Sep 302007
 

Oxford, the OX1, as Ean calls it.

This town is, in a word, lovely. I moved all my shite in on Tuesday and immediately rearranged my room 3 times. I think I’ve just about got it right. My bedroom is, apparently, Dr Johnson’s chamber. As in Samuel Johnson, who wrote the first (thorough) dictionary of the English Language. Not just a little humbling. I have my own bathroom but no access to a kitchen, which is very sad.

I have been promised that my Thai and Ghanaian classmates will cook for me, now that I’ve proven that I can handle spices. I’m not sure how much cooking will really happen anyway– once the swing of things starts I think I’m going to be very glad to have my highly esteemed dining hall serving me food on the cheap rather than having to cook it.

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The view from my room. St Aldate’s Church, originally built in the 13th Century.

I’m not quite sure, but I think I’ve met about half my class. I think I remember about 2 of their names but, fortunately, everyone else is in the same boat. Overwhelmed. And there’s been a fair amount of heavy drinking.

We had our first speaker, a meet and greet, and a team-building exercise where we had to run around Oxford and figure out a bunch of puzzles about the city. Which my team won, which means I have a lovely 2008 calendar showing me all the bits of Oxford that I’ll be missing while having my nose buried in books. I’ve hung out in my MCR with the other grad students. There are 6 MBAs and a number of other, much younger students doing research degrees. It’s really nice to be surrounded by all this learning.

I’m having trouble describing the city. It’s full of 13th-20th century buildings and had a great feel about it. Within 2 hours of being here I felt very comfortable and at home, and I had to remember to bring my map with me everywhere I went as British streets are mostly laid out after Roman roads which are laid out after tribal paths which are probably laid out after cow trails. Or so it seems.

Oxford is also full of small local businesses, many of them old, many of them making beautiful things. There’s a sense of style here and far too many American accents– we are actually ruling the MBA program at a 56 student plurality. Next up is the Indian population at 55, and on and on through the rest of the class. I’ve met people with amazing backgrounds who have lived all over the world and done really interesting things and it’s pretty indescribable. And great.

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Last night, the moon was gibbous over Christ Church Tower. This is across the street from where I live and where they shoot much of the Harry Potter films. And not a bad way to wind your way towards the kebab van before heading to bed.

I had the great fortune to meet (briefly) and hear speak (for about an hour) George David of United Technologies Corporation who was engaging and interesting and talked for ages about the implementation of Lean Manufacturing at UTX, which means that they’ve increased production 3 or more times over the last 20 years while holding energy use, carbon emissions, and water use steady or decreasing (actually, all decreasing, though some of it is fairly nominal). I’m glad to see other business leaders working in this space, though I’d love to see him trumpet it a bit more– his sort of example could inspire a lot of other companies down that path– though perhaps reducing his competitive advantage. I love the lean manufacturing model as you get to see how silly and wasteful we can be and how often simple changes can have drastic effects. Impressive. And they’ve got a statement of principles which is pretty cool. Yes, they’re at least partly about making money, but this is a business. That’s part of it. They’ve probably reduced more carbon emissions than everyone reading this combined.

I’m now exhausted after this week– and we haven’t even really started yet. The next week is all intro type stuff for college (including rowing tryouts!) but it’s all early mornings from here on out and there have been way too many late nights already. Rest time!

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