Monday, May 31, 2004

Busy Weekend, and Q & A 
Well, the weekend was as busy as advertised. The drive to and from Mississippi was uneventful, and while in Mississippi we seemed to spend most of our time either eating or trying to get to where we would be eating next. Oh yeah, and it was hot, too.

Q: Is it all right to mention your personal achievements, something intangible and something very personal as opposed to more businesslike, in "3 most substantial achievements essay"? -"Da Raver LA" via comments

A: First let me say that I am no expert on admissions, so my answer is based upon my interpretation of Montauk's book as well as my own (limited) experience. My advice is worth what you pay for it. To answer your question, I think it is perfectly acceptable to relate something personal and non-work related in your essays for HBS. Although the HBS application seems to focus on business and work aspects of your life much more so than other schools (like Stanford or Kellogg, to name two), I don't think there is anything wrong with getting personal. Keep in mind, though, that whatever you bring up must fit into your overall strategy and must add something to your candidacy. As in chess, where every move should be part of a coherent strategy, you have to avoid introducing extraneous or contradictory information into your application. From that perspective, then, the key criteria for a given story is not whether it is professional or personal, but whether it makes sense within your overall application strategy.

Anyone out there with a different view?

Friday, May 28, 2004

My dad got an iPod from SAP when he played in a golf tourney hosted by them a few weeks ago. Anyway, he tried to set it up and ended up somehow killing it. It won't charge, connect to a computer, or boot up. We took it to the local Apple store and they can't swap it out because it is engraved with SAP on the back. Engraved items have to go back to HQ so they can replace it with an engraved one. It doesn't matter that we don't care about the engraving, those are the rules...

Anyway, so we go through the Apple website to start our request for service. They send us a box with instructions for sending in the iPod. The box comes with foam packaging, a little self sealing plastic bag for the iPod, and strips of tape to use to seal the box again. It's an entirely self-contained return package, which I thought was pretty cool. After I finished packing it up I just had to tear off the top label, the one with my address on it, and underneath was a new label to ship it back to Apple. I found my local Airborne Express drop box and less than an hour after the box was delivered to me it is now waiting to be sent back to Apple. Now that's good customer service.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

With the housing situation still up in the air, Jie and I have started to make back-up plans. M, a very nice HBS admit in Austin, has recommended a housing agent that she and her husband used so we may start working that angle. We are also making plans to change flights we made for a wedding in early July and we will go to Boston the last week in June to find a place, before heading to NJ for the wedding.

This weekend we will be in Mississippi for the step-triplets graduation (Go Michael, David, and Anne!!!). Aside from the seven hour drive each way it should be pretty fun. Then on Sunday night and Monday we will be hanging out with my dad. Next weekend we will be back at the lake, although we are trying to stop by and see M and her husband (and hopefully the other HBS Austin people). They have graciously offered to hold a BBQ at their house, and I don't think we can turn down an offer like that. ;)

Another task completed 
Well, I left work early today (and for the week!) to get my TD booster. My doctor completed all the paperwork and now I have done everything I can for the time being. There are a few items left, but I have to wait on HBS to get me the materials I need. After I get the second mailing (the first had housing and general program info), I'll be able to:
- Take my Myers-Briggs and send in my scantron
- Take the Accounting self-test

After they get the laptop purchase plans all settled I can:
- Buy my laptop
- Complete the software installation (some online downloads + Office XP)

The only thing left after that will be the Accounting Module, which I have to complete by August 19th. That is only recommended, so I probably will just aim to take the pre-test to place out. I feel like I got a decent accounting background through the CFA and a class at UH. Plus, I have to take the accounting self-test anyway.

After doing all that, I guess I will be finally ready to handle HBS...

Let them know 
Here is the response I got from blogger when I e-mailed my comments/complaints about the new commenting feature:
Hi there,

Thank you for your suggestions regarding our commenting system. As this
is a new feature for us, we are very interested in getting input from
users so we know how to improve the service. We will certainly take into
account the issues you raised.

Thanks for using Blogger!

Blogger Support

So, all of you who feel like the blogger comments aren't up to snuff, let them know.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Laptop options 
I checked out the various laptop options that will be available for purchase from IBM through HBS. The discount works out to around 30% off of published prices, which seems like a pretty good deal. I am debating between the top end model and the mid-range one. There are four big differences:
1.7 GHz processor vs. 1.6 GHz
Bluetooth vs. No bluetooth
ATI Mobility Fire GLT2 128 Mb graphics board vs. ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32Mb board
$1800+ vs. $1500+

Add in another 512Mb of RAM and the onsite warranty and I am looking at around $2250 for the top end model or $1850 for the mid-range. Now, I am completely indifferent to the variation in processing speeds, and I don't foresee getting much use at all out of bluetooth, so it really comes down to the graphics processors. I am not a big gamer, and I don't anticipate spending a lot of time playing games over the next two years, so I imagine I can do fine without the fancy graphics board. With the cheaper laptop I could probably go with a good personal laser printer and a port replicator, but those frills may not be possible with the more expensive model.

Anyway, let me know what you think...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Like BCM, I am back to using Haloscan instead of Blogger for comments. I also sent a suggestion to Blogger that they add a few features and a friendlier interface to their commenting option. I'll pass on their reply...


Saturday, May 22, 2004

A birthday to remember 
Well, two days down, and (hopefully) only two days to go. It has been a unique experience, and I am glad that I have had the opportunity. Of course, it is unfortunate that it comes at the expense of my technicians, and I hope that the Union and company reach a fair agreement.

Some of the highlights thus far: Two nice conversations with strikers that I know as I was leaving each day, along with being yelled at this morning by a striker I don't know. I have received a couple of prank calls a day at work, presumably from strikers, but for the most part it hasn't been a problem. There is a great camaraderie between managers right now. I routinely get calls or make calls where one or more of the people on the line really don't know what they're doing. Everyone is very patient and it is clear that in other locations, as well as ours, people have the technical support they need to get the job done. I am really proud of the way our management team has come together.

My favorite part so far was when I was online with another company employee and the tester at one of our customers. Someone listening in randomly would probably have thought that the company employees were the regulars and the other guy was a replacement worker. By and large we are really on the ball.

After work Jie and I went to get sushi for dinner at Miyako. It was pretty good, and a nice end to a busy day. Now I have to get up at 6am tomorrow and start all over...

Friday, May 21, 2004

It happened... 
Here's some video of the start of the strike. Several of the employees of in my group can be seen in various states of protest throughout the video.

Meanwhile, inside, everything is running smoothly so far. A little bit of chaos, yes, but I have a feeling that come Sunday afternoon this will all be old hat.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Last night of freedom 
Mom and Tim treated us to Lupe's tonight to celebrate my birthday on my last night of freedom before the strike happens. Man, that's the best Tex-Mex around, and the #29 plate is as good as it gets. Here's the polaroid they took as they sang me some sort of strange birthday song in spanish. And yes, I realize I look like a moron.

Work Stoppage, and vaccinations 
Leaving work today was kind of strange. The Union is going out on a four-day mini-strike tonight at midnight, but in reality no one really expects it to be that short. I walked around the center and casually told all my techs that I would see them later. I am pretty confident that whatever happens will be over long before June 30 rolls around, but you never know. Tomorrow will be interesting.

I finally got my vaccination record from UT today. The first time they sent it the post office sent it back saying that it wasn't a valid address. It's not the first time that kind of BS has occurred with the USPS. Anyway, I asked UT to send it again and this time it takes a week to get here. From Austin. Yes, 7 days. It's irritating.

Even more irritating is the fact that I need a Tetanus booster. While I am at it I am going to go ahead and get started on the hepatitis B vaccination, since it will be required at HBS in 2005. Who knows when I will be able to make it to the doctor to get this taken care of...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The other shoe drops 

There are several interesting ramifications of this strategy, which I won't go into since I don't want to get myself in trouble with the powers that be. One thing's for sure, they ruined my birthday lake plans. Oh well...

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Blogger Comments 
I decided to switch over to Blogger comments since Haloscan was pretty unreliable. Unfortunately, it looks like Blogger encourages people to register before they can comment, so if people don't like it then maybe I will switch back. If anyone cares one way or the other, please let me know.

Wheels within wheels, Rollovers, a free Palm, and thanks 
More bad news on the work front, the Union can start striking as early as noon tomorrow. If that happens, it will mean the start of 12 hour days, 7 days a week for yours truly. Yes, I will get to live like an investment banker. Well, more like a slacker i-banker, I hear the big boys work more than that. It's too bad, cause Jie and I had a lake weekend with her parents planned for this weekend, since her mother's birthday is Thursday and mine is Saturday. There's still hope for a settlement, but I think it's fading fast...

Brad mentioned at dinner the other night that he heard that it was much easier and faster to roll over one's 401k if you cashed out of all your funds and put everything in a money market account before the rollover was to take place. This sounds logical enough, but for the life of me I couldn't find a second opinion online anywhere. Nothing on Motley Fool, Vanguard (where I plan on rolling our 401k's), or google. So, if anyone has a reference on this I would appreciate it. And Brad, it's not that I don't believe you, I just can't believe that there isn't more advice out there on this topic.

I was checking the news for SBC today on Yahoo! Finance when I noticed an intriguing ad for Ameritrade. If you open an account with them with at least $10k and keep it open for 6 months you get a free Palm Tungsten T3. An interesting offer, I think I might see if I can swing that...

Special thanks to Romain, who was looking for someone to put down as a referral for smugmug and found this blog through google. I know that the referral reward will come in handy next year when renewing my smugmug subscription may force me to eat ramen noodles for lunch for a month... ;)

Sunday, May 16, 2004

A good weekend 
We got out of Houston right on time at around 4 on Friday, and we met everyone at Trudy's at 7. There were five of us, and I think everyone had a really good time. At least I hope they did, cause Jie and I really enjoyed ourselves. I had the migas and fajitas, which is my all-time favorite dinner. If I ever find myself on death row they won't have to even ask what I want for my last meal... ;)

On the way to the lake afterwards Jie and I were talking about how when we began the application process we didn't know a single person who had been to any of the top b-schools. We had a very lofty view of such people, and couldn't imagine what kind of superstars they must be to get in to those schools. Now, having been accepted and having met so many people, we continue to be surprised that everyone is so down to earth and nice. We had built up this image of superstar workaholics (you know, olympic medal winners who started their own multi-million dollar business and save puppies as a hobby...), when in fact these are just the type of people you would want to be with for a few beers and some good tex-mex. What a nice surprise!

On Saturday we had a huge birthday party at the lake for my grandmother. One of the highlights of the day was getting shots of my dad's dog, Gracie, retrieving throw-toys off the dock. See below for a great aerial shot.

Super Gracie! 

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Small World 
I just found out that the Austin HBS admit that I haven't spoken with is a guy who lived on the same street as me back in elementary school. What are the odds of that?!? So, I will be going to HBS next year with two people from my high school and one from my elementary school...

Weekend plans 
Tomorrow right after work Jie and I will be heading out to the lake by way of Austin. We're going to stop there and eat at Trudy's with Brad, an HBS admit and her husband, and hopefully another HBS admit that I haven't spoken with. A third Austin HBS admit and his wife couldn't make it, but I'm going to try and meet them another time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Penske, housing, running, and cars 
Jie did some more scouting on the internet and she found that we could get a 15' truck for 8 days through Penske for only $1200. It's basically the same deal as Budget, but for $150 less, although that discount is due entirely to a AAA discount. Penske was kind enough to include fuel consumption estimates, and we realized today that gas is going to cost us another $350+ over the course of the trip. Good grief, now I understand why all those SUV and truck owners are complaining about high gas prices. So, at $1550-1600 to move ourselves, Jie is thinking that perhaps we should hire movers. We got a quote for $2000, so for $400 I am going to sit in the cab of a truck for 30 hours over three days and load and unload all our crap myself. Hmmm...maybe movers aren't such a bad idea.

I called the Harvard housing office today to get a feel for when we can expect to hear on a match for our dismal housing number. The lady was very nice and ran through all the options available to us. Although she won't have a good idea of timing for our number for a few weeks, there is a non-lottery subset of housing that is published every day after 2pm. These atypical apartments (basement level, close to daycare center, etc.), are not given away via lottery but instead to whomever asks for them the day they are made available. Unfortunately, the leases usually start pretty soon after they become available, so we probably won't seriously investigate this option until late June. We can also e-mail our preferred off-campus apartment features to the Harvard housing office and they will e-mail us back with local apartments that meet our needs. Like I said, very nice people.

I have been slowly getting back into running. I ran 3 miles today, which represents a decent achievement in my mind. Unfortunately, my right calf keeps cramping up after I run. I have been icing it after runs and then using the heating pad before bed, but it just keeps happening. Any ideas out there?

Jie and I are due to test drive a 2001 Nissan Sentra in Austin this weekend. Based on reviews and online info I have picked this model as our b-school transportation. We can avoid shelling out big bucks for a car that's going to be sparingly used and subjected to horrific parking. We still haven't driven one, though, so we still need to sit down in one and decide if it's for us. We'll see...

Round 3 
Good luck to all the HBS round 3 applicants!!! Only 1.5 hours to go!!!

Heck, good luck to all round 3ers everywhere!

Monday, May 10, 2004

Pioneering Portfolio Management 
A friend of my step-dad's who heard I was interested in investment management loaned me a copy of Pioneering Portfolio Management by David Swensen, the CIO at the Yale Endowment. I am only about a third of the way through it, but so far it has been very enlightening. I have done quite a bit of investment reading over the last four years or so, and I think Swensen is giving the best view of what a portfolio manager actually thinks about in formulating investment policy.

Today at lunch I read a very interesting section about the trade-off between liquidity and the ability to produce above-average returns. Swensen's view is that active management is more capable of achieving better-than-market returns in illiquid markets for the obvious reason that there is not as much coverage and less efficiency in those markets. Conversely, it is not wise to pay for active management in a well-developed market because those managers can probably not achieve good enough returns to offset their fees. So, while an actively managed international equity fund deserves a space in your IRA or 401k, an actively managed domestic equity fund probably does not, and an actively managed Treasuries fund definitely has no place anywhere. Instead, in efficient markets it is best to go with an index fund. Obvious conclusions, yes, but an interesting way of arriving at them.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

More moving and living info... 
Mad props to Brad for finding out that Budget has a great deal on trucks. If we choose our dates right, we can move from Houston to Boston, with 2200 included miles and a car carrier, for only $1150. That's a sweet deal.

I have previous history with a Budget rental truck, though, and it isn't pretty. The one I rented was for a move within Houston and it was only like $100 for the day. In the end it turned out to be about a $2000 move. I got a 15' truck made by Isuzu, and the cab was designed so that you were basically sitting slightly forward of the front wheels, which gives the truck a much tighter turning radius than you would think possible. Anyway, I recruited friends and family to help load and unload. We get everything loaded up and we all start caravaning to the new apartment. I pull in the complex, and I decide that I am going to pull up parallel to the closest entrance to my apartment. The only problem is that there is a car parked slightly behind the entrance, so I have to wedge in infront of it. Apparently, with the tighter turning radius, I misjudged by about an inch, cause the corner of the cargo portion of the truck scraped all the way down that Chrysler Sebring. Ouch. I ripped the panel over the gas cap right off but didn't even touch the cap itself. All in all I suppose I was lucky because another inch or so would have meant a lot more damage. I already had a total loss on my record, so I paid the lady's damage out of pocket to avoid another insurance claim. Although it probably was a wash versus reporting it to insurance, I just didn't want to go down that road. Anyway, I hope this upcoming rental through Budget goes more smoothly.

On the living situation, Jie and I are thinking about waiting to see if we get offered a 3 bedroom apartment in One Western or SFP. We could then pick up a roommate (hopefully), to reduce the cost. We both really want to live on campus, so we may hold out for that option. So many choices...

Friday, May 07, 2004

More pics 
I added some great pictures of Kelsey and Peyton at the lake to the Lake Pics gallery on smugmug. If you don't have the password for the locked galleries and feel you should, shoot me an e-mail.

Jie and I are starting to kick up the housing search. We have a couple of options, we can remotely search using ads on the HBS page and sign a lease without ever seeing the place, or we can fly up there and spend a few frantic days scouting the place. I think we will probably end up going up there, but we're not sure yet. Also, we have to decide whether we want to live alone or with a roommate(s). There is also the (slim) possibility of getting a furnished apartment somewhere. That would certainly save money moving back and forth, but unfortunately there are just not a lot of furnished places out there. We are also thinking of trying to get a place with a reasonable sized yard so that we can get a puppy. That would be really great, but I have no idea how feasible it will be. I guess we'll see...

Well, after a roller-coaster day the coast is clear for the weekend at least. Mid-morning all signs were that a work stoppage would occur midnight tonight. By early afternoon, though, the word broke that there would be no strike this weekend, instead the company and Union are negotiating through 24-hour extensions of the strike deadline. As long as there is still negotiation there will be no strike. This is certainly good news, but I sure wish we had more details.

Unfortunately, I have after hours duty this weekend and Jie is stuck working on a last minute project, so we will both be spending at least part of Saturday at the office. That's ok, as long as there is no strike I will be at the lake next weekend for a birthday party for my grandmother.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

So, I guess it's time to start looking for an off-campus apartment. I believe we are primarily going to look in Harvard Square, Kendall Square, and Allston. Jie has already been scouting out Craig's list, and we may make a trip up there in June to look for a place. Right now everything depends on work.

Speaking of work, we got real positive news last Friday but since then it has gone downhill. Preparations are in full swing, and boy is this a tough place to work right now. Of course, if the work stoppage really happens, it will become a lot less pleasant in a hurry.

Anyway, this was just a day full of bad news. I finished off the Abita 12-pack last night so I don't even have a beer to go home to drown my sorrows in. Oh well, I guess it's off to Memorial Park for a run instead.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Moving and Housing 
Jie and I are starting to set our plan for the summer. Right now it looks something like this:
June 30 - Last day of work
July - Wedding in NJ, a few days in Houston, 2-3 weeks at the lake, and then a week of packing.
July 31st - Move out (which means pack up the van)
August 1-3rd - Arrive and unload in Boston

We are starting to contact other HBS admits in Texas about sharing movers or a van rental to get to Boston. It's going to run around $2000 to rent a van, or around $2500-3000 to have movers do it (they just load and unload, no packing). If we could split with someone else it would probably save us at least $700-800, which isn't chump change. So, if you are a Texas area admit to HBS, shoot me an e-mail (Brad, Philly's not too far, what are your moving plans???) if you are moving around the same time.

The deadline to submit an apartment housing application was yesterday, and supposedly we will get our magic number this weekend. All Harvard affiliated apartments are auctioned in one process, so the numbers range from 1-2500+. If we get anything below 700 we will be pretty much assured of a place in either One Western (our first choice) or Soldiers Field Park. So, here's hoping for a low number!

Monday, May 03, 2004

I had the day off work today and so I decided to knock out the Quantitative Analysis module on the HBS prematric website. The deadline isn't until July 1, but I wanted to get everything out of the way so I can have a carefree summer. The quant module was very slick and entertaining... Well, it was very slick. They did a pretty good job of keeping it lighthearted, the whole thing was done in Macromedia Flash and the animation was pretty good. Highlights include an example based upon local grocer H-E-B and an animation where a character was stabbed with a sword. Although the character was covered, the slowly spreading blood stain was not... Like I said, somewhat entertaining...

After completing the Quant module I decided to take a look at the Finance module. I decided to take a shot at the pre-test since I took the CFA a year ago, and finance was pretty easy for me. The finance pre-test was half silly questions on minutiae (which of these markets is an auction market?), and half of it on the analysis of financial statements. It was easy, but it did take me a while to match together what the spreadsheet was trying to do, since they used nomenclature different than what the CFA used.

My recommendation to anyone is to go for the pre-test if you are at least moderately experienced with the material. It is an open book test, meaning that you can look through spots in the narrative if a question has you stumped. Besides, even if you learn the material now (or by the 7/15 deadline), you will forget it again by the time the semester starts. So, I went through the whole quant module and passed that test, and then I did the finance pre-test and passed that as well. Aside from some paperwork, there is nothing I can do now until I get the second mailing.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Abita and Dave Matthews 
The other day at Central Market they had 12-packs of Abita beer on sale. These weren't normal 12-packs either, they are an assortment of Abita beers. So far I have had turbodog (one of my favorite beers), golden, bock, and raspberry wheat. They have all been very good. For those who don't know, Abita is a microbrew based in Louisiana. Good stuff, I recommend it.

I was listening to the radio tonight while working on the online Quant prep course that HBS requires (and drinking a turbodog!) when a Dave Matthews song came on. I was a huge DMB fan back in high school and listening to the song really took me back. Maybe it was the quant-induced boredom, or the slight buzz I had going, but I really went back into nostalgia-land. Anyway, I went through my cd case and started listening to Live at Red Rocks. I had really forgotten how much I enjoy DMB. A good friend of mine is getting married in NJ in July, so I'll get to live out my fond high school remembrances then, I'm sure. It's just too bad that I can't make the bachelor party...

Hopefully in 5 or 10 years I will be sitting around reminiscing about the great memories of HBS and Boston...

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Lunch Continued 
Before continuing on the conversation from yesterday, I would first like to clarify some of my comments. To use the example of Shell, for example, you had Philip Watts who was the prime instigator of behavior that began as simply aggressive booking of reserves but over time became illegal because of the inability to go back once the process began. Directly under him you have Walter van de Vijver, who inherited the mess when Watts was promoted to CEO. In order to succeed in his job Van de Vijver was put in the position of continuing the charade that Watts began. This doesn't mean that Van de Vijver is a bad apple that must be removed, he has been led into unethical behavior by Watts. So, you remove Watts and install someone with some ethical fortitude and you would probably find that Van de Vijver, and those under him, will quickly toe the new line, most likely with enthusiasm.

This line of reasoning seems tinged with sympathy for corporate executives, and it is proper to question the impartiality of my source, as well as myself, in thinking this way. I maintain, though, that 99% of those at Enron, Shell, Arthur Anderson, MCI/Worldcom, etc. were merely trying to do well at their jobs. That may have required doing some unsavory things, yes. But I imagine if any of us were in that same position we would probably end up rationalizing our actions and going down the same road. We are, after all, only human.

Anyway, at the end of our lunch I asked the HBS alumnus to tell me a little bit about his career progression from HBS graduation to his present position. He worked in mostly small to medium-sized companies for much of his post-HBS career. He spent the first two years out of school with a firm that eventually went bankrupt. Right around the time the company was falling apart he was called by a man who interviewed him at HBS and offered him a position. He had turned it down, and the interviewer told him he would try again in two years. Two years later, to the day, the interviewer called him back. Anyway, at one point he got involved in a small private firm and helped it grow enough to go public, which is where he first became wealthy. From there he got involved is a medium sized firm that went through a series of mergers. The mergers meant that he wound up doing very well in what became a Fortune 500 firm.

The takeaway I got from the career conversation was that there is probably a lot more value in going to work for a Fortune 1000 firm straight out of school rather than a Fortune 20 firm, like my present employer. In a smaller company there is much more visibility, movement, and responsibility, and you maintain the opportunity to be picked up by a large company because of the experience you have gained that you probably couldn't get, at a similar age, in a large company. He also advised me to stay in a technical field, since I could leverage my engineering degree to my advantage. Indeed, a mechanical engineering degree is likely a lot more useful when trying to become a CEO than it is when trying to become a top dog in money management. Hmmm, food for thought...

Anyway, that pretty much covers lunch. I know this is pretty long, so let me know if you have any questions or if I did a poor job explaining something...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours? Blogarama - The Blog Directory