Saturday, April 30, 2005

Johnny Cash 
One of the things I like about the subscription service at Napster is that I can randomly decide to listen to something totally new, music that I haven't ever really heard before. This afternoon I've been working on something for Career Services, and I've been listening to a bunch of old Johnny Cash songs. I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, A Boy Named Sue, and I Hung my Head are all songs that I haven't heard before and they're really, really good. Anyway, it's a chilly, rainy day in Boston today, just the kind to spend inside catching up on work and listening to good music.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Guide 
Jie and I went and saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy tonight. I'm a big fan of the Douglas Adams books, and the movie was a true representation of the book. Having said that, I'm not convinced the book translates well to the screen due to all the narration that takes place, which is a significant portion of the entertainment value. Anyway, I would recommend it to any Guide fans, but I'm not sure others will really enjoy it.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Good Idea, Bad Idea 
Good Idea:We went ahead and pulled the trigger on a laptop for Jie last week. It came in yesterday, and it's very nice. Not only that, but it is approximately as good as my laptop in every way, save size and weight, and it costs less than half as much. If we ordered it this week it would be about $250 more expensive.

Bad Idea:I went with 40 other members of the section on an all-night trip to Foxwoods Casino last night. We left campus around 6:30pm and arrived back at 7:30am this morning. Including the cost of the bus, dinner, and my gambling losses those 13 hours of entertainment cost me $155. Not as bad as some, but it sures seems like I would have been better off hanging out here and getting more than 3 hours of sleep.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I've been thinking a lot about goals lately, as the first year here draws to a close. I think I've actually come a long way in deciding what I want to do with my life, which has been a nice benefit of the case method. You get to read about how so many different protagonists chose to live their post-MBA life, and you start to really get a sense of what you want to do with yourself.

I've got one overall long term career goal, with a couple or three intervening paths to get there. Right now I'm really focused on two options straight out of school, and hopefully this summer will allow me to decide which way I want to go. Either I'll love my summer job, and that will be the industry to move into, or I won't, in which case I go to Plan B, which is really just Plan A2, in that I am basically indifferent between them.

So what does any of this have to do with goals? Well, back in December I meant to write about a couple of books I read over the break (Replay by Grimwood and Memoirs of Hadrian by Yourcenar). One of the themes that the books shared was the idea that without goals and direction you won't ever accomplish what it is you want to do. Instead, 1,5,10 years will pass and all of a sudden you'll realize you're 40 and you haven't done anything you wanted to do. So, as my long term goals become clearer I can break them down into short and medium term goals so that in 10 years it all works out.

In order to stay focused on my short term goals I try to make it a habit to write them down in a notebook once a day. Now, at this point I might start losing people with this quirky sounding new-age BS, but for me it works. This is what I used to focus on the CFA, b-school applications, and my summer job search, and in each case I accomplished exactly what I set out to do. I'm not saying it will work for everyone, you've got to find your own system, but the basic idea of setting goals and keeping them firmly in mind is a powerful one.

Anyway, the difficulty lies in figuring out a concise set of goals that covers everything, is motivational, and can be written down each night without being so tedious that I won't do it. So, that's what has occupied my thoughts when I say I've been thinking about goals.

Red Sox Nation 
I finally experienced the ancient wonder that is Fenway Park. It reminded me a lot of the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, an ancient stadium with tons of history and still a great place to play. Here's a representative photo from our seats, go check out the whole gallery if you want, it's not protected. We got the seats from a nice firm who donated 4 tickets in August for our charity auction and gave me 4 more to use for myself. The seats are fantastic.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A good day, and browser problems 
I had a great day today cooking and consuming chili. Unfortunately, we didn't win anything, but we did manage to make some kick-ass chili and drink a lot of beer. Here's a great photo of me waiting for the judges to finish testing, I was getting a little silly at that point. I did get up at 7:30 this morning to start cooking, and we wrapped up the cook-off around 3:30 or so. Luckily, I had a lot of help and support from my section, and really had a good time.

A strange thing keeps happening to me in Firefox lately. If I type in my blog's URL, it automatically redirects me to www.blogger.com. This doesn't happen in IE, just Firefox. Any ideas?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Chili Cook-Off 
Today we went out and bought ingredients for the HBS Chili Cook-off. The cook-off is tomorrow, and I'm the team leader for my section. We picked a recipe for some Texas-style chili, which doesn't use beans, so we ended up buying 25 pounds of beef, as well as other ingredients. We plan to start cooking and drinking tomorrow morning around 8am, so it should be a fun day. We're cooking 5 gallons of chili, so there better be a big crowd.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

HBS Show 
Went and saw the HBS Show tonight. It was fantastic, despite the best efforts of some unruly audience members to spoil everyone else's night. I was amazed at the efforts and skills of my classmates. Who knew??

Parents get in tomorrow, 3 cases Friday, Chili Cook-Off Sunday, Red Sox game on Monday. It's going to be a busy, but fun, weekend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

2 Down 
Well, we've now wrapped up two courses of the six we had this semester. Both finals were longer than I care for, but I think I did fine. The nice thing about HBS is that all finals are open book, so you don't do a lot of memorization. Also, they merely confront you with an issue, so you just apply what you've learned rather than regurgitating anything in particular. So, they don't require a lot of studying. Unfortunately, essay writing doesn't seem to be my strong suit so my final exam results weren't that good last semester. Hopefully I can turn things around this time.

I finished my application for financial aid this weekend, which was just one item on my to do list. Nothing else got done, as I was too busy enjoying the weather. Now I've got to crack down because we have three case days every day this week and my parents will be here visiting Thursday-Sunday. So, I need to get as much out of the way as I can.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Any laptop recommendations? 
Well, it looks like Jie's Sony Vaio laptop is finally about to go to the great computer playground in the sky. She's had it for almost four years and it's a dinosaur in technology terms, so I'm not exactly sad to see it go. It has been remarkably durable and reliable, and now I'm trying to figure out what we should do to replace it.

We have the laptop deal through Harvard, but those laptops are all high end machines that aren't really what we need. We're looking for a desktop replacement laptop that represents good value for the money and is reasonably inexpensive. Also, there won't be any heavy gaming or graphics requirements. Right now I'm looking at Dell Inspiron and HP Pavilion, but does anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Dim Sum, Boston Commons, and Sin City 
We had a pretty full day today. The weather was beautiful (sunny, highs around 70), so we got up early, got our errands out of the way, and then enjoyed ourselves. We had a Partner's Club Dim Sum brunch at China Pearl Restaurant in Chinatown. It was very good and very inexpensive, I highly recommend it.

After that we had a few hours to kill before our movie so we walked through Boston Commons and down Newbury Street. It was more crowded than I think I've seen in Boston, check out the photo below and the pictures on smugmug. Tomorrow I'm heading out to check out some of the marathon, so I'll try and get some pictures of that as well.

We caught Sin City this afternoon, it was pretty good but much more violent than I was expecting. This was my biggest movie surprise since we watched Closer thinking it was a romantic comedy. It's always better when you know what the movie is about before you walk in, but I still enjoyed Sin City. We also saw it with a digital projector, which was actually pretty cool. Not a huge improvement over regular projectors (not like HD vs. regular TV), but I think it made a difference for Sin City, since the movie was shot entirely digital.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Section I ALS Auction 
If you haven't already seen it, please check out the Section I ALS auction. To learn more about the background of the auction, check out this article from the Harbus. This is an amazing story, so much so that I am surprised that a major news outlet hasn't picked it up yet.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Course Selection and FIN2 Exam 
We had a lunch today where 5 2nd year students talked to us about the schedule selection process for next year. This is one of many scheduled events that have been going on to help us with the baffling process of choosing courses. There are several things to consider when choosing your schedule, and it's difficult to balance them all:
Once you balance all those things you come up with a list of courses that you submit. So, the trick is to get in as many of your preferred courses as you can by placing them in the optimal order. It's a huge pain.

Our Finance 2 final is coming up on Friday, and today I helped lead the review session for our section. The two resident finance whizzes in the section helped out as well, and between the three of us I think we pretty much covered the important parts. It's kind of funny to reflect back on review sessions last semester and compare them to this one. Everyone has realized now how little grades matter, and are a lot more laid back about finals. There doesn't seem to be any more hectic studying or stressing over grades, everyone is learning what they can and letting grades take care of themselves.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Jack Welch, or not 
Jack Welch came to speak today. I won a ticket in the lottery but then gave it to a sectionmate of mine who actually used to work at GE but didn't get lucky in the lottery. I decided it would be better for me to just go see the simulcast in one of the classrooms so that I could read cases and use my laptop if I wanted. Unfortunately, the HBS IT people couldn't get the simulcast server up and running, so I guess I'll wait to see how the speech went and if it was good I can always watch the taped footage later in the week. HBS has a pretty cool online video archive and they're pretty good about putting speakers online soon after the speech.

It's snowing, by the way. In mid-April. Whatever.

Update: I watched most of the Jack Welch interview today. Rakesh Khurana, the guy who wrote The Curse of the Super Star CEO, interviewed him for about 30 minutes before Welch got frustrated and decided to take questions from the crowd instead. The main points of contention were over executive compensation, the growing divide between the rich and poor, and those type of questions. Anytime Welch didn't have an answer he would turn the tables and ask pointed and difficult questions to the interviewer. It was interesting, but I don't think I would like to work for the guy.

My favorite part was when Khurana asked him about excess executive compensation and Welch replied that it was due to market forces. Khurana asked how market forces were to blame when many executives short-cut the process through cozy boards and biased compensation consultants. Welch apparently had no answer, as he asked why Harvard professors take raises and consult and take paid speaking engagements. When Khurana pressed on the point Welch cut off the interview and went to audience questions.

Monday, April 11, 2005

4 unrelated comments 
Everyone at school seems to be on autopilot these days. Either you've already got your internship lined up, in which case you're killing time for the rest of the semester, or you're still looking, in which case life is busy enough that you can't focus on studying. Either way, I think these last five weeks of class are going to be painful.

I got a package in the mail today from my summer employer. I called them a few weeks ago and let them know that I'd be happy to get a head start if I could and start reading anything they thought would be useful. Yes I know, so ambitious. So, I've now got several manuals and books to take a crack at if I can motivate myself to do so.

I went to a cool sounding seminar today that was supposed to be about the linkage between strategy and valuation from an analysis and investing perspective. The speaker was from CSFB Holt, and it turned out to basically be a sales pitch for the software they produce. I never did figure out what the talk had to do with business strategy...

I've been designated the Chili Cook-Off lead for my section for the upcoming Cook-Off. It takes place on the 24th, the day after Admit Weekend II, so if you come for admit weekend you should try and make the cook-off. It runs from 12-4 that Sunday. Anyway, I'm not much of a chili person but I'm going to take my best shot. Apparently people get really into it, with cheers and t-shirts and decorations and so forth.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Value of an MBA 
There is an interesting article in the latest Business Week about the downturn in MBA applications and what that means for schools. Apparently the widely accepted cause of the drop in applications is a combination of rising costs, a leveling off in post-MBA salaries, and a reduced dependance on new MBA's in traditional MBA industries (consulting, I-banking, etc.). In other words, people who would have applied for an MBA 5 years ago are now looking at the costs and benefits and deciding to stay where they are and advance within their current company.

I have to say that I agree for the most part with people who decide to forego an MBA. I think the cost of a program has gotten out of control, and you don't really learn that much relative to what you would learn in the working world for two years. I'm fortunate in that I have a lot of assistance in terms of covering my tuition, and if I didn't have that help I'm not sure I would be here. If I had studied business in undergrad and also didn't have help with my tuition, I think it would be really unlikely that I would take two years to come back to school.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Mercurial Oath 
The practice of business is a privilege, which carries important responsibilities. All business people should observe the core values of the profession which center on the duty to contribute to society through the pursuit of profit. I promise that my business knowledge will be used to benefit organizations that provide products and services to society. I will be honest, respectful, and relentless in my pursuit of profits. In emergencies, I will seek out Alan Greenspan.

Thus begins my business version of The Hippocratic Oath, our assignment for LCA for tomorrow. I always like to invoke Alan Greenspan's name when possible... ;)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

EC Courses 
Today they released the list of courses we can take next year. There are 61 possible full-year courses, 19 half-courses, and 9 Field Study Seminars. A field study seminar is just a half-course with a real-world paper tacked onto the end. For example, I am interested in Energy, and will thus likely take either the Energy half-course or FSS, depending on how it works with the rest of my schedule. Nearly half the courses fall into the Entrepreneurship bucket, though many courses fall in more than one category.

Along with the list, we were given access to the course reviews for the Class of 2004. There are clearly several extremely well regarded courses and well regarded professors, several on the bottom of the scale, and then the majority somewhere in the middle. I've heard the expression take the professor, not the course, and based upon my experience in undergrad I think that's great advice. So, over the next month or so I'll be scheming and plotting my course selections and then submitting my preference list for next year. They then randomly allocate courses based on preferences and let us know what we got in August. Yes, you read that correctly, we don't get the results for three months after we submit our requests.

It occured to me today that I haven't written much about school. Things have stayed busy since Spring Break, much to my surprise. I was looking forward to time to relax before the summer, but we're already in the last 6 weeks of school and so there's no rest. Next week we have our Finance 2 final, and the week after that is LCA. They stagger course start and end times, so it means we don't have all 6 finals at the end. Seems nice in theory but I'm not looking forward to cramming for the FIN final next week.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Vieques, PR 
This is the final version of my review of our trip to Vieques. I hope you enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions.

Vieques - We had a great time on the island. It's about a 70 minute ferry ride from the island of Puerto Rico, and you have to take about an hour cab ride from the airport to get to Fajardo to take the ferry. Vieques is where the Navy used to conduct weapons testing for the Atlantic Fleet, and as such the tourist boom is just taking off. I imagine in 5-10 years people will say the same about Vieques as they say about Prague today, which is that they wish they went before the commercialization. So, with that in mind, go to Vieques! You won't regret it!

Restaurants - Unfortunately, most restaurants on Vieques operate on Island Time, which means they are slow. You can expect to wait ten minutes to order and then another 40-60 minutes to get your food, irrespective of how crowded it is. If you plan your own trip to Vieques during a busy period like Spring Break, I would highly recommend making reservations before you go. These places fill up fast. I'll seperate places into two groups, those we liked and those we didn't.
Accommodations - We stayed at Hacienda Tamarindo while in Vieques. It's a neat little B&B with an ocean view (it's on a hill overlooking the ocean and the bay in front of Esperanza), with about 16 rooms. They had a delicious breakfast each morning (good sized menu, not a buffet) that was included in the room price. They also have a great pool, an honor bar, and very friendly service. They arranged our rental car and transportation to and from San Juan for us (not the ferry, the cabs), and they even picked us up from a remote beach when our rental car broke down and had to be towed. HT is on the high end of island B&B accommodations in terms of price, but I honestly think it's worth it compared to the quality on much of the island. Let's face it, this is not yet a resort island and as such doesn't have many resorts (only one, in fact). If we were to go back I would definitely stay at HT.

Beaches - This is the real reason to go to Vieques, as there just isn't a whole lot else to do on the island. Luckily, the beaches here are varied and top notch, so you'll be able to find what you're looking for.
Bioluminescent Bay - Vieques is home to one of (and supposedly the) brightest Bio Bays in the world. There is little artificial light to detract from the natural luminescence of the micro-organisms in the water, and so it has remained bright while bays in much of the Caribbean have been ruined by resortification. You can't go to Vieques without seeing this, though it's best to go with a tour operator to get the full effect. We went with Blue Caribe, but would probably try Island Adventures instead next time.

That's it for my review of our trip to Vieques. It's the perfect place to go to relax and enjoy yourself, which is just what we needed. I would definitely recommend it as an island destination. Check out The Enchanted Isles website for a lot more information.

Monday, April 04, 2005

It's about damn time 
I've been meaning to write a post all afternoon, but blogger.com has been down for hours. Now that I'm shutting down for the night, it finally starts working again. Oh well, there'll be time to write tomorrow.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Internship Prep 
I took advantage of a Finance Club offering and signed up for a 2-day Training the Street modeling seminar. I'm learning a lot about excel, and I highly recommend the Financial Modeling 101 seminar to any other b-schoolers who are looking for modeling experience. However, the course requires 2 10-hour days, which is a lot to ask. I managed to get one case done after the modeling class today, but that leaves two more for tomorrow evening, and it's going to be a struggle. Not to mention that clocks spring-forward tonight, which means the 8:30am kick-off time for the class is actually 7:30.

I also requested that my summer employer send me any materials that they would like me to review before I get down there this summer. This may have been a mistake, as they are putting together a package and I should get it in the next week or so. Still, it will be nice to walk in with some modeling knowledge and a few training DVD's under my belt, so I plan on getting to everything I can.

On a final note, I took advantage of a lull in the class today to clean all of the dead blogs out of my list on Bloglines. So, I'm looking for several replacement blogs. What are the best out there? What can you not live without? This don't have to be MBA blogs, though I enjoy reading about other current student's experiences. Leave me a comment and let me know what your daily must-reads are, if you don't mind! Thanks!

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fools 
For April Fool's Day I organized a fun activity for one of our classes. Everyone swapped seats with the person directly across with them and mimicked that person's mannerisms and normal behavior during their comments. It was really funny, especially because our professor played along. Several people got really into it, wearing wigs, sweatshirts, using props, etc., so that they would look like the other person.

I think the sheer hilarity of it was lost on the guests in class, who were part of an outreach program encouraging College Seniors to apply. Likewise, it's hard to relate the comedy here.

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