Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Another Near Miss 
I found this article interesting.  Another example of something that shouldn’t happen in a city that faces natural disasters and theoretically potential terrorist attacks year after year.  There must have been some sort of colossal breakdown in communication for that plant to go down without anyone knowing about it.

Hit or Miss 
Classes thus far have been pretty hit or miss.  On the one hand things are pretty interesting and move pretty quickly in just about every class.  There are several reasons for this, including the fact that the professors are teaching subjects near and dear to them, the students chose the class, and we’ve had the benefit of the RC to get up to biz speed.  What has surprised me (but shouldn’t have) is the unevenness in the quality of the courses.  

I am in Managing Service Operations with Frances Frei, a world-class instructor if there ever was one, and the class is terrific.  I probably average more than one “a-ha” per class period, which is a pretty big deal.  She is incredibly passionate about the subject matter and it comes through, so I absolutely don’t regret putting her course #1 even though I could have gotten in with a lower ranking.

Then there are other classes, which I won’t single out by name.  Those professors are also experts in their field and display passion for the subject, but for some reason the learning just isn’t there and I don’t feel like I am really being transformed, to use the HBS lingo.  Fortunately, I only have one or maybe two classes in this bucket, so I’m doing well.

Anyway, lots to do before I head to a recruiting thing later, so I’d better get cracking.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

My Name is Neo 
Last week I kept looking to Saturday for the light at the end of the tunnel.  Career Teams was keeping me really, really busy, and with activities really kicking off on Saturday I thought that would be the beginning of a break for me.  Well, what I initially took for the end of the tunnel now appears to be an oncoming train.  Ah well, such is life.

The next two weeks are job search/networking frenzy leading up to the resume submission deadline of 10/6 for on-campus interviews.  I would say 10/6 is the new end of the tunnel, but it’s really just a transition day to hardcore prepping for interviews that begin 10/31.  Things start to ease up through October, though, as Career Teams wrap-up the week after 10/15 and my extra half class ends 10/21.

Hopefully I’ll be able to start enjoying my EC year some time in mid-November.  Well, I’m enjoying things now, but it’s a little hectic for my tastes.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Before I start the following rant I want to say that my thoughts are with those in the path of Hurricane Rita.  I hope that everyone is taking appropriate measures to protect themselves and their families, and that everyone comes through ok.

Having said that, this whole situation in Houston surrounding Hurricane Rita just makes me sick.  How is it possible for a city that faces the distinct possibility of being hit by a hurricane every year to not have a reasonable and actionable plan to evacuate the city?  Why is it taking 12 hours to get to Austin, which is normally a 2.5 hour drive.  (Break that down, that means that you are doing 12.5 miles/hour, essentially the speed of top marathoners.)  For example, the city didn’t have a concrete plan for opening up the inbound lanes to outbound traffic. This is especially shameful regarding Highway 290, one of the major routes to higher ground, because the design of the freeway in Brenham makes it impossible to ever reverse the inbound lanes.  That is practically criminal in its negligence.  

Furthermore, low-lying areas to the south of the city had to evacuate all the way through Houston in order to get out.  Not only did the authorities fail to request that the urban population stay put while those in the most danger evacuate first, but they failed to induce any order in the evacuation at all.  Something as practical as asking physically capable people without dependants to stay while those with children and in need of assistance go first probably would have eased the congestion for everyone.

Don’t even get me started on the incident involving the bus that caught fire and killed at least 24 evacuating seniors.  Those deaths are on the heads of the people who didn’t see fit to organize or have a plan for evacuation, whether that be the prior administration of Mayor Lee Brown (a.k.a. Out-of-town Brown), the Texas DOT, current Mayor Bill White, or Mr. Mediocre, Governor Rick Perry.  It should come as no surprise to any intelligent human being that bad things will happen when cars, trucks, and buses are stuck in stop and go traffic in 90+ heat for over 12 hours!

Mayor White, whom I supported previously, made a remarkably dumb comment on the news about how it was good that the roads were jammed because that meant people were evacuating.  Tell me, genius, just how many people will now ride out the storm in Houston because they won’t endure the obscene traffic that is a result of the incompetent and untested scheme to get 4 million people out of the city?

I have always been very proud to be from Texas, and from Houston in particular.  I love almost everything about the city, and went so far as to choose to move back to Houston even with a post-undergrad offer in Austin.  I understand that evacuating a city the size of Houston is a monumental endeavor, but in the age of terrorist threats and in a city that has known the risk of hurricanes since at least 1900, there should have been a better plan.  I am embarrassed by the lack of planning and coordination.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

At least the weather's lousy 
I’ve been sitting in a Spangler study room for the last three hours now working on Career Teams and International Financial Management.  I had to allocate all of the RC’s to their various Career Teams, which was a surprisingly painful process.  We wanted to make sure we didn’t have too many/too few people on any one team with any of the following in common: finance or consulting backgrounds, gender, section, or international experience.  While balancing three of the four seemed straightforward, once there were four factors to consider it started to get pretty irritating.  I’d think I was all done and then I’d realize I had a team with 3 people from Section I.  I’d try and swap one of them, but I had to find a team where I could swap woman-woman or Finance-Finance or something like that.  In the end, though, I think every team has no more than three finance people or two people in the same section, and no fewer than 3 women or 2 people with international experience.

My IFM assignment has been even more complicated.  1/3rd of the semester grade is based on a case write-up for one of about 4 cases scattered through the term.  I chose this one because it is based on international diversification, which I am moderately experienced with due to the CFA.  This is a serious data crunching case, including calculating annualized returns, standard deviations, and correlations in native and USD currencies for multiple time periods.  I don’t mind figuring this stuff out, in fact it’s kind of interesting, but the repetitive nature of the assignment is really getting to me.  Worst of all, that’s only parts 1 & 2 of 4…

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Need sleep... 
I’m feeling really overwhelmed lately, I don’t think I’ve been this busy since early last year, if ever.  Right now I’ve got three case days every day since I was dumb enough to sign up for 5.5 classes.  On top of that, Career Teams is way oversubscribed so we’ve been working to attract additional Team Leaders and discourage those 1st years who aren’t truly serious and/or are unable to attend all the meetings from participating.

I’ve come to realize that my extra half-class, which I figured would be a bit fluffy, is actually a full 29 session course crammed into 15 sessions.  I’m sure we’re not doing absolutely everything they do in the real thing, but we seem to be doing most of it.  On that note, I’ve got to go note down the order of my aspect and values cards for the self-assessment exercise we’ll be discussing tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I generally get 2-3 e-mails per month, so in the course of writing this blog I’ve received 30 or so.  I almost always respond to a certain type, and I don’t think I ever respond to another sort.  So, if you’re thinking of e-mailing me, here’s a little information as to what I will and won’t respond to.  If you think you’re in the won’t respond category, then please, don’t waste my time or yours by bothering to write it in the first place.

A good e-mail shows thought, demonstrates that the author has actually read this blog and comprehended it, and exhibits a certain level of effort that says they have a serious question and are not just asking because it’s easy.  In other words, they respect my time and theirs.  Additionally, they ask a question that I am actually qualified to answer.  Just today I got a nice e-mail stating that the author was considering applying to much the same schools as me, and wanted to know if I have ever regretted my decision to attend HBS.  Of course, they only asked that question after telling me about their background and indicating why they thought my opinion would be relevant to them, in the process demonstrating knowledge of me via the blog.  Kudos to them, they got an immediate reply.

Not Good
Probably 80% of the e-mails I get show none of the above.  Many times they scarcely mention the blog, write a 3 line e-mail that’s basically all question, and ask me things that I really have no idea how to answer in a meaningful way.  Things like whether with their GMAT, GPA, and work experience they can get into HBS.  Or if Admissions Consultants are any good and if they should use one.  You get the idea.  

There is another category of bad questions, and those are the ones that pry for personal details.  I’ve had questions about my GMAT, my GPA, requests for my essays, etc.  A few things: 1) None of that information is at all relevant to your application process. 2) If I was going to share it don’t you think I would have done it by now? 3) How on earth can someone justify to themselves asking personal details about someone they don’t even know?  Anyway, just don’t ask, your e-mail will be deleted immediately.

Last week at TGIF I ran into a former e-mailer who had asked a good question about living accommodations for him and his wife.  It was nice to hear that things worked out, and I was also pleased that he stills reads the blog when he has time.  I like taking time to help people (the #2 reason this blog has survived), but only when they clearly respect my time and theirs.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Texas 25, Ohio State 22 
Wow. What a game. I don't think anyone, on either side, can say that this wasn't something great. I'll remember this and the Rose Bowl for a long, long time.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Good grief, it’s been a busy week so far.  Jie and I were in Chicago for a wedding last weekend, which was a great time.  We got back to the apartment late Monday night and it’s been non-stop since then.  Career Teams is getting hot and heavy right now, and looks to stay that way at least until the 24th, when the first Saturday session takes place.

Classes started today, I checked out Strategy and Technology, International Financial Management, and Dynamic Markets.  It’s nice to not be doing the course shopping that a lot of people are going through right now, but it does make me wonder if I’m making a mistake by not attending 4 classes a day this week like many people.  

Ah well, I’m pretty happy with my schedule.  I have been contemplating adding an additional half-course, to go to 5.5 total for the semester.  The course I’ve been looking at is Self Assessment and Career Development.  Yes, I know it’s very similar to Career Teams and probably repetitive, but it’s intriguing nonetheless.  I’ll probably sit in tomorrow morning and see what I think.  Between Career Teams, recruiting, and 5 classes I’ve probably got enough on my plate already, but one more half course can’t hurt too much, can it?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The pictures and video coming out of Louisiana and Mississippi are just mind-boggling. I was watching Sportscenter on Tuesday and Aaron Brooks of the New Orleans Saints compared the devastation to that of 9/11 in terms of the effects on the psyche of those involved. At the time I thought he was exaggerating, but it's clear now that he wasn't at all. Just to give an idea of the destruction for those who have never been to the affected areas, here is a picture from my visit to Mississippi last May for my step-siblings graduation:

Now watch the SkyCopter on the Coast, 3rd tour available from http://www.wlbt.com/. The church that you can see in the initial shot is the same church that Jie and I are standing in front of in the picture. The entire town of Bay St. Louis, which was as entertaining and pretty as any New England fishing village, is basically destroyed.

Thankfully, my step-siblings and their relatives are safe, but there are many still in need so please donate to charities in order to help the victims of Katrina. As always, The Red Cross is a good default organization for your donations.

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