I’m home, and recuperating from sleep deprivation and jetlag. I got the overnight flight back to Heathrow on Saturday evening, which meant only a couple of hours of broken sleep on the plane and a little on the bus to Gatwick where my connecting flight back to Guernsey left from. I operated on Starbucks ‘extra shot of expresso’ options for much of the intervening time, but needless to say I crashed out when I got home. I’m very glad I took today off work to recover, beause this morning I was far from operating at peak mental efficiency 😉
Being back on home territory has certainly unwound my coils a great deal, but even getting back to London really cheered me up. America is great and all, but I wouldn’t want to live there given my experience so far (which isn’t that extensive, I’ll admit, since I’ve only been to the US three times, always on the East coast). There’s a lot our two countries have in common, but the more time I spend there, the more I realise just how many differences there are too. On an individual level I get on very well with the people (I have quite a few American friends), but at a macro level I generally find the environment over there … uncomfortable.
Take news programmes, for a start - my perception was that they’re really quite opinionated over there, each one appearing to push a particular point of view, particularly on the current middle east issues. I’m used to the usually balanced and informative reporting of the BBC which leaves judgement to the viewer, and it kind of annoyed me to see news casters / interviewers coming to the table with sometimes very strong opinions of their own rather than reporting more objectively. In one particular interview I saw (I forget the name of the interviewer) they were interviewing a British aid worker, and basically the whole interview consisted of the aid worker’s points getting shouted down by the guy interviewing him. Seemed rather pointless getting him into the studio at all when the interviewer clearly just had his own message to get across. This was the extreme, the other news items were nowhere near this bad but many left me feeling like I hadn’t really gained much information from them, there was more sensationalism than news.
Take another issue - plane seats. In previous trips I’ve flown with a British carrier (BA or Virgin) and most people on the flight were British; this time I flew with American Airlines and most were American, and it was quite an eye opener. I’ve been on a lot of long-haul flights, and here’s my observation - get 200 British people with numbered seat tickets on a plane and they will generally just sit where there ticket says, writing off any inconvenience as a spot of bad luck but generally bear it with good grace. Get 200 Americans on the same flight and my experience is they’ll spend 15 minutes loudly bartering over which seats they can exchange, change their minds a couple of times, make firm friends and bitter enemies, and generally bitch and moan about anything and everything. This happened on the way out and on the way back, and all the while I’m sitting there in my allocated seat wondering what the hell all the fuss was about.
I guess the difference is that as a rule, British people are pretty reserved. Given a less than ideal situation most British people will grin and bear it, internalising the frustration and at the most grumbling quietly, passing the odd piece of sarcasm, or writing on their blog about it later. Conversely, if there’s something they’re rather proud of or happy about, they tend to downplay it and be fairly modest, on no account claiming that anything they’ve done is ‘truly awesome’ for example - it’s just not done. You kind of get used to that environment of understated expression and calibrate your perceptions and reactions to it - and as such it can become a little grating on the nerves to us when those clamps are off and claims of ‘taking it to the MAX’ are commonplace. Maybe over time I’d get used to it, but right now, I’m just glad to be back within my calibrated signal range 😉
I have a bit of catching up to do, including properly testing a little work I did whilst away on allowing tools to choose whether to use a real tangents binding or a texture coordinate for binding tangents (the latter is the previous default because it’s compatible with older hardware). I have a bunch of reading to do from Siggraph also. On balance, whilst I enjoyed having been to Siggraph I probably wouldn’t make the trip again, mostly because I could have got a lot of the learning benefit from it just from downloading the papers rather than actually being there. Still we got a bit of OGRE publicity done and it’s worth trying anything once 😀