Friday, April 30, 2004

I had a great lunch today with an HBS alumnus. I drove and met him at his building, where he showed me around the nearly palatial digs. Then we went down and had lunch in the company cafeteria. He was very relaxed, and we just chatted about a few different things. He was very curious about my backgrounds, motivations, etc. I talked about my family, what my siblings and step-sibings do, as well as my parents and step-parents.

After we covered my history I mentioned that I read that his company recently introduced a code of values to its employees, and I shared how my company has the same thing and how important I believe it is for executives at the top to set that standard because everyone kind of follows their lead. That launched us into a lengthy discussion about Enron (always a popular subject in this town), Arthur Anderson, Shell's restatement of reserves, and executive ethics in general. He brought up an interesting idea, one that I had not really considered before.

He felt that one's most basic and influential workplace motivation is the desire to do well for your family and loved ones. Greed, pride, etc. are all secondary when compared to the importance of providing for family. So, when someone is placed in a work environment and instructed to follow in behavior that is crossing the line but perhaps not unethical or illegal, they are usually going to do it with good intentions, they must bring home the bacon. I could dwell further on this but what's more important is that he asserted that if you remove the negative influence, you might find that the previously unacceptable behavior of these people will improve drastically and quickly, perhaps even overnight! There will be those who don't change, of course, and his philosophy for them was that they were given one get-out-of-jail card and then future transgressions would be punished quickly.

Ok, more later, right now I have to go to dinner!

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The first few months of this blog really flew by, I was posting something at least moderately meaningful everyday and I really enjoyed all the writing. Over the last few weeks, though, it's been really hard to come up with anything relevant to write. The short answer is that nothing has been happening, the long answer probably has something to do with work and the frustrating unknown that will finally be resolved in 8 or 9 days. Today the Union announced that the Union membership voted to go one strike, should it come to that. So, if nothing is resolved by next weekend then I'll probably have to start on a 12x7 shift, which I would really rather not do. I'll keep you posted.

The Student Association at HBS publishes a great guide every year that they give to all the incoming students. It covers a wide range of material, including the case method, where to live, what kind of laptops to buy, the grading system, etc. One thing that I found interesting is that Year One, admit weekend, and the HBS guide all stress how recruiters don't know students' grades, nor can students disclose them. However, I don't believe I heard anything about this policy from the Business Week guide or on the forums. I'm not drawing any conclusions, I just wanted to point out that interesting tidbit.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

2 Tbsp of Robitussin... 
...every four hours, like clockwork. I think I am over the worst of the cold but now I have to contend with a nasty cough.

Today my boss sent me this great political cartoon: Don Asmussen. The guy writes 'em every few days. Good stuff.

Still in limbo at work. Everything will be clear next Friday, that's when we'll know whether or not the strike will happen. Between now and then will be a lot of rhetoric and speculation, but until the negotiations actually fail there is no telling whether the strike will happen or not.

Other than that, not much going on.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Pass the kleenex 
Spent the weekend sick. Aside from a little shopping, and a happy hour yesterday for a friend who is shipping off to Iraq (Good Luck Daniel!), I just sat around the house and tried to get better. I hope these two days have enabled me to kick this cold, it's a really bad time to be sick at work. On the plus side, I did make a lot of headway in Half-Life, which I bought on e-bay for $6 a few weeks ago.

Ok, I'm going to get ready for bed now. I'm trying to get to sleep just a little early, hopefully it will payoff in the morning.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Strange Week 
It's been kind of a strange couple of weeks. I haven't really done any writing on the blog, at least nothing b-school related. I haven't really thought about b-school a whole lot recently, issues at work have been looming larger in my mind. I did arrange a lunch meeting with the local high-profile HBS alumnus that I spoke with almost a month ago, so I am excited to see how that goes.

There are a lot of things that I will have to take care of between now and July 15th. HBS requires that we complete several online 'modules' in finance, quantitative analysis, and accounting. In a few weeks they are going to start sending out a package with our copies of Office XP, a Myers-Briggs test, and three textbooks that must be read before August. So, I am a little concerned that if the strike happens at work it will really make life miserable trying to complete the materials for HBS while working 80+ hour weeks. This means that I should spend the next two weeks getting this stuff knocked out ahead of time, but I just can't seem to get motivated... Well, maybe next week.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Last night we went out to dinner with a friend of ours from Europe. Well, he’s actually from Houston but works in Europe (or sometimes Russia or Africa). Anyway, he was in town for training for a month, but it was cut a few days short when he got a call from his fiancée informing him that apparently she was exposed to Botulism, and began exhibiting symptoms of the illness. For those who are unaware, here is a definition of botulism, courtesy of the CDC:
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum…All forms of botulism can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies.

That’s some crazy sh*t. There are only two cities in the world that keep stocks of the botulism anti-dote, and she happened to be in one of them when she got sick, so we’re hoping for a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Well, I finished The DaVinci Code just a few minutes ago...stayed up late to do it. It was better than Digital Fortress, but I don't think I'll be reading any more Dan Brown. Very good entertainment, but not a lot more than that...

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Economist deal 
The Economist has a deal where you can get four trial issues. Just click here.

I started the DaVinci Code last night. So far so good, I think the hook is sinking in...

Monday, April 19, 2004

No more blogroll... 
Well, I was checking out MBA League today and there are a ton of applicant bloggers now. There must be 20 blogs listed. I looked through and found several that looked pretty good. I decided that since my blog roll was pretty lengthy I might as well take it off altogether rather than extending it further. So, if you are looking for the other applicant blogs you'll have to go to MBA League. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I'm just trying to prevent a horrific vision of the future where the blog is taken over by links to other blogs.

And that is really all I have for today. I had a dissatisfying day at work, had to go grocery shopping, and then spent a bunch of time working on an excel spreadsheet this evening. None of that makes for good writing material...maybe tomorrow...

From censorship, that is. Apparently the powers that be realized their mistake and blogs no longer count as pornographic material. What a relief. ;)

Not much going on. I got an e-mail from the library the other day informing me that my copy of The DaVinci Code is ready for pick-up. I guess I will try to get that today.

I really wish HBS would get on the ball and release the laptop requirements and the purchase deal with IBM. Although I probably won't order mine until early June, I at least want to start drooling over the specs now...

Friday, April 16, 2004

Today I was searching online to find Elements of Style, so I could finally get the definitive word on a grammar question I've had since writing application essays. I stumbled upon Bartleby.com, and found it to be a really, really cool website. They have a ton of classics published online that are all free. Encyclopedias, Dictionarys, the World Factbook, Poe, Shakespeare, Whitman, etc. Anyway, check it out, it's very cool.

And if you're wondering, this is what Elements taught me:
It's Les's cup. - Correct; It's Les' cup. - Incorrect
There is an exception, though, for historical figures:
It's Achilles' cup. - Correct; It's Achilles's cup. - Incorrect

That concludes the grammar lesson for today. ;)

Is blogging pornographic? 
Well, according to the internet censors at my company, apparently it is. Yesterday I was able to see all of the blogspot.com blogs just fine, but now when I try it I get the following message:
Blocked Website
Warning! Warning!

This is a Blocked Website!
You have attempted to reach an Internet website that has been identified as non-business related, or otherwise inappropriate.

In the address bar of internet explorer I gathered that they have blocked IP addresses in the 10.65.60 range because they fall in "CAT=PORN". Hmmm... I did not realize that. Of course, I can still get to blogs not on blogspot, and I can still post things to my blog, but I can't read it. Oh well... In the past they have blocked and then un-blocked such sites as Hollywood Video, so maybe this too shall pass.

On a less bizarre note, I informed my boss yesterday that my last day on the payroll will be July 12th. Additionally, June 30th will probably be my last day in the office, and then I will use vacation to get me through the 12th. Only 53 days of work left! Woo hoo!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Another one bites the dust 
Well, I just finished The Sparrow. It was very impressive all the way through. There is a sequel, Children of God but I've heard that it's not as good and I've made the mistake before of reading the also-ran sequel to a classic, and I don't feel like repeating it...again. At its heart, The Sparrow is about a man having a crises of faith. Even for a non-believer like myself, or perhaps because of it, the book held my attention and got me thinking.

I mentioned earlier that the main character suffered from severe trauma. He had been put through an emotional and physical ordeal (I'm trying not to give anything away), and you wonder through the novel what could happen that is so terrible to reduce such a vibrant character to such a mess. Then you read about it and you understand. I would recommend the book to anyone, but it's certainly not a casual read.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Site Name, Sparrow 
I was thinking that maybe this site was becoming just a journal of my life, rather than a helpful guide for b-school hopefuls, so I thought about starting a separate blog with a new theme or getting one of those fancy MT blogs with multiple categories. Then Jie said that if people want to find b-school stuff then they are welcome to, but this is my journal and I should do what I want with it. I think she's right, so I will continue treating my stop in cyberspace as my personal journal. With that in mind, I may rename it (the title, not the URL) and change the byline (or by-paragraph ;). Or maybe I won't, I'm not sure yet.

The Sparrow is getting very good. How can you go wrong with a book that combines spaceships, aliens, brothels, murder, and catholics??? Seriously, though, I am about 60% of the way through, and I am hooked. I have always liked reading about crazy people (The Beach was one of my favorite books), and the main character in this book is suffering from severe trauma, it's fascinating to me.

Today at work I felt like that girl in X-Men 2 who stands outside the ship and routes the water around to save the others... Then she gets swallowed up by it all. Yeah, that's about right.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Easter Bounty 
Just back from the local Walgreen's, where I loaded up on Easter candy at a 50% discount. Mmm...peeps...

I am continuing to devour books like a madman. Yesterday I started The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. It reminds me of Contact (the book, not the movie) but with heavy religious undertones. It's about first contact and the journey to meet the other civilization, but this time the quest is underwritten by the Jesuits. Apparently all hell breaks loose on the planet they visit, but I am only a quarter into the book so I have only been given hints. Mrs. Russell has a doctorate in biological anthropology, and there seems to be a certain depth to the novel that is very interesting. Thus far, I would recommend it.

All this reading started out as a an attempt at some business reading to prepare for b-school. After downing Barbarians, When Genius Failed, First Year, and Against the Gods, I guess I was ready for some fiction. I have been keeping up with The Economist, though, and I would like to get to some more business related works next. I think I will stop by Half-Price Books on the way home from work one day this week, any suggestions?

Sunday, April 11, 2004

The Economist 
Due to a confluence of factors I have started reading The Economist pretty regularly. There was an interesting editorial in last week's issue (the one with Bush on the cover) about the tax efficiency of Europe's welfare states. It reminded me of my thoughts on America's top issues. My ranking of the most pressing internal issues we face as a society starts something like this: 1. Health Care 2. Taxation 3. Spending

Conveniently, all three are intricately related. In fact, you could make a very good argument that the flaws in taxation led to (or exacerbated) the FUBARed status of Health Care and government spending. The editorial, Taxing the poor to pay the poor, pointed out that Europe has been able to keep up with the US in part due to the more efficient tax systems that they have. Efficiency, in tax terms, generally means that you structure the tax system to cause the least harm to the economy as a whole. Our system is pretty inefficient, given that it generally discourages working, investing, and saving. European systems, on the other hand, are much more likely to encourage investment and tax consumption over income.

More than ever, I am in support of a consumption tax for individuals combined with either a flat corporate tax or no corporate tax at all. You may think that's crazy, but think about this: no matter how you structure it, consumers pay all taxes. Always. If you slap a 50% tax on corporations that will only result in higher prices for consumers. Why not eliminate the middle man and just tax consumers directly? Anyway, I could go on, but I've probably bored enough people already. Feel free to use the comments section to flame away!

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Dan Brown 
I can finally say that I am in that legion of people who have read a Dan Brown book. I borrowed Digital Fortress from Melanie today and managed to knock it out already. I found the book very engaging, quite the page-turner, but it wouldn't rank in my list of great sci-fi. It is both good and bad when you can dispense with a 400+ page book in a single afternoon. Good because it is obviously interesting, bad because anything you can read that fast can't have a lot of substance behind it. In any event, I am eagerly awaiting my next Brown novel, which Melanie assured me is even better than this one.

No News 
Well, I recovered from my bout with allergies. I don't think there is anything that 30 mL of Nyquil and 12 hours of sleep can't cure. I was really worried that it would turn into a full-blown cold, with associated down time, cause work stoppage preparations at work are getting ramped up and the next four weeks are going to be very interesting. I really hope the company and union get it worked out, that would be best for everybody, but it will be good experience if there is a strike.

Not much happening on the b-school front. I am working on getting all the paperwork together for immunizations, Shad consent form, etc. It's not due until 7/1, but I'd like to get it out of the way.

I'm also pondering what day I would like to quit working. July 9th is the day I vest my 401k matching, so I need to stay on the payroll until then. I do have 12 days of vacation stockpiled, and I can also take up to 30 calendar days unpaid without pushing out my vesting date, so I have some options. If there is a lengthy strike, though, I would have to work right up until July 9th, since the company will not allow vacation or unpaid time during a work stoppage. I guess we'll see...

You know, at each stage of the process I have said: well, after this then I'll know what's going to happen. First it was after January 21st. Then, I got into two schools and I had to choose, so then I set myself a deadline of early-March to decide. That passed, and I thought I made a decision, but then more uncertainty. Then I thought I would know after March 30th. And I did. But then on April 7th the Union sends its letter and it's back to more uncertainty. Well, it does beat boring predictability...

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Allergies redux 
I feel like death today. I think my head could explode at any minute. Of course, I may suffocate before then since I can't breath either.

I finally watched Matrix Revolutions for the first time last night. I thought it was pretty good, but then again I also enjoyed A.I. The Matrix series got steadily deeper into Sci-Fi as it went along and I think that caused it to lose a lot of its audience, including Jie. They left it wide open for another, so I wonder if we will ever hear anything more from Neo or Trinity.

Right now I really don't care, I just want to be put out of my misery.

Do they have the same problems with allergies in Boston?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

30 days and counting... 
Bad news...

This one is a little juicier...

I have a few thoughts on college/graduate school rankings, which I suppose I can share now since the topic has come up (see Clear Admit for one such discussion of the actions taken by H/W). I found the rankings and guides useful to me throughout the application process, but I don’t think they are critical and I don’t think schools should expend resources to accommodate the various rankings that are out there. Going to the single data warehouse idea seems like a good thing, then all ranking organizations can go to one source to get their information.

The two rankings that were most useful to me were the specialty rankings in U.S. News and the in depth coverage of Business Week. I think overall rankings are overrated. Most business school comparisons must be done using very personal criteria, and so no magazine will be able to evaluate what is best for everyone. The refusal to give out student e-mail lists does not mean the end of student/alumni feedback anyway. All this means is that publications will have to work harder to get the information they need. Perhaps the 10+ annual rankings will be reduced down to 3-4 who really do a good job getting valuable data. Those rankings would be a lot more worthwhile than what’s out there now.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

We're famous! 
Well, sort of. Clear Admit, one of the application consulting firms, gave a nice mention of the MBA Advice blog here. This sounds like a pretty nice endorsement:
"...we are impressed with the content that this site has published to date. Certainly a 'bookmark-worthy' site for any future applicant!"

Now, if we could just get John, PY, Harry, Naveen, Trip, Luv, 3app, and Joey to add in their comments and advice I think the site will really prove valuable to the next generation of MBA applicants!

Monday, April 05, 2004

An interesting question 
Brian, of HBS fame, asked me today if I feel good about my decision to go to HBS over Stanford. I was forced to admit that I am not over it, and I'm not sure I will be until I graduate. That's two years that I will likely spend wondering, what if? Of course, had I decided the other way I think I would be in the exact same spot for the next two years, it is just my own little way of torturing myself.

I have known for some time that I am fascinated by the way things fail. In engineering, telecom, and everything else I am always curious to see how things will fail, how they will break down. Today at work was a classic example of when the sh*t hits the fan, and I loved it. It was a great day of work. I wonder what career I can go into where I get to deal with breakdowns all the time?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

April 3rd came and went... 
...and still no strike. On the surface this sounds like good news, but for me, personally, it really isn't. The problem is that I can't make any plans whatsoever until the strike either happens or it doesn't. The company and Union agreed that the Union will give 30 days notice before a strike. Once that notice is given, we will start an intensive training process to bring managers up to speed and that means no vacations. So, I can't make any vacation plans because the Union could announce a strike, and once that happens it will be at least 2 months before I can go anywhere (30 days notice and I am assuming at least a month long strike). The best thing for me would be for the company and Union to announce a strike or a settlement tomorrow. I'm not holding my breath...

Against the Gods has really turned into a fascinating read. Keynesian economics, game theory, Markowitz Portfolio theory, it's all very interesting. I may try and put up a full review after I finish it.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Deciding Between Schools 
I just posted this to the MBA Advice blog. I think it pretty much sums everything up, but please suggest any changes or additions you think are necessary.

New location? 
I am thinking about moving my blog here. It would be hosted by Harvard, have some cool features that blogger doesn't have, and it would require a bunch of work to get it to where I like it. This blog took me a while to customize, and I'm not sure I want to pull back out my html books and try it again. What do you think? Should I try to transition over to the Harvard blogging site and run on Manila, or just stay here with blogger?

Friday, April 02, 2004

Allergies, etc. 
Like Naveen, my allergies have been killing me lately. Today was the worst day yet, I felt like garbage all morning. I almost took a half-day, but instead re-medicated and took a leisurely lunch. It seems to have done the trick, and I think I will live.

Year One
I was reading Adam’s blog yesterday. Although he hasn’t kept up his posting lately, he did a pretty good job last year, which was his first at HBS. At one point he recommends Year One to prospective HBS students. In my conversation with the HBS alumnus on Tuesday, I also got the feeling that the book had given me a good insight into the workings of the school. I meant to mention that when I wrote about our discussion, but it slipped my mind. So, for all you future HBSers out there, I recommend that you swing by your local library and pick up a copy.

I started the Quantitative Methods module that all incoming students have to pass before matriculating. It reminds me a lot of the Kaplan GMAT CD, in that it has voiceovers and kind of an entertaining story. It is a cool reminder of the resources that HBS has at its disposal. The module is something I would expect in a $50 software package, not “free” from a university.

Against the Gods
I am still pushing through Against the Gods. It’s not an engrossing read in and of itself, but the underlying concepts are pretty cool. I have some background already in statistics (from the CFA), and so it is pretty interesting to read about the lives and times of the pioneers (Gauss, LaPlace, Bernoulli, Pascal, Fermat, etc.). It seems like a pretty good pre-MBA book, if you can stay awake... The last two nights in a row it has put me to sleep in a hurry.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

School Spirit 
It seems that everyone is really getting in the spirit by changing their blog colors to match the school colors of their chosen business school. While I would like to do this, Harvard’s school colors are crimson and white. What’s the problem, you ask? Well, a certain institution located in College Station, Texas sports the colors maroon and white, dangerously similar to crimson. Similarly, another lovely school located just north of the Red River features the hated colors of crimson and cream. So you see, I can never actually wear the Harvard colors. Nor can I change my blog to reflect those colors (and if you haven’t noticed, my blog is a similar shade to the colors of this mighty institution). So, while I feel slightly left out of all the celebratory updating of blogs, I suppose the feeling is going to last a few years, so I might as well get over it.

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