's experience is largely solitary, a student's is communal. Come August, what I'm blogging about is going to be the major aspect of my life, and there are going to be other people involved.

There's a school of thought that says that if you are an identifiable student blogger you can't be honest - self or peer-pressure censorship will turn your blog into little more than a bland marketing channel for your school. Whereas, the same train of thought goes, complete anonymity leaves you free to be honest and critical, and this therefore makes you blog more 'valuable'. I don't buy into that logic. Firstly, there are identifiable bloggers who criticise when they feel the need (see the latest post form Future MBA Girl, for one example). Maybe school culture and individual resillience have a big part to play in how possible it is to this, but it certainly doesn't seem to be impossible. Nor do I think it is fair to value a 'wharts and all' approach above all others. Blogs are a very personal endeavour - no one has a right to demand or expect that someone include things that the writer doesnt, for whatever reason, wish to. I think every blog adds to the sum of knowledge for applicants or other interested parties, and argueably what an annonymous blogger feels they can bring to the table in terms of increased candour is offset by what they necessarily lack in terms of context.

So how do I think this is going to affect me as I blog as a student. Well, I don't intend to adopt an uncritical 'Wharton is perfect and everyone should come here' line. That's not my approach to anything. But I'm not necessarily going to rant about every frustration or disappointment in detail either. It's not that I feel obliged to 'defend the brand' or fear that I wil be ostricised by my classmates if I talk out of turn, but I do feel strongly about respecting other people. As I mentioned earlier, school is a communal endevour. While I want to blog about my experiences, thought and feelings, I also recognse that these will be tied up with the experiences thoughts and feelings of other people, and I have to respect that. And I recognise that when you talk about 'a school', unless you are specifically talking about the building, you're really refering to people. So hitting out at 'a school' is hitting out at individuals. Iif there are things that I don't like or people that I have problems with, I'm not going to be opting for a detailed rant on the blog as a first resort. I'll be seeing what I can do about it in the real world, and then maybe reflecting on the experience, or expressing my frustrations about not being able to do anything. If that sounds to bland for you, then sorry but this is my blog nad it's going to be on my terms.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hurray for OIP 

Got back home from a looong day yesterday, to find an e-mail from OIP apologising for the delay in responding and confirming that a new, corrected I-20 is on it's way. Maybe I should send them a cake anyway, to say thank you.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Nice surprises 

I do like it when things I'm not looking forward to turn out better than expected. This weekend just gone I went uo to my Mum's for a dress fitting for my sister's wedding. I wasn't enthusiastic about the trip, to say the least. It's not that I don't like visiting, I do and I feel guilty that I don't do it more often, but this was not a well timed trip. It'd been requested at short notice, I had a commitment on the Friday evening (which meant a pre-dawn start on the Saturday morning), and as both my personal and work 'to do' lists seem to be expanding exponentially I could really have done with the weekend at home. But needs must, so I packed a bag, set my alarm clock for a time which is uncivilized on a workday, let alone a weekend, and resigned myself to two 'wasted' days.

Things didn't start well. Having avoided my Ipod since I started having ear problems, I'd decided to take it along with me, but it turned out not to be working properly. I spent just enough time messing around with it truing to get it to work that I had to sprint to get my bus. I arrived at the station, planning to pick of reading material for the journey, only to find that the newsagents opens three-quarters of an hour later on a Saturday than it does during the week, so there was no chance of me getting a newspaper. This meant facing a five hour trip with no music, nothing to read, and the prospect of a load of football fans on the train, as I'd discovered that one of the teams from my city was playing away against one of the teams from a city enroute.

But once we set off, things started to get better. There were no obvious football fans, the at-seat audio was working and the shop (which is what we seem to be calling the buffet these days) had something worth reading that I hadn't already read. I even managed to get a half decent bacon sandwich and cup of tea. And sitting down for several hours doing nothing did me the world of good. Watching the world go by is very soothing, and there is something about the journey home, watching the lines of the lanscape gradually harden and the changes in the stone, that never fails to lift my spirits.

Once I was at my Mum's there was nothing that I had to do, except stand in heels, on top of a pile of telephone directories, keeping my arms out of the way of pins and trying to make intelligent comments about waist and neck shapes (none of which is as hard to do as it is to type). By the time I got home again yesterday evening I'd been away for 37 hours, of which eleven had been spent travelling, but I felt very refreshed and invigerated, which I really hadn't expected. Far from being a wasted weekend, I think it was exactly what I needed.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Too much information? Or too little? 

As I've worked my way through the matriculating procedure and things at Wharton have come on-line I've gradually been getting more and more information about August on. ID's for the Penn and Wharton systems let you in to a whole host of information including, among other things, the exam timetable for the end of the first semester. So nice to be able to dread evening exams a week before Christmas, seven months in advance! On other fronts I have somewhere to live, and a roommate who is doing a terrific job of trying to sublet the place for the two months before we arrive, and I've booked my flight.

The one cloud on the horizon is the paperwork for my visa. I got my I-20 a couple of weeks ago, but when I gave it a second look I realised that some of the funding information is slightly wrong. It may be of absolutely no significance that it is, but I'm not sure and don't want to find out that it is a problem by having my visa application rejected. So I've been trying to get in contact with the Office of International Programs to find out whether I need new paperwork issuing or if I can just go ahead and set up a visa appointment. So far an e-mail, an e-talk posting, a second e-mail, and a phone message (all their lines were busy) have resulted in zero response. A third e-mail went today. I'm sure they're fantasticaly busy, but it is rather frustrating to sit and listen to the silence. If e-mail number three doesn't work then I may see if I can find a Philadelphia bakery that will deliver them a large chocolate cake with a print out of the e-mail sat on the top - do you think that might get someone's attention?

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Morning after 

Despite having been an unexciting campaign, election night itself was actually quite lively. A combination of the 'Iraq factor', a lot of tactical voting, and interesting challenges from independent candidates made for some pretty varied results. At the time of writing there are just under thirty seats left to declare (the majority of which are in Northern Ireland, where the political parties are different, so it doesn't majorly impact the overall shape of the House of Commons) and it's looking like a Labour majority of somewhere between 60 and 65. Small majorities are much healthier I think, it keeps to Government on its toes more and makes for better legisltaion.

Locally, the LibDems took my constituency, which I'm very happy about, and with a respectable majority. I was talking to people involved in the campaiging last weekend and they thought we might miss by a couple of hundred votes, so it's wonderful to see all their hard work pay off. The constituency where I grew up remained Lib Dem, and with what can only be described as a stonking majority. When I was growing up it was a safe Conservative seat, and although local politics had been moving towards the yellow part of the spectrum for some years, when the Lib Dems took it in 1997 I think the general national backlash against the Conservatives and the vileness of their candidate (the sitting MP had retired and a senior party member had been parachuted in) both had a significant influence on the result. I was a bit worried it might turn back to blue this time round, and I'm extremely glad that it hasn't.

So, on balance, I think a good result, although there've been some individual casualties that I'm sad to see lose. It's going to be interesting to see how things play out over the next few years, even if I'm watching from a distance.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Plus ca change? 

Today is General Election day in the UK. This is the first national election that I've voted in where my vote will actually influence the result (previously I've been in constituencies with large majorities) and where the party I support actually has a cat in hell's chance of winning the seat. Despite being pretty sure that there was very little in it between the three main parties where I am, I did go and check out the figures in case it was going to be worth be voting tactically rather than by belief, but in a tactical voting situation I'm honestly not sure I could have brought myself to vote for either of the other two anyway.

One of the least edifying aspects of the past few weeks has been the way that race and immigration issues have been played. The British National Party trot out their traditional rant of sending 'immigrants' 'home', thereby emptying the country of everyone,except possibly three people in the depths of west Wales (and at a guess exiling me to somewhere in eleventh century scandinavia), but the stuff from some of the mainstream parties has been worse because it gets taken seriously. My last job was in an organisation working with refugees and asylum seekers. I heard horrific stories of the experiences of clients and colleagues in their home countries, and witnessed the discrimination and abuse they too often met in the UK. Knowing that reality, it disgusts me to see the way the issues are whipped up and distorted by politicians to play on people's fears and prejudices. And it's even worse when the majority of it comes from the Leader of the Opposition, himself the son of refugees who entered the UK illegally to escape Nazi persecution.

Last night, I watched a TV programme about Somaliland. The picture it painted of the of the rebuilding being done in this officially un-recognised state was heartening, but the stories of its recent past and of the past and present of Somalia were some of the worst I've ever heard. Sadly, too few people make the connection between those fleeing such horror and the individuals in their comunities that get portrayed as 'scrounging illegal immigrants'. If there was the political will, there's a lot that could be done to help people make those connections and grasp the realities a bit better. Sadly though, pandering to the scaremongering of some of the popular press seems to be the more attractive option. And whatever government we have tomorrow, I very much doubt that there will be much that changes on this.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Single, breathing, MBA student seeks . . . 

As Iceman was recently observing, the issue of sex/dating and business school is a bit of an obsession for some. Personally, I've been wishing that I could charge £10 to everyone I've had a conversation with about my post b-school plans and whether I intend to come back to the UK who's gone on to remark "and of course you never know who you might meet out there!" or something along those lines. It could have made a sizeable contribition towards the costs of the next two years.

Anyway, this post was inspired by today's Dilbert - substitute classmate for co-worker and you have the dilemma which seems to be on a lot of people's minds.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On a scale of one to five . . . 

I've just spent the last half-hour doing a very long questionnaire over the telephone for some Home Office survey about the voluntary sector that I agreed to take part in (it seemed like a good idea at the time). I'm a big fan of feedback and evaluation, but it can get very dull when lots of the questions aren't relevant or when the responses don't allow you to give an appropriate response. The organisation I work for isn't particularly straight forward and so we don't fit easily into the categories that the survey wants to put us in. And the poor market researchers don't necessarily understand the issues, and have to conform to what they have in front of them, so the phone surveys always seem to teeter on the brink of a battle of wills - me getting bored and annoyed and trying to give them an answer that is helpful but not too awkward, and them trying to get me to sit in one of their boxes like a good little girl. Today's survey was about partnership working, and it also doesn't help that the organisations we work with tend to be even more obscure than we are. I honestly tried to say "it's not an acronymn, it's Latin*" without sounding patronising when asked about the name of one of our partners, but I'm not sure I managed it.

For a while I was a member of an on-line surveying site that was used for various market research projects. My involvement mainly stemmed from professional curiosity - it was interesting to see who was asking what, and in some cases see products come to market that I'd been surveyed about. The last straw for me withdrawing though was a ridiculously long survey about choclate that demanded, among other things, that I state the emotional need that was fulfilled by my last chocolate bar purchase. Already fed up with the number of questions I was being asked, I reacted badly to not been able to give an honest answer of 'I was hungry and it was the only thing available'.

I seem to have been filling out a number of b-school related surveys yesterday. The Kellogg Women's Business Association (not sure if I have the name exactly right) sent one about DAK, which I filled out as best I could given the length of time since the event. Wharton sent one about WWW, flagged up one on E-talk about use of their various on-line resources (hopefully this was also publicised by other channels, or there'll be a rather skewed sample) and there's a request for feedback in the latest blog entry on the technology they're using. In typical fashion, I filled in the WWW one and then remembered a couple of things I'd meant to say but didn't. So on the off chance that anyone involved with the surveying reads this, here are a couple of further observations:

Water bottles - (we got these with our info packs for the weekend) a nice alternative to t-shirts in many ways, and if more practical use, but rather in the awkward side for anyone without much space in their luggage (and/or who is having to rationalise their possesions before moving several thousand miles).

Entertainment at the closing dinner- the Whartones (accapella group) are very good, and the museum dome was a lovely venue, but big boomy accoustics and fast close harmony don't work together. We couldn't here much at the other side of the dome, and it must have been a pretty horrible singing experience.

I think that's it, although I'm sure something else will occur to me as soon as I press the publish button.

*One of my colleagues has just pointed out that is, in fact, Greek, so I now feel even more unfair.

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