Thursday, December 31, 2009

A virtual oracle for the children

In an effort to do a volunteer activity unrelated to SOM, I applied for and was happy to be accepted to be a tutor for LearnToBe.org. They help K-8 students in math, language arts and science. I'll be "on call" a few hours a week. The technology is pretty cool; the tutors and students communicate live, interactively, using electronic drawing pads and microphones (but not video, as is depicted in the commercial above). I think I'll really enjoy this, and, as I said, it's nice to do a little something outside of SOM.

Another goal this semester: Tennis. I haven't played since I got to New Haven, but now have a roommate who plays, and I just got some new tennis shoes. So my excuses have run out. Time to hit the courts. While I'm exercising and helping others in the new year, I might as well lose 10 pounds and meditate more.

Today is New Year's Eve, and Carla, one of my oldest friends whom I met at summer camp in 1992, arrived here in Sanibel yesterday. She handles my parents better than just about anyone I know, so they love her (who couldn't, though?). Today we're heading up to Sarasota, where she lives, and then to Tampa, where I'll meet up with my friend Sarah from back in Corpus. At my advanced age, I will be delighted just to make it to midnight awake.

I was thinking today that this is has really been a wonderful year. A year ago, I was putting the final touches on my SOM application, and now here I am, a semester in. Lots of changes have been undertaken, not the least of which was a 1,600-mile move, a breakup, the opposite of a breakup, and a 100% drop in income. I am gripping eagerly to the reins as we head into '10.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wrap me in nostalgia

Eighth-grade John.Here's me in 8th grade (truth be told, it's just a picture). What I wouldn't give to still have that shirt, and that head of hair. Sometimes when I'm at my parents' house, I like to read old elementary report cards. They remind me of how intrinsic a lot of our characteristics are. To paraphrase, John is creative and has a wit beyond his years, but is overanxious and has unreasonably high expectations of himself and others. And he's awful at woodworking. All very much still true, except the part about the wit.

All is slow and easy here in Florida. My parents are retired and somewhat elder-acting beyond their years, particularly my dad. He's 72, but he retired when he was 59, so he sort of acts like he's 80-something. But it's always a nice time ... lots of gin rummy, bran cereal, crossword puzzles, dips in the pool, bloody Marys, Sherlock Holmes marathons and the wit of Rush Limbaugh. All very much appreciated, except the part about the wit.

In other news, I have scored some new classy-ass threads that will prove useful when I return to Connecticut, as I've been invited to two marketing interviews (the two for which I applied): Mars and Unilever. I also have my courses lined up. We continue with our required first-year "Organizational Perspectives," the classes named for the viewpoints taken in the class. Next quarter, that means "Employee" and "The Operations Engine," as well as Global Macroeconomics. The two electives for which I signed up are Statistical Modeling and Financial Reporting, the latter a prerequisite for Financial Statement Analysis in the second half of the spring.

I have some friends in the area I'm going to try to get together with, and am especially looking for something interesting to do on New Year's Eve. It's so odd to me that there's been so little fanfare about this being a new decade. My dad is quick to argue that 2010 is not a new decade, but is the 10th year that marks the end of a decade that began Jan. 1, 2001. I'm then quick to argue that a "decade" can comprise any 10-year period, so even Feb. 14, 1956, to Feb. 13, 1966, is a decade, technically. He is then quick to say that a "new decade" implicitly refers to the nth decade of a new century; in this case, the first decade of the 21st century, which will end Dec. 31, 2010. I am then quick to say that nobody cares about that, since everyone but he refers to decades by the number in the tens column ('50s, '60s, '70s, etc.), not their ordinal relationship within the context of a particular century. Anyway, you can look forward to having conversations like this when your parents retire, or when you retire.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mele Kalikimaka

My view from Sanibel. Hello. I'm in Sanibel, Fla., visiting my parents for the holidays. Check out this rad photo I took from the beach this evening. It's beautiful and in the 70s 'round here.

Yesterday we toured the historic winter estates of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Today I bought suits and shoes and shirts and things. It's always nice to be in Florida for the holidays.

Still having academic stress dreams, despite being in a sort of paradise ... Any advice for how to get rid of them?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fluffy snow

Matt and Mark, shoveling snow It happened one night. Specifically, last night. Mike, Matt, Matt's brother Mark and a couple of Matt's friends and I went downtown for what was supposed to be a magical display of horse-drawn carriages and live models posing in windows, but was instead nothing. So we ate at BAR and then had a cocktail at the Owl Shop. While we were inside, the anticipated snow began to fall.

Fortunately, our status as students enables us to use the complimentary shuttle service. Unfortunately, our driver took us to the wrong address, for a humorous exchange. He opened the door -- in the snowstorm, at night -- and said nothing. We looked at each other curiously, since we were the only people on the bus, and asked the driver, "Excuse me, are we picking someone up?" He said, "No, this is _______." We said, "OK, but we're going to _________." Then the awkwardness -- he just sat there with the door open and didn't say anything. Thirty seconds went by, until I finally said, "I'm sorry for the confusion, but we're not getting off this bus at night in the middle of a snowstorm a mile from our house. Please take us to ________." Exacerbated, he did so.

This morning, we awoke to a wonderland of joy. Pictured above are Matt and Mark trying to shovel snow out of the way so that Mark may return to his home and family.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Five things you do when you don't have homework

I tried to make cookies and did not succeed on the first go-aroundYesterday was my first day rejoining the living. I felt adrift at sea, unable to recall what I once did with myself when I did not have academic concepts with which to wrestle. What is there to do?

I found five things:

1. Wake up thinking about finance, as I did before. This was short-lived; soon, I hushed myself and calmed my mind with motherly assurances that Everything will be OK ... Sssshhh ... It'll be all right now ... It'll be all right now ...

2. Vacuum in more than a cursory manner. With a little elbow grease, I got the carpet looking as good as new, which wasn't that good really, but it's the best I can do.

3. Do laundry, and consider ways to gruesomely murder the person who took my clothes out of the washers and put them in a wrinkly pile on the table.

Brian, Adam and Haris4. Bake oatmeal raisin cookies. Batch one, pictured above, was a disaster, because I misread the recipe and put in only 1/3 of the required flour. Batch two turned out spendidly.

5. Attend a holiday party, pictured at left. Lovely company and lovely drinks -- hot mulled cider and vodka stingers (vodka + creme de menthe).

In unrelated news, after we had our first significant snow, a little over a week ago, I realized I was unprepared for the winter and ordered some boots and one of those ice brush scraper things for the car. They have arrived, and not a moment too soon -- meteorologists are predicting a 100 percent chance of snow, with accumulation of 10 to 15 inches total. Sounds like an absolute delight, although it better not keep me from going to Florida on Monday, or I will freak.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Done



Exams are over! The semester is over!! I'm free!!!

To do what, I'm not sure. Right now I'm having a gin and tonic. In a few days, I'll go to Florida, and I'll be hanging there for three weeks.

It's a great feeling of accomplishment to know that I made it through what is supposedly the hardest of the four semesters in the MBA program. It's also a little sad, too, because even though I may complain from time to time, I really am loving this whole experience, and I know it will be over before I know it.

The final final, Sourcing & Managing Funds, was (a) the one for which I was least-prepared, (b) the class whose material most confused me, but was (c) the exam I finished in the shortest amount of time and (d) the exam that I think, objectively, was the easiest. I suppose that, somehow, knowledge did manage to trickle into my brain.

Next semester, when I get back from break, we have three more required first-year courses in the "Organizational Perspectives" -- Employee, The Operations Engine, and The Global Macroeconomy. In addition to those, I'm taking two electives: Financial Reporting, and Statistical Modeling. I may drop one, because we really only need to take one elective; I just thought both would be useful.

Anyway, enough of that. Time to eat up having the night off ... maybe I'll hit the cinema.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Three down, one to go

Just returned from the Customer exam. Well, I had lunch, then returned.

This was an odd exam -- totally open-book, open-note, open-laptop (but no internet). Our other three exams were three hours apiece, but this was four, since it also involved reading a long case. This was the only course that didn't provide previous years' exams as study materials, so it was a little hard to know what to study.

The solution: "Prepare," instead of "study." We learned some quantitative methods, so I went over those. One was called "conjoint analysis," which is a way to measure which attributes of a product are most important to customers by asking surveys in a particular way and then doing regressions on the results. Another was calculating "customer lifetime value," which is the amount of money a customer is worth over his life with a company. And the third was calculating economic value, which is pretty intuitive ... it's pricing a product properly according to other comparable products, plus added benefits.

Beyond those ideas, the rest of the class was about frameworks and cases. All in all, nothing to sweat about. It was actually pretty fun, which is good news, since I may end up doing something marketing related this summer.

Tomorrow: Sourcing & Managing Funds, our last exam, and the one that will probably be the hardest. Followed by a champagne toast in the hallway (true!) and some sushi, and then probably more drinking.

Wait, it's the holidays?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two down, two to go

I just returned from the Investor exam.

Exams are stressful, but one of the nice things is to walk out of an exam and acknowledge, regardless of how well or poorly you did, that you learned a lot in the class. I knew none of the material before the class, and now I know a lot of it, and that makes me especially grateful to be back in school, because when you're not in school (or at least when I'm not in school) I don't learn much of anything.

One thing I liked about this particular exam is that the professor clarified ahead of time that there were two types of questions: starred, and unstarred. The unstarred questions covered the basics of the class, things that basically everyone could have learned by listening and studying. No curveballs, tricks or new applications on those questions. Then the starred questions were more challenging, and they're on the exam so people vying for a Distinction can show off their deeper understanding or advanced preparation.

I went in thinking it was possible I might get some of the starred questions, and I might have, although the time limit was too restraining for me. Often, I would read a starred question and think, "Hmm... That's awfully interesting. Well, if I had an hour, I could come up with something. But I have 10 minutes. Next." But I attempted most of them. I don't think I'm in Distinction territory whatsoever, but then again, why should I be? Investing is neither what I did nor what I intend to do.

Tomorrow's exam: Customer.

Now I just need a magnifying glass

A quarter's worth of material on one pageWhen a professor permits us to bring an 8.5x11" cheat sheet into an exam, I don't fool around.

Monday, December 14, 2009

One down, three to go

I have just completed the first of this week's four exams: Competitor. It was a bit exhausting because it was entirely short-answer questions and took almost the entire three hours ... So lots of writing, and a drained brain.

On with Investor.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Top five ways to waste time

Acrobabble. Naturally I spent most of today studying for exams, which begin Monday. It's true, I swear. But, obviously, nobody can spend every waking moment buried in study ... it's unnatural, unhealthy, and unhelpful. That's why it's important to take breaks. Here are five of my favorite study break activities:

1. Playing Acrobabble, pictured above. It's a great online game. You play against other people, all of whom are trying to construct funny or clever acronyms to randomly assigned letters.

2. Sexing someone.

3. Enjoying a laugh at Failblog.org. It never fails.

4. Playing the piano. I wrote a song today! That's how efficient my studying was.

5. You're looking at it.

Alvin Ailey in New York

Last night, I went to New York City with a couple classmates to see an Alvin Ailey modern dance performance, the advertisement for which is above. Even though the ad does show the dancing and costumes from the performance I saw, and is set to music we heard, it doesn't really capture the evening too well, because the performance was divided into three parts. The ad focuses on the third, which was the most soulful and costumey. I really really loved the second part, which was nothing like what you see in the ad -- odd, beautiful, subtle, dissonant, sad, spooky, natural. It was fantastic.

The first section was also fantastic; a lot more humorous and fun, set to classic R&B songs like "Satisfaction." My friend Alex used to attend the Alvin Ailey school, so I was always hearing about it. And I, as everyone knows, am quite a dancer myself, having taken a semester of modern at Duke.
New York looked especially Christmassy, which was lovely to see. Obviously I didn't take a camera to a place that would have been interesting to photograph. And after the show we went to Pazza Notte for Grigliata di Pollo (barbecue chicken) pizza and 2-for-1 martinis, which sound like a deal until you realize that, given that we were in New York, each martini was $12.

Even though this wasn't the most prudently timed adventure, what with exams next week and all, I went nevertheless because I wanted to, and because I have not taken nearly enough advantage of my proximity to New York. When I first arrived I went there two times in a matter of a couple weeks, but I actually don't think I'd been back since our orientation trip in mid-August. How disgraceful! New Haven is close enough to New York that distance shouldn't be an excuse not to do something you really want to do, but it's far enough away that distance should be an excuse not to do something only sort of want to do. By train it's 91-103 minutes each way. A round-trip ticket is about $30.

The plan today is to s-t-u-d-y. After a jaw-droppingly expensive trip to my local grocer yesterday, I am ready to hunker down and shovel all these concepts into my cranium, along with some honey-roasted mixed nuts.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Classes are over

Yesterday marked the last day of classes, a cause for celebration. There were merry times at the SOM holiday party, which was a holidayed-up version of our weekly Thursday happy hours, with live music, lots of delicious victuals, hot mulled cider served in an ornate but inefficient trough, wine and beer, and photos with a snowman. After this, I had arranged (well that's a strong word ... I had made a suggestion and let other people do the arranging; that's my leadership style) for my work group of eight to dine at Ibiza, although only four of us were able to make it: just us girls. It unexpectedly turned into an impromptu belated birthday celebration, which I really appreciated, since my birthday itself was more or less an ordinary day.

After dinner I met up with Mike for cocktails at The Owl Shop, a warm, stuck-in-the-past bar downtown with fantastic service and pretty good drinks, and the only bar in New Haven that allows smoking. Then we scooted off to GPSCY, the grad student bar, at which there was one in a regular series of "Big Gay Parties," thrown by, I suppose, club leaders of gay groups across various types of grad schools. There was a tasteful amount of rump shaking.

Incidentally, it's getting mad cold out there for these types of evenings ... walking through downtown is like, well it's like, uh, walking through a super cold place. I like it though; it's a good excuse to scream.

So now it's Friday, and that means it's time to get crackin' on studyin'. Our schedule for exams happens to be in the order in which I had classes throughout the week: Competitor, Investor, Customer and Sourcing & Managing Funds. We have each exam at 9 a.m., on Monday-Friday. At this time last quarter I was very anxious and nervous, but not this time. I'm pretty up on these courses and just need to refresh my memory a bit. It'll go just swimmingly, I'm sure.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Come and meet the Letter People

Come and meet The Letter People. Business people love acronyms! I've learned a few this semester, and I wanted to share five of my favorites, which you can use in daily conversations to seem all businessy and stuff:

1. EBITDA: Earnings Before Income, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization. This is a calculation based on numbers on an income statement, and it gives you an idea about cash earnings. I think all the terms are self-explanatory, but FYI, "depreciation" refers to a physical asset losing value either because of use or because of time, and "amortization" is the same thing but applied to intangible assets, like a patent.

2. CLV: Customer Lifetime Value. This number comes from a calculation of how much a customer spends throughout his "life" with a business, discounted to today's dollar terms. It stresses the importance of retaining customers, and can shed light on which types of customers are most valuable.

3. CAPM: Capital Asset Pricing Model. Pronounced "Cap-Em," this is a measurement of how risky a security is, which is based on how much is covaries with the market. Knowing how risky a stock is helps you determine what price to pay for it.

4. ARC: Architecture, Routines and Culture. This is a framework to examine a firm's organizational design, and to illustrate how a manager can solve incentive and coordination problems.

5. 4 Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion: This is another framework, designed to cover the bases of a solid marketing strategy. Using this framework, we ask what we're selling, how much it costs, where we're selling it and how we're communicating a message about it.

Let's put them all together!!

"Looking at EBITDA and using the CAPM, this company clearly isn't thinking about CLV or the 4 Ps, probably because of its ARC."

Go say that to someone.

Course evaluations

You no say daddy me snow me I'm gon' blame, I licky boom boom now. Overnight, down came the snow. The walk to school was slishy, sloshy, squishy, squirty and slurpy.

Today was the last day of two of our four classes, so we were asked to complete course evaluations that allegedly get read anonymously by professors. I did a previous post about "strict/tough/mean" teachers vs. "lax/easy/nice" ones, and today's evaluations underscored that stark contrast.

Our Competitor professor ("Competitor" is the name of the class. Our first-year classes are called Organizational Perspectives and have funny names; basically it was a competitive strategy class) is a notoriously tough cookie. I liked her quite a bit and liked her class, because she wasn't tough to be mean, she was tough because she wanted us to be prepared, think critically and communicate clearly, and I can get behind those values. The work load for Competitor was disproportionately heavy, but I learned a lot.

Our Investor professor, on the other hand, had a completely different style -- he was a much more smiley, warm fellow who used humor and gave lectures based off overhead notes, which were our only written materials. Our Competitor professor, on the other hand, didn't use overheads -- she just engaged us in a discussion and used the chalk board. There wasn't much homework in Investor, and he didn't do any cold-calling, unlike our Competitor professor. Just two different ways of doing things, each probably appropriate for the particular subject.

Tomorrow we wrap up Customer and Sourcing & Managing Funds. Then it's time to hit the books and study for finals!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm a tower of fitness

In graduate school, it is not always easy to live the way you want to, on several levels, not the least of which are the dietary and fitness levels. My relationship with healthy eating and working out have historically been on-and-off -- very on, and very off. In the very on stages, I was working out six days a week and eating nothing but protein shakes, fish, fruit, vegetables, yogurt and whole-wheat bread.

In the very off stages, I was 210 pounds and only watched what I ate as it was going into my mouth.
Why the inconsistency? There's always something to blame -- a dangerous neighborhood you don't want to jog through, or a work schedule that's incompatable with when you'd most like to exercise, or a tight budget that just doesn't allow for a gym membership, or a roommate who loves to cook large cheesy casseroles. It's always something.

Of course, those are all excuses. For fit people, fitness is a priority, and for unfit people, it's not. At school, I'm trying to embrace eating right and exercising as a good way to relieve stress. Unfortunately, doing so depends on a few things I particularly lack at this stage -- money and time. I have been trying to jog relatively regularly and eat relatively healthfully, but the weight-lifting has definitely taken a back seat. Three days ago I did my old routine, and I've been paying for it in unextendable elbows ever since.

With another birthday having come and gone, it's clear there will never be an ideal time to get into the shape of my dreams. After school, I'll be working hard, and maybe eventually I'll have a family. In fact, looking back, my time for that physique has probably come and gone. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful to be tall and prone to a natural normal weight, and my general health is good, so that's a whole lot more important than particular points of vanity. But being a perfectionist, I always want to improve, and doing so means making health and fitness a priority, even in graduate school.

As soon as I can move my arms again, and as soon as all this candy from Mars is eaten, I'm back on the case.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Decembers past

Little John and Santy ClausI love December. I get to enjoy my birthday (tomorrow) as well as Christmas and New Year's Eve. Wonderful music, delicious foods, happy people, presents, decorations, sometimes snow ... it's just a month of all my favorite things. And this year I'll get to add "no homework" to that list, come Dec. 18.

It's also a month that conjures nostalgia. Today as I put up the tree, I took notice of how old some of my ornaments are. There's a picture of me from 1984, a little red apple I got in fifth grade (1989), and some hand-me-down ornaments that predate me. All the traditions make me think of Christmases when. Here are five of my favorite Christmases:

1991 -- This was the year my family broke tradition and went to Disney World to celebrate Christmas for some reason. If you're not too cool to enjoy a tornado of unsophisticated Christmas delight, I highly suggest Disney at Christmas. This trip was my second time there, the first being in 1984, but it would not be my last. (I can place this trip squarely in 1991 because I remember being obsessed with this song ... It was stuck in my head while in line for rides.)

1992 -- I love my mom, but her gift-giving isn't always outta sight. That's why my brothers and I were highly intrigued by the three unusually enormous identically sized boxes beneath the tree in 1992, each bearing one of our names. These boxes taunted us for weeks as we guessed about their contents. Considering precedent, we dismissed the notion that they might be something cool like, say, stereos. But lo and behold, come Christmas morning, it turned out that's exactly what they were. I can still recall the new-electronic smell, and the first CDs I ever bought, to begin making use of this technological marvel. (They were "World Falling Down" by Peter Cetera, "I'm Your Baby Tonight" by Whitney Houston" and "The Comfort Zone" by Vanessa Williams -- typical jams that all 14-year-old boys dig.)

2000 -- I spent this Christmas, during my senior year of college, in Germany with my friend Debi, whose mom, a U.S. Army colonel, was stationed in Wurzburg. It was my first time in Europe, and I was there for 2 1/2 weeks. We went on a somewhat randomly chosen day trip every other day -- just hopped on a train to wherever to explore, walk the streets, look at the decorations, drink gluwein, eat sausages, and get yelled at by angry Germans. Those adventure days were great, but so were the alternating staying-in days, when we'd listen to music, cook and play cards. We also went to London for a few days in there.

2002 -- This was the best Christmas yet. I had moved to Corpus Christi just a few days before Christmas 2001, and spent that holiday working, but in 2002 I got a couple days off to spend with my parents, who flew in from Florida. To the extent I could with what little money I had, I went all out -- got a full-size tree and decorated it, bought each of my parents about eight presents purchased several CDs of holiday music, and cooked a rather substantial and elaborate brunch and dinner for Christmas morning and evening, the most memorable course being a from-scratch split-pea soup. I also had all my parents' favorite liquors on hand. We spent the whole day in merriment with each other, with absent friends and family via phone, and with a few friends of mine who dropped in to say hello throughout the day. It was the most perfect day I ever spent with my parents, the kind you'd like to bottle up.

Snow in Corpus Christi, Christmas 2004.2004 -- A close second to 2002. My parents again were visiting me, but what made this year so special was that it snowed in Corpus for the first time in about 80 years. It was the largest snowfall in the history of the city (4.4 inches by my paper's account), and it started coming down on Christmas Eve, no less. By the morning of Dec. 26, it was mostly melted. It really did feel like some type of magic miracle.

Meowy Christmas

Vinnie, in the Christmas spirit Today, Matt, Susan and I watched White Christmas and then decorated the apartment. And Vinnie helped.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snow captured on video

It snowed in New Haven sometime in mid-October, but I was in Florida and missed it. So tonight's snow was the first one of the season I have seen (although it was snowing in March when I was here for my interview). Last night I had a dream it snowed. Coincidence??? No, because I think I had heard a forecast.

Anyway, thinking of my loyal readers, I wrapped my laptop in a towel and went out there for a few moments to capture it, after several failed attempts to capture it from inside. (Incidentally, what the? It's so odd to be standing in a doorway and looking at a pretty heavy snowfall, then point a webcam at it, record, play it back and see no snow. I blame the ghosts.)

Enjoy! Or tolerate, or ignore. Whatevs.

Life on Mars

Nom Nom NomYesterday I had the pleasure of accompanying nine fellow SOM students on a company trek to Mars, the $30 billion privately owned company that makes Uncle Ben's rice, Pedigree dog food and Combos snacks, as well as confections such as M&Ms, Skittles, Starburst, Milky Way, Dove and Snickers. The company is located in Hackettstown, New Jersey, which, from what I could tell, is a cute, small town. (New Jersey gets a bum rap, in my opinion ... A lot of it is lovely.)

It was a very exciting day. We got to see the office, which was beautiful, open, colorful and drenched in the inviting fragrance of chocolate. And we learned more about the company and the career paths available there. Applications for internships were due Thursday, and Mars is one of the places to which I applied. We should find out in a couple weeks which companies want to interview us. I'd like Mars to be one of them, for sure.

I'm up early today, a Saturday, to attend "Training The Street," an all-day company valuation seminar at SOM. Not that I love valuing companies, and not that I see myself valuing companies in the future, but I think it's important to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities while I'm here, and I'm here to learn, so I think it will be a good (and long) day.

Next week is our last week of classes for this quarter, which flew by. The following week we have exams (four of them, Monday-Thursday, from 9 a.m. to noon each day). Then I'm off to Florida for what should be an actual, relaxing vacation!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

The heat is on.Two things are wrong with this picture, taken of the windows in my living room. The first is that there is a package of Asian strawberry snack cakes that taste like toothpaste on a coaster. But the more pressing issue is that the window on the left is open.

"John, close the window!" you might say. "It must be freezing outside!" Correct; it's 31 degrees outside. But inside, it's about 3100 degrees and dry as an Asian strawberry snack cake, because we don't control the heat.

Free heat sounds great, but, man, it's hot up in this place. My face is melting into a gooey puddle on the floor. I feel nauseated and delirious. It seems a shame, in this era of conservation, to have windows open in the late fall, but if the windows were closed, the police would find three attractive people dead in their beds ... or three charred bodies surrounded by what once were beds before they burst into flames.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Earring: in or out?

Quick tip for valuing a company

If you're all like "How much is this company worth and stuff?" here are six steps you should take:

1. Gather data from income statements, balance sheets and cash-flow statements. The last five years of statements should do. You'll want lots of stuff, like sales; cost of goods sold (COGS); selling, general and administrative (SGA) expenses, depreciation, capital expenditures (capex), accounts receivable, inventory, and some other things.

2. Restate all those numbers as percentages of sales.

3. Make projections using those percentages and forecast the future free cash flows, applying a reasonable growth rate to sales.

4. Calculate historical free cash flows for comparison.

5. Determine a discount rate (WACC, or the weighted average cost of capital) using book values for debt, market values for equity, the company's Beta and some other stuff.

6. Do final value calculations by discounting the five years of cash flows and calculating a terminal value at the end of the five years and discounting it back to the present day. Then find a reasonable growth rate by solving for which growth rate brings the computed equity value close to the actual equity value; then evaluate whether that growth rate seems reasonable.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes. Meanwhile, here's a terrible video:

My first day in retail

The view from behind the counter at Food For ThoughtToday I worked a cash register for the first time as a new volunteer at Food For Thought, the little cafe/store inside SOM. Just basics are sold -- coffee, bagels, granola bars, candy, Advil, nuts, chips, cold drinks, etc. -- and the profits [(P - MC)Q] benefit students who embark on summer internships with nonprofit organizations that don't pay well. To qualify for these funds, students have to work 25 shifts during the year; each shift is 50 minutes.

I don't expect to work in public service this summer, although I may. But I am volunteering for five primary reasons:

1. If I do end up working for a nonprofit this summer somehow, I don't want to miss out on these necessary funds.

2. I wanted another activity for my resume.

3. I wanted to do something fun that involves interacting with fellow students and whomever.

4. I wanted to do something that would be relatively low-stress and take my mind off more pressing matters.

5. I wanted to volunteer and do something good for the school; I sorta do that by giving tours to prospective students, but this is a little more directly do-goodery.

I've had a variety of jobs in my day, but none have involved a cash register. Fortunately, the one at Food For Thought is basically a drawer with a button that opens it -- not rocket science. And the prices are round, even numbers, so this shouldn't be a mind-bending job. For my first shift, I picked a 50-minute interval that did not contain a between-class transition; I did that so it would be relatively quiet, and it was. I'm volunteering again on Wednesday, though, and that shift will have more traffic. We'll see how I cope.

Meanwhile, it's another busy week, especially with cover-letter writing to get done. We have a "resume drop" on Dec. 3, which means that certain companies that recruit on campus want resumes and, usually, cover letters from students interested in interning there. I really need to get on the ball with these letters -- I'm planning to apply to maybe three or four places in this round. We'll see.

Speaking of recruiting, I've got three events with two companies this week that should be really interesting. Tomorrow, I'm going to a marketing workshop put on by DuPont, and then later in the day I have a half-hour info session with them, which is my opportunity to ask questions, although it's also something of a mini-interview. If nothing else, this will be good practice interviewing. Then on Friday I'm going on a company trek to Mars, which should be really exciting. I think I may get to see how they make M&Ms!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

You know what your problem is? I do.

At the beginning of the year, we had an assignment for our Careers course that required us to collect positive feedback from a variety of people who know us well so that we could look for trends, thereby helping us acknowledge situations in which we shine. It was, of course, a fun assignment, because everybody likes to read compliments. Some of the main themes in mine were that I'm good in small groups and creative.

Now we're doing a miniature version of the other side of that coin, collecting "negative" feedback, or improvement opportunities. Mine have been unsurprising -- that I could improve my skills in large-group networking situations and that I need to project more optimism and confidence. Comments about optimism and confidence always have a particular ring with me because I've been getting that feedback since I was very little. A couple years ago, I was re-reading some old elementary school report cards, and even in fourth grade, my teacher said I was bright and brilliant and wonderful and beloved, but that I needed to be constantly reassured of all these things or my confidence would crumble and I'd stop participating. Beyond intense psychotherapy, there's not much I can do about this today, although I can certainly work on faking it.

This MBA program, and maybe business schools in general, seems particularly keen on self-analysis. I can't even count the number of assessment tests we've done about our personality, aptitude and leadership style, and that's on top of papers about our strengths and weaknesses, values, commitments, future plans, etc. But it's very important to look deep down inside and not be distracted by minor ... oh shit, I have laundry to switch out. Be back later.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Semi-truncated Thanksgiving

Henry The Thanksgiving weekend offered SOM students such as myself a small sample of the legitimate vacation that will come in a few weeks. It wasn't a worry-free break because of all those darn assignments ... and cover letters ... and general anxiety. Booze and turkey certainly help one forget, temporarily, about things like that. Nevertheless, I returned from the weekend around dinnertime Saturday because there will be much to do tomorrow.

John & Shiri But I had a nice few days with my brother and his family (younger nephew pictured above). It's been nice to see the boys (5 and 3) often enough that they recognize me when I come over and remember games we've played and jokes we've made. After that family time, I swung by to see my best friend from high school, Shiri, who recently moved to Scarsdale.

It's hard to believe that our second of eight quarters at SOM is drawing to a close. Exams end on Dec. 18. We recently had an info session for choosing spring electives. First-year students all have the same three core courses in "Spring 1" and another three in "Spring 2," and we can choose either a semester-long elective, or two quarter-long electives, or a bigger load if we want one. The process works by bidding; we have 300 points to divvy among classes, and then spots in the class are awarded to the highest bidders. Fortunately, there's a favorable professor-to-student ratio at SOM, so it doesn't seem to me that it's too problematic to get the classes you want.

My strategy is to bid for challenging, quant-heavy classes so I can get as many hard skills as possible before my summer internship. Second-year students' schedules consist entirely of electives, so at that stage, it will be desirable and necessary to mix hard and soft skills. We'll see if things to my way.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

10 things I'm thankful for


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I present 10 things for which I am thankful right now:

1. I got into my school of choice. I sometimes need to remind myself of this, but it's true. Lots of people don't.

2. I met an awesome guy and am in a relationship that's making me happy. It's true.

3. I live with nice people, including my best friend. Lots of people live with assholes.

4. My apartment is beautiful. I've lived in plenty of dumps in my day.

5. My family is healthy and alive. And I'm within a couple hours of my brother and his family; I'll be there later today, in fact.

6. I'm doing well in school. One of my fears was getting into SOM and then struggling to understand anything and barely passing. So far, that is not true.

7. I have wonderful friends. I'm not sure how I pulled this off, but some truly amazing people seem to care about me.

8. I have my things with me. One of the nice differences between grad school and undergrad is that in undergrad I was away from all my things -- my bed, my books, my video games, my photographs, and all that stuff. Now that I'm a grown-up, my home is my only home, and all my things are here. Nothing to miss, and that's nice.

9. A new cultural experience. Living in the Northeast for the first time is fun and educational.

10. I have a blog! I'm skeptical about technology in a lot of ways, but this is a nice way to keep a journal and hopefully share some things that might be useful. Keep reading, please!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hello

I'm still alive. Just busy. :-)

I will write more soon.

XOXO,

John

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Morning beer sparks interest in football

Today was The Game. Football, that is. Yale vs. Harvard. Yale was winning 10-0 when I decided to beat the traffic and go home. Turns out Harvard then came back and won 14-10. My bad!

Prior to the game were innumerable tailgate parties, including one for SOMers. People started drinking beer early. I wasn't among them because I had a late drunky night, but I did show up in time to pick off some edible remnants of a buffet. It's always a pleasure to see friends and classmates outside the physical structure of our school, out in the sunshine, away from stress and so forth.

It was fun!

This is now my second football game this year, and that's not bad for somebody who's only been to four football games. I prefer hockey, which is handy because SOM is next door to Ingalls Rink, also known as The Whale. Have I been there for a game yet? No, but I will, by employing this schedule.

Last night, I shook my little toosh on the dancefloor and subjected the whole crowd to my inspiring requests. It goes without saying that I was a dance major back in college. Well, no. I took modern dance and loved it and was successful, and wondered whether I could in fact major in it despite having no skills, but I decided to do journalism instead. But that's basically majoring in something. The point is that whenever I bring my moves to the floor, jaws drop. As if they were hot, even.

Skipping to another topic, one thing that's a little hard to adjust to in New Haven, or I suppose the North in general, is how freakin' early it gets dark! I'll think, "Hmm, dark out there. Probably should start getting ready for bed." Then I'll look at the clock and note that the time is half-past 4. Then I will think, "Oh, right ... I haven't even had dinner. Why's it gotta be so dark?" It's a little depressing, actually. But nothing snaps me out of my depression like "Total Eclipse of the Heart: Literal Version."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What's the combination to MBA success?

The combination is 16, 35, 04Because I'm the most successful first-year student at SOM*, I'm constantly asked about the keys to success in an MBA program. What a dumb question, I respond. If success is a lock, it can only have one key, or copies of that same key ... not multiple keys. A better question would be: What is the combination to the combination lock of success? With that, I give you three things that, together, open MBA success. You need all three, though, or you'll be standing, defeated, next to the locker that contains your dreams.

1. Ducks in a row. If you are a frazzled person who is always forgetting appointments and losing keys, success at business school will be hard to achieve absent a concerted effort to improve your organization and prioritization skills. I am not the best example of these skills at their most refined, but with the help of an Outlook calendar, I am getting along just fine.

2. Brainz. If you can't read or add, you're SOL at b-school. It's not rocket science, to be sure, but some of the stuff is like hard. If you are without smarts, however, you may nevertheless get by on confidence, charm and resourcefulness. That's how I'm managing. And nobody seems to be the wiser.

3. A work ethic. I'd elaborate on this, but "Deal or No Deal" is on, and that's more interesting.

*This claim has been neither made nor verified by anyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Looking for holiday cheer? Look not here.

Last night, Mike and I took in a motion picture: Disney's A Christmas Carol. In 3D! It was a relentlessly joyless and terrifying film about a creepy old man who goes crazy. The special effects were pretty kickass. I would not recommend seeing it if you're headed to the theaters for a dose of holiday cheer. Instead, save it for Halloween.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Strict vs. kind teachers

Viola Swamp, from Miss Nelson is Missing This morning I'm having flashbacks to to the children's book Miss Nelson is Missing, which is about a "nice" teacher whose misbehaving students take advantage of her kindness; so she comes back disguised as a very mean substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp, and the kids eventually realize they should appreciate Miss Nelson. (Because our society equates beauty with value, you can correctly deduce that the illustration above is of Miss Swamp.)

I was having a conversation with a classmate yesterday about teaching styles. On a discipline spectrum, the SOM staff seems to run a wide range. Is one style "better" than the other?

1. "Mean" teachers. On one hand, I like that these teachers promote behaviors and values I think are important -- promptness, preparation, intelligence, confidence. "Mean" teachers keep control by creating an atmosphere that is tense, or even adversarial. This keeps people alert and ready. And in general it works (i.e. "Boy, s/he is tough! I better come prepared and on time, lest I look the fool.") On the other hand, this approach can be not only unpleasant and condescending, but also potentially indicative of the professor reaching beyond a suitable level of control. We are adults, after all. Should we not be trusted to prioritize our own time between our various classes, clubs, interests, career searches, social lives and families? Some would say no, and others yes. I can see both points of view.

2. "Nice" teachers. "Nice" teachers are always appreciated, but are they as effective as "mean" ones? I'd say it depends. On one hand, some "nice" teachers prove they can be warm and respectful while keeping students attentive and hardworking. I won't name names, but "nice" doesn't necessarily mean easy. If a professor has credibility and is well-prepared and has high expectations, s/he can be effective without treating students like naughty little kids. On the other hand, it's also possible to be a "nice" teacher to the point of ineffectiveness. And I think this is especially true of professors who don't solicit comments or foster participation, and don't collect much or any homework for credit. That can be a dangerous combination: nonthreatening, and nonparticipatory. A recipe for people to not do work.

In the end, I don't necessarily think it's intrinsically better to be a "mean" or "nice" teacher; whether it's effective depends on the person and the subject. But the issue also has its roots in the question of what the point of graduate school is: Is it a boot camp we're willingly subjecting ourselves to, or an abundance of resources and services we're paying a high premium for?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Matt's thoughts: 48 seconds

Matt's moved in, starts work tomorrow

Sturdevant and CurillaEnjoying a gin and tonic, Matt makes himself at home, with his lady friend, my roommate, Susan. He is now our roommate, too. Last night, Mike came over, we all played games and ate Susan's jalapeno soup.

Matt will start work tomorrow at the Hartford Courant, where he will cover the insurance industry.

Today will be work-filled for yours truly, with review sessions and various meetings taking place in the evening. But it looks like the week is relatively clear, which means I should take advantage of that extra time to turn off the lights, scoot into the corner and ponder my future. I'll be sure to report any insights.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!


Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Matt's almost here!

Journalism conference / games

Games Tonight I played games and enjoyed doing so thoroughly. Wits & Wagers, Pictionary, and then a fabulous parlor game Suzanne (right) taught us, called Celebrity. It was all wondrous ... one of the rare times I didn't think about school for several consecutive hours.

During the day I went to a journalism conference that was sometimes rather interesting. Here are 10 thoughts/takeaways from the first day:

1. Rich people have always and will always pay for information they want. The tricky issue is public news, which has always been subsidized by philanthropists, the government, advertising, passionate users, political parties, etc. (Source: Jay Rosen, professor at NYU)

2. As journalists have become better educated, news sources have become less trusted. Perhaps there is a problem with the way journalists are educated. (Rosen)

3. Newsrooms should do what they do best and borrow the rest. Also, they need to stop thinking of what they do as a product and start thinking of it as a service. (Tim Rosenstiel, director, Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism)

4. Also, instead of looking at how we can get customers to pay more for the news we're providing, we should look at where there is demand for news and information that is not being provided, because there's plenty of that. Newspapers don't seem to care about how they can inform customers, just how they can get paid.

Journalism conference at Yale Law School5. News isn't dying; an outdated model is. (Paul Bass, New Haven Independent)

6. News and information aren't different; news is information, and that information has no use if people aren't civically minded. (Peter Shane, OSU)

7. It doesn't matter that people don't want to read about a city council meeting; what matters is that they want someone to be there covering it. (Bass)

8. The three steps on the path to renewal are to shed legacy costs, re-establish community and build new advertising categories. (Penelope Abernathy, UNC)

9. AP has been doing a 123 system, where 1=headlines, 2=present-tense short story, and 3=longer story. But they want to add 0 and 4, where 0=a tweet, and 4=user interaction.

10. Money will take care of itself if the product creates value, and to create value, you have to focus on customers.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How black holes are created

Janice, looking at this blog Here is a photo I took of my friend and classmate Janice, looking at a picture from this very blog. It really wasn't until today that I sort of realized I hadn't made much mention to anyone at SOM that I'm doing this ... partly because I assumed nobody would care, and perhaps partly because it seems a little "LOOK AT ME"-ish. But, that said, if there are any SOM people reading this, I'm thrilled you are here.

As soon as I publish this picture, I expect the planet to fold into itself. If it doesn't, then I can only assume that it will do so if and when Janice returns to this blog and sees a picture of herself looking at the blog at an earlier time. Even more doom may transpire if she clicks here.

And if you look at this picture extraordinarily carefully, you'll see I'm in it twice. But, man, you've gotta look awfully close.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I've decided not to have an abortion

An anti-abortion sign near Yale, Nov. 10, 2009 Here's something you don't see every day -- an anti-abortion/pro-life sign near Yale's campus. I passed this on my way home from school today.

Politics aside, this is a reasonably effective campaign, although as a homosexual man I am probably not the target audience. I will say, also, that there's an extent to which the logic behind this sign is either flawed or, at least, not universal. A picture of a pile of human feces, for example, does not convince me I shouldn't eat solid food, even though the picture may be repulsive.

But, point taken. And kudos to people for speaking up about their beliefs. I cropped the above photo to focus on the sign, but here's the whole image:

Some individuals stand up for their beliefs. Good for them.Some people, like my father, assume that Yale is a disgusting breeding ground for liberal propaganda. I have not necessarily found that to be the case, especially at the business school. In fact we focus quite a bit of attention on how disruptive the government is when it comes to economic efficiency. But I will say that I've gotten a sense that to the extent that people in my class assume that most of their peers hold a political view, that view is left-leaning. But I have also met Republicans and people who lean libertarian.

I am simply making observations. I'm not going to discuss my politics, because that's outside the realm of "Journalist pursues MBA, blogs."

Tonight I will be giving a five-minute speech on my "commitment statement," which outlines my commitments to purpose, self, others and legacy. That's a lot to cover in five minutes, so I'll be focusing on purpose and self. The gist of my commitment statement is that I am concerned that people in American towns and cities will become more disconnected and ill-informed if they cannot access reliable news, and that this ties directly to my own commitment to myself, which is to try to be connected and informed. I stand behind my commitment statement. We'll see how it flies.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thanks for reading this here blog

Will Soledad and I finally be together?



A super cool thing about going to this school is that loads and loads of interesting and wonderful speakers come to campus. Not that I have time for that kind of thing, but it's nice that they're here. Several weeks ago I was looking forward to seeing Tom Brokaw, but it conflicted with a Dean's Tea I had committed to. So no dice.

As part of that same series, Soledad O'Brien will be speaking tonight. Being a woman of indeterminable heritage, it goes without saying that she will be speaking about diversity. I'm intending to be attending.

Soledad and I are practically BFF, considering I know two of her colleagues intimately. You may recall that last August I spent quality time with Anderson Cooper. I also was well-acquainted (friends, even) with rising CNN talent Brooke Baldwin, back at UNC. Oh, and I myself used to write movie reviews for CNN's Web site. So when it comes to Soledad O'Brien (or So-O, as I call her) I'm connected like a killer to a crime scene.

Monday, November 9, 2009

OMG CHECK OUT MY WEBCAM LOL!!!!

Media is changing, as this video clearly demonstrates. That's part of why I went back to business school after years in the newspaper industry -- to save democracy. (Here's the other reason.)

Hence I'm salivating like Pavlov's dog about this weekend's journalism and new media conference here at Yale Law School! The conference is called "Who Will Pay the Messengers," and it's about four main questions about the future: How are people going to get news, what will become of "legacy" media, what'll become of professional journalists, and how will people who do journalism get paid? Come Saturday night, all my burning questions will be answered. At least, I hope they're questions.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated subject, I really like my Investor class! I did the first homework assignment tonight and was patting myself on the back, not only to admire my ripped triceps in the Webcam, but because I already feel so smart about stocks and stuff. Soon I'll be equipped to play the market, which will enable me to take a low-paying, do-gooder job to help society whilst still earning just enough money to live comfortably.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Business Week says I might land a job

Because me want job someday, I'm psyched SOM was recently ranked No. 1 by Business Week for Best (or Least Worst) MBA job placement.

Here's the ranking. You can see the whole list by clicking through using the arrows above the main photos on the right. (#2 is Wash U, #3 Harvard, #4 Stanford, #5 MIT.) You can also read a story about the not-so-hot job market here.

In other news, this was Explore Diversity Weekend. To contribute a dash of 'mo, I attended a luncheon today and spoke to some prospective students. I also did homework, and laundry, and grocery shopping, and made a smoked salmon platter for me and Mike. There is no point to that story -- just recounting the day.

And while we're at it, yesterday, I finally ate at Mamouns, a justifiably endorsed eatery appreciated by 100% of the roommates I surveyed in my apartment. I also saw Where the Wild Things Are (2 1/2 stars) and celebrated some classmates' birthdays at a black-and-white themed party, to which I wore both black and white. And I cleaned my room. Boy, I had a productive weekend!

And so go the days of my life ... productive and fun.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I'll open up the floor to questions

Dear Readers,

If you have any questions for me, please ask by either posting in the comment field or writing to me at john.metz@yale.edu. I can either answer you privately or post answers here. I realize there might be things about grad school about which people are curious but which I have not yet addressed.

Best,

John

Friday, November 6, 2009

More work? Sign me up!

SmartBikeDC was the subject of the case competition.
Tonight I participated in the First Year Case Competition, which I had never before mentioned because I had not decided to do it till today. For weeks (maybe months), my class has been politely bombarded with e-mails about this contest, for which groups of four all work on the same case, turn in PowerPoint decks and then possibly advance to another round the next morning and give a presentation. The case was about SmartBikeDC.

I did not sign up for a few reasons. (1) I'm busy. (The very true counter to that argument is that everybody else who competes is just as busy as I am, but then again I didn't raise them.) (2) The focus was to be on eco-friendly environmentalism, which, while I think is great and all, is not my area of interest per se, and (3) This is basically practice for consulting work, and I don't think that's what I want to do. So, thanks but no thanks.

But as the days and weeks wore on, it seemed like almost everybody was gearing up for this thing. So when we all received an e-mail today offering to accommodate last-minute additions, I said, "What the hell?" Maybe that question should have ended with "was I thinking."

The work itself was more stressful than fun, I must say. I liked my group and all, but it didn't feel much different from doing the kind of work we've been doing already ... Really, it's practically inexcusable that after one of the most academically stressful weeks of my life, I volunteered at the last minute for what ended up being probably the highest-stress situation of all.

Anyway, it's over now. I would be flabbergasted if we advanced, but I think they release that info at 1 or so. For now, however, I have to go to bed -- got a marketing conference starting at 9 tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If you have time to read this, you have time to read this

Alex's book My friend Alex has been working on his book the entire time I've known him, and it's finally out. I figure if you're the type of person who finds time to read this blog, you might instead channel that free time into a reading project that would be more worthwhile. Buy it here.


Finally, a real use of a real skill set!!!

Let's edit a video. I need to mention how excited I am that I finally get to be the person in a group with relative expertise. Last week I talked about doing a mock negotiation that was taped. Half the class had to edit those videos. This week, my mock negotiation was not taped, so I (along with two other guys) have to edit another team's video.

You can imagine my delight! Finally I get to be the one in the group who is useful in a technical, execution sense. I like being that person; that's why last night I went to the PowerPoint training. I think it's often understated how important computer skills are in school. The people who really know Excel, Stata, PowerPoint and so on can contribute on such a more substantial level, and do so quickly. Granted this is a one-shot deal -- I may never edit another video while I'm here -- but I'm happy to be in familiar waters for a change.

Up late vs. up early

Coffee I knew this would be a busy week, and it is, although really it all seems to be coming down to this one assignment for Competitor. Part of why it's so time consuming is that the instructions are somewhat vague, and the way in which we're supposed to gather our information is, per the instructions, not very efficient. (The assignment basically asks us, in our groups of four, to gather lots of data individually and then come together, discuss it, draw conclusions and write a memo with some graphs ... You can imagine the amount of wasted time that results.)

So this ended up being the first time I've actually been almost tempted to pull an all-nighter, or at least stay up very late, but fortunately for me, my body simply cannot comply. I shut down ... I yawn and yawn and yawn, and before long I realize I just can't stay up and work. Even as far back as high school, my method has been to go to bed as soon as I start yawning, and set the alarm. And that's what I did. (In the upper right of this page, you may see a survey about this very topic!)

The assignment is done. It's not perfect, but it's just a "memo."

Meanwhile, on another note, here is a picture of where I tend to hang out between classes. I look forward to meeting Mike there today for lunch, because it will mean classes are finished for the day! Tonight everyone in the class has a stock trading game, which could be a lot of fun. Since I can barely articulate what a stock is, I don't think I will win.

I can often be found here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thorough preparation for corporate presentation

I'm doing research for a corporate presentation this evening. The company manufactures and distributes a popular soft drink. To get in the spirit, I am reviewing their longstanding marketing strategy:



Also on today's agenda:

1. Customer, from 10 to 11:20, where two groups will be randomly selected to present their calculations about a server-and-software-tool bundle (based on a case). I hope my group isn't one of them, and therefore it will be.

2. After class, and before 12:45, I will continue researching Continental Airlines for a Competitor project, and will inhale some lunch.

3. From 12:45 to 2:30, my group will go over our airline research.

4. Sourcing and Managing Funds, from 2:40 to 4.

5. Till 5:30 I will change into a suit and eat something.

6. Pepsi corporate presentation from 5:30 to 7.

7. PowerPoint training from 7 to 8.

8. Then home, to do homework (like finishing the airlines memo and doing whatever else we need to be doing.)

You know, I thought SOM would be all about elbow patches, squash tournaments and drinking cider on a crisp fall day. Turns out there's all kinds of hard stuff that, you know, has to be done by, like, me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

You gonna eat that?

John with leftover Halloween candyMaintaining a sensible, healthy diet while attending grad school full-time is harder than doing so while having a full-time job due to two primary limitations: funds and time. And it doesn't help matters when family members send you home with a giant Ziploc bag of bite-size confections after Halloween.

I do not step on the scale every day as I once did. Now I get on every week or two. And each time, I expect bad news -- I remember the pizza I ordered for dinner one night, or that I've been having too much regular soda lately, or that I allow myself an occasional bowl of ice cream to smooth out the stress. And, yet, I have been finding that I am maintaining a steady weight. Granted that weight is naturally 10 pounds greater than my ideal weight, but I've been surprised at its 0% growth.

I attribute this to a few tricks I wanted to share with other people who might be in my circumstance:

1. Walk. I try to jog most mornings, but I think most of my calorie-burning is coming from walking so much -- to campus, from campus, to downtown (but usually not from downtown, since it's usually late enough that I take the shuttle for safety's sake). I want to pretend I'm using my weight bench, but it's a rare day that that happens. I should do better.

Healthy Choice frozen dinner 2. Purchase lean frozen breakfasts and dinners. Occasional pizza indulgences aside, I usually have a frozen meal for dinner, which grossly violates my values both taste-wise and health-wise. But frozen dinners are a great bargain, they're fast, and they can be relatively healthy, or at least low-calorie. Same for breakfast -- I like to have a healthy low-fat egg sandwich of some kind, or a variation thereof, with some fruit or yogurt.

3. Snack wisely. Bags of Halloween candy notwithstanding, I tend not to keep junk food in the house. No Doritos, Oreos or pork rinds around here. Currently, in the realm of snack food, I have snap peas, carrots, prunes, apples, bananas, organic yogurt, Triscuits, Goldfish crackers and laughing cow cheese ... and, in an uncharacteristic purchase, whole grain fig Newtons. Usually the "worst" thing I have is ice cream (I currently lack it), but in sensible portions I don't think ice cream is a big issue.

4. Don't be a stumbling lush. The most I've ever weighed is about 20 pounds more than I weigh now, and I attribute that to being in my mid-20s and having not much to do but drink. Now, of course, I cannot afford (financially or otherwise) to drink heavily often. I tend each night to have at most one cocktail -- maybe a Jim Beam on the rocks, or a glass of white wine, as the evening is wearing down.

5. Remember that thinking burns calories. ... I think.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hanging with Buzz Lightyear and Thomas The Train

Henry and Thomas I'm afraid I am too buried in homework to provide a lengthy or detailed story about Halloween, but this picture pretty much says it all -- I went to Cornwall-on-Hudson to visit my nephews, and we went trick-or-treating, and they were wildly popular and successful at taking the candy. I had a delightful time.

This is going to be a very rough few days ahead, as my classmates and I have been repeatedly warned. Lots of assignments due simultaneously. Not helping matters is that I had a sudden change of heart about some data I had collected and decided to re-collect and expand it, which took several additional hours ... hours that, probably, weren't necessary. I can be more specific about what I'm talking about tomorrow, after we've all turned in our assignments. :-)

And now it's on to another assignment, which I will tackle boldly until my eyes can't stay open (i.e. 15 minutes).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spooooooky

Party Last night I attended a Halloween party thrown by the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. What's creepy is that nobody was there -- I took pictures of the empty room, and when I looked at them, lo and behold, the room was full of ghastly spooks. Upon realizing this, I hastily evacuated the dance floor.*

Mike and I (pictured below) were a Spider-Man-esque devil and a cook in the cafeteria of a mime school respectively. (Sadly, Mike, in this photo, is wearing his mask on top of his head ... I guess I have no future as a photo-shoot director.)

Mike and JohnAnd we saw a wonderland of clever costumes, most of which I can't remember, since this was all of 10 hours ago. But let's see ... there was a Swiffer, Moby Dick, Marcia Brady, a beer pong** table, a cowboy on a horse, and icanhascheezburger.com. Someone mentioned that it was "good to see [me] out." Point taken.

Today I'm going up to my brother's to go trick-or-treating with my nephews, despite this being a radically busy weekend work-wise. I will bring work and do some of it. I have to say this was a very enjoyable week at school, despite that it's much busier than I could ever have imagined.

*Not true. The party was populated with live people, and I like this picture.
**An immensely popular activity at Yale, for whatever reason.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm getting another roommate!


My best friend Matt was offered, and accepted, a job today with the Hartford Courant. He'll be moving up from Virginia in a couple weeks, and moving in with me and my roommate, Susan, who is also Matt's girlfriend.

This is absolutely fabulous news for all involved -- the news we've been waiting on the edge of our seats for. Here are five reasons I'm excited about Matt moving in:

1. I like to try new things. Matt and I have never lived together, although he spent nearly every waking moment at my apartment back in Corpus Christi. It's something we always wanted to do, and now we get to!

2. It will probably be good for me and Susan to get a little dose of the real outside world in our regular daily lives. Right now it's hard for us to stop studying. We'll still need to study, but a little bit of a "bad" influence may do us good.
Vinnie, a cat


3. Vinnie, the cat, will be happier. He needs more attention.

4. Matt was an accounting major and can help me with my Sourcing & Managing Funds homework.

5. My rent and utility costs will fall by 33%, and the savings come at a good time -- I need to get my New Zealand/Australia tickets pronto!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Answer

Unilever They are all Unilever products. I went to their corporate presentation yesterday and (a) scored some awesome swag, and (b) kept coming back around to this brand management idea. I'm so conflicted! When I'm at a marketing event, like a corporate presentation or alumni panel or even the Customer class, I really think it's for me. It's only in the cold light of day that I wonder if it's really really for me. But I think I'm coming around to at least thinking it would be a good idea to shoot for a big CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) internship this summer; it would be good for the resume, good experience, and I can see if I like it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quiz: What do these things have in common?


Quiz: What do these things have in common?

The answer will come tomorrow!

She won the Ecedemy Ewerd?

Hangman
Here's a screen shot of a nice, relaxing game of hangman I was playing. And, yet, it was not a satisfying diversion, and if you look carefully, you'll see why. See it yet? Doesn't life sometimes feel like this? You're playing fair and trying earnestly to get the right answer, but you can't ever seem to get there, and then you realize it's because the game itself was flawed. (Don't read too much into that ...)

It's icky out

It's cold and nasty out there today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Negotation with captions

This is why I love Yale SOM and my classmates. I sent the photo from the last post to Max and Peter, and Max sent back this (click to enlarge if you can't read the small print):

I make an OK female basketball player

Max, Peter and John For our new Negotiations class, we were randomly assigned into groups of three to conduct a mock negotiation, and some groups were asked to videotape their meetings. Ours was one such group.

In the exercise, we were assigned roles. I was a basketball player (who the case describes as a female named Hoopster Hayden), and Peter (middle) was my agent. Max (left) was the general manager of a team, and, to make a long story short, the three of us were trying to agree upon one of five salary packages for me. (It is possible that some of our video could be shown in class, although I'm not convinced our negotiation was necessarily so exemplary.)

It was fun. I really enjoyed it. One issue I'm having with Negotiations in general, though, is that I don't gain any pleasure out of getting more than I think is fair; in fact, I actively don't like it. Some people would call this a problem -- "Oh, you could have negotiated for a higher salary," people will say, "or a better deal on such-and-such." Meh. I don't like to be bamboozled, obviously, but if I feel I can reasonably ascertain what's fair, then that's what I'd like to think I will argue for -- not what's best for me, if it's what's worst for the other guy.

For example, when I went from the Caller-Times to the Star-Telegram, and it came time to talk salary, I took what I was making at the Caller-Times, adjusted for the difference in cost of living (according to a Web site), and added 10%. And I presented that offer as exactly that: a calculation I thought was reasonable and fair. And that's what I got offered. Could I have gotten a better offer? I suppose, though probably not by much. And ultimately, I would rather just make an offer I think is fair and get it than feel like I'm pushing or tricking someone into giving me more money ... money that, really, amounts to peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

It's the same thing in this class. I understand that negotiation is an important skill, but I'm a real proponent of fairness, and of everyone feeling comfortable. Obviously not everyone always agrees on what's fair. But if we can agree that a solution is fair, then that's the solution that should be chosen.

In the exercise, that was my strategy. Beforehand, I did a few back-of-the-envelope calculations and determined which package was fairest for all three of us. Nobody disagreed with that. But, of course, the conversation didn't end there -- people want to push for what advantages them, even if they can't look you in the eye and deny your assessment of what's fair. And since I made my "fair" argument plainly from the beginning, I just stuck with it the whole time: "This is what's fair, period. If you don't agree it's fair, let's discuss that, but if you do agree it's fair, there's nothing else to say." I was unyielding, and in the end, we went with my original proposal.

Does that mean I "won"? Not at all -- in fact with some shrewdness and smarts I might have been able to argue for a better deal for myself. But I would rather go with what's equally best for everybody. Maybe that's not the head I need for business, but it's the head I was dealt.