I had a conversation over lunch with a friend of mine who has a lot of exposure to other cultures, in which I mentioned the difficulty some of my (former and current) foreign-origin coworkers have in fitting into American society. He agreed that there's a certain amount of reserve in American culture that's hard to breach, but commented that another difficulty is linguistically tied -- in most other languages, it is implicit in how people speak how people relate to each other. In Germany, for example, people use Sie as a reserved 2nd person, and 'Du' as a personal. This is similar to how in American English, Sir is often used as a sign of distance, and You as a personal 2nd person, although typically in American English, the Sir is more of an indicator of servitude, and sounds odd outside of that. The first-name versus Mr/Mrs is somewhat closer, but again outside of servitude or when dealing with child/adult interactions, American society by and large does not use language to mark distance between people. This lack of cues makes American society harder to decipher, even for Americans, I think.
On the way back from that lunch, I learned that Newell-Simon Hall, the robotics building for CMU, has a new roboceptionist. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they've improved much -- the graphics are still awful, and look increasingly sad given examples by videogames (e.g. Final Fantasy series) of how well faces can be rendered. Oh well.
The restaurant had a really nice tea brand that I had never had before -- Stash Tea. Their Earl Grey was fantastic -- I may order some looseleaf tea from them.
On Wikipedia, I've been fairly involved in mediation recently. I enjoy it. It's nice to find ways to help people get along better.
On AIM I've had some fairly meaningful conversations with a friend recently as well. He is dealing with some difficulties that I don't envy him for. One of the things that seems to be true for a lot of my friends, although maybe it's just the way I percieve them, is that they have a larger-than-life-ness to them. Things happen around them, and a lot of interesting conversations are possible. They generally have flaws which they acknowledge, and have a large sense of self. I like that, but I wonder what it would be like to have some friends who are more of the smaller-than-life kind -- the people who deliberately keep their life simple and have a small personality. I suppose I might not even notice such people.