Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Australia relived

Bundy and Diet Coke I'm reliving my wonderful days in Australia this evening by partaking of a Bundy & Coke, a traditional Australian cocktail made with genuine Bundaberg rum that I purchased duty-free at the airport Down Under. Actually I'm really having a Bundy & Diet Coke. Actually it's not even Diet Coke ... it's Diet some generic store brand of cola. So maybe, in the end, it's not so traditional. Whatever. It gets the job done.

Beloved Australia memories will be further revived tomorrow when our big group goes out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Why a Chinese restaurant? I think a big chunk of our group went to Chinatown for dinner when we were in Melbourne, but I was not part of that particular outing. Anyway, we're going to Formosa, which was chosen by a New Haven local in our group who is of Chinese descent, so I can only expect the upmost authenticism and quality. He's going to do all the ordering.

Did I mention I'm drinking Bundy & Diet Something because it's Wednesday? That's my Friday! I am loving these four-day weekends. Loving the quarter. Love the Yale School of Management.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ricky Martin's private emotion

Ricky Martin officially came out yesterday. A common comment on Facebook, YouTube and elsewhere has been "duh!!!!" or some variation thereof, but I'm excited he came out and am proud of him. Am I surprised he's gay? No, but that's really not the point. He's made gayness ever more visible and re-underlined the importance of not being a full-time liar.

Gays sometimes forget that coming out is hard. And yet it's very easy to look back and wonder why it was so hard. My friends are nice people; what did I think was going to happen? Did I really think they were going to scream and point and run away? That would be silly, but it's nevertheless difficult to redefine your identity to others and risk the unknown repercussions of how that might affect your relationships. "You're a female friend; you've always known me as a straight man. Now I'm telling you I'm a gay man. So I'm really not who I said I was the whole time we've known each other." That's a big deal!

Ricky Martin's coming out is on a scale none of us can really imagine. He's famous. He's going to be remembered. And he's fundamentally changing his public identity. His fans are Hispanic, many of whom are probably Catholic. They are women. They love him. Now that fantasy is gone; plus he's not a "good Catholic boy" perhaps. So it's a big deal, definitely.

Then there's the rest of the world -- the non-fans. They'll all weigh in. He's putting himself at the center of a conversation that's certain not to be a nice one. Again, a big deal! And one that takes courage. He could have just lived out his days not confirming or denying, as he had been doing. I don't think anyone would have blamed him.

So am I shocked Ricky Martin's gay? No, but I'm proud of him for saying so, and would like to see my fellow gays be a little more supportive and sympathetic. I'm glad that when I told my mom I was gay when I was 18, she didn't say "duh!!!!".

Monday, March 29, 2010

What's The Lou doing at SOM?

A framed picture of St. Louis at the Yale School of Management I was studying this afternoon at SOM when I looked up and noticed there was a framed picture of the St. Louis skyline. That's my home town. Sometimes people ask me whether I want to move back there, and I don't have a strong answer, although I will say the longer I live in the Northeast the more appealing my memories of St. Louis become. I'm conflicted; on one hand I have some friends there, it's my home town, and I think it's objectively a nice city. On the other hand, it sort of reeks of the long-ago past. I enjoyed that past a lot, though, so moving back is definitely worth considering. Let's just say I wouldn't turn down a nice offer in St. Louis.

Then again, would I turn down a nice offer in Botswana?

I have mentioned before but may not have mentioned recently that I give tours to prospective students on Mondays. Today someone asked what's surprised me about SOM. I'm not sure this was a good answer, but before I enrolled I knew it would be challenging but I imagined the work to be pondering a large business idea or plan with a group, and working for weeks on some flashy presentation we'd deliver to a panel of elderly professors. There'd be financial slides and slick marketing materials, and it would be preceded by many late nights of coffee and pizza in living rooms. In a way, what I am describing is similar to an activity we had during orientation -- the Audubon Street Project, where we were randomly assigned to groups and had to come up with a viable but responsible business plan for an empty commercial space in New Haven.

Anyway, the reality is that school is about as challenging as I'd imagined, but in a different way. More readings, 3-page case write-ups and problem sets than large-scale projects with pizza-scarfing groups. Snarfing? Scarfing? Either?

Not a complaint at all, just an observation. Goodnight, St. Louis.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Matt is a video psychic

A drawback to the 4-day weekend

With cups scarce, Kasia drinks from some sort of frozen lime juice container.I'm so happy to have four-day weekends, but I'm going to have to learn to budget my time better.

I spent most of Thursday-Saturday thinking I had plenty of time ahead to do my readings and assignments for Monday and Tuesday. So I did some tutoring, went to a party at my friend Dave's house, attending the aforementioned Big Gay Party, cleaned, spent some time catching up with friends on the phone, played some piano. And I've got lunch plans today.

I did some work yesterday, but not nearly enough. I spent this morning printing off what I hadn't realized was a fart-load of reading I need to complete today, including a 28-page case w/ a 3-page write-up for my marketing class; about 50 pages of reading for State & Society (and that does not include about a dozen articles posted online that I guess we're supposed to read), and the hard-to-quantify amount of material in an online case that will inform another write-up due for another class on Tuesday. This is in addition to some chapters I should have read for marketing and some other short readings I'd already done for Innovator.

Not a disaster, but not stuff I should have put off this late. And I am on call for more tutoring tonight. Oh, and I had wanted to get a head start on some stuff for CABO, since I'm on the board and have things to do. Oh, and I applied to a couple more internships this weekend. Oh, and I've got a tour to give tomorrow for prospective students. Over committed maybe?

Friday, March 26, 2010

I partied, then helped the children

My new printer Behold my new printer. I'm so excited. My old printer was a hand-me-down, and I always appreciate a hand-me-down, but it was time for an upgrade. I am thrilled not to have to make "print things out" one of my on-campus to-dos.

Last night I attended one in a regular series of Big Gay Parties at GPSCY, which was surprisingly big and gay. Loads of gays, and lots of fun. Today I slept in, caught up with a friend from high school, then tutored a Georgia student in math, via One of the neat things about doing this is the Bamboo writing pad, which Learn To Be sends all its tutors. My student had some tough questions I wouldn't have been able to help with so easily had I not been refreshing those crazy quant skills in school. (Example: It took Susie 4 hours to drive to Grandma's house and 3 hours to get back, and she was going 11 mph faster on the way back. What were her speeds? Not a hard question per se, but this issue isn't whether I think it's hard, it's whether I can explain the steps in a helpful way. That's not really easy to do on the spot, but I think I did fine, and will do better going forward ... I have a regular schedule of several hours per week.)

These four-day weekends are, I must say, a dream. Even though it's mostly a mental thing to not have a class and not really a significant addition of productive hours, it's nevertheless very freeing to look at four full complete days of whatever I want to do. It's both relaxing and productive. My room is spotless. I've cooked some delicious meals. I've gotten my act together, basically. Couldn't be happier.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

That's OK, that's OK ...

Deal ... or no deal? Ever notice how on Deal or No Deal, when a case is opened and a high dollar amount is revealed (which, for those unfamiliar with the rules, is bad news), three things happen:

1. The model, or whoever opens the case, grimaces.

2. The audience says "Oooooh...." and then gets quiet.

3. The contestant always optimistically claps, smiles and shouts, "That's OK, that's OK!"

4. Then the audience claps and hoots at the contestant's perseverance and optimism.

I always want to reassure the contestant, "No, see, it's not OK at all. It's pretty terrible, because you just lost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's not OK, that's not OK."

The internship hunt often makes me feel like my fellow students and I are contestants on Deal or No Deal, forever getting rejected, then needing to smile, clap and say "That's OK, that's OK!" We all know it's not, though.

I had two phone "interviews" today (one was an interview, the other was a more casual query chat). I think they went fine, but unfortunately it's not my opinion that matters. One thing that holds me back in interviews is that it's hard for me to envision what having an internship at these companies would be like. So when I'm asked, say, "If you got this internship, how would you approach the tasks in the job description?" I don't have a great answer; instead, I just have lots of questions. At the newspaper, job descriptions were pretty self-evident: Photographers take photographs. Page designers design pages. Reporters report. But in the ever-complex business world, what does a "strategy and business development summer analyst" actually, literally, physically do? Thanks to school, I can begin to imagine what that person might want to think about, and what types of frameworks that person might use to solve problems. But do? I dunno, really. That's why I want the internship -- to find out.

And if I can't quite wrap my mind around precisely what the person does, can I really convince someone that I'm the best candidate to do it? "Would I be a fantastic strategy and business development summer analyst? Well, maybe. I don't know. I do well in school and am a pretty nice guy; I'm smart and have a track record of doing some things I think were neat. I work hard enough to do a good job, and I take tasks that are given to me seriously. Sounds to me like I should do fine, but, you know, who's to say? Who are the other candidates, after all? Maybe someone else would be better, or maybe all your other applicants wouldn't do nearly as good of a job. I have no idea. That's for you to figure out." That answer is not only long-winded, but not very reassuring.

But it's the truth. And isn't telling the truth what's most important in business?*


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Drop it like it's inconvenient

Incidentally, my experience at Yale Health Services was efficient. I was there 10 minutes and got the things I came in for. I know everyone was wondering.

Today I was in one of my electives when it dawned on me that if I drop my other elective, which is indeed extraneous, I would have four-day weekends all quarter. Tonight, as I opened two readings and an assignment for a paper due tomorrow, I thought, "Ya know, coaching skills are important, but I doubt I'll be managing anyone this summer. This would be better learned next year, closer to when I'm about to head back into the full-time work force." So it is dropped. I now have four-days weekends: Thursday-Sunday.

The question will be: To what extent will I successfully divide weekend work such that I am productive on these days? The answer is that I will force myself into some level of consistent productivity, but I think everybody knows Sunday will end up being the busiest day. But having 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Monday off? Every week? Not bad at all, friends.

Went for a jog this morning, which I used to do regularly, and it was not easy. The long winter wasn't kind to my bones and lungs. I'll just have to keep at it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sorta-Day-1 Done

Velma Dinkley said it best: Jinkies.

The first day of Spring 2, our fourth quarter, began as no other school day has for this early riser -- with falling back asleep after my alarm went off, then rushing to class without breakfast. NEVER has happened, despite the prevalence of 8:15s. I blame my mysteriously still-lingering jet lag, as I awoke at 2:30 and was up for a good while thereafter.

But I did make it to my first class on time and, not having the sense to stay quiet despite my fatigue, participated, which turned out to be rather regrettable, as I was pressed for far more details and analysis about my contribution than I was able to provide. I think I looked a bit dumb, but by this point, everyone who would think me dumb has probably already formed this opinion, and nothing I say now will change that.

It was a busy day, certainly. Three classes, and lots of reading, as well as a last-minute assignment in my Innovator class (the one in which I made aforementioned commentary) to work in groups of four to build a stable coat hanger out of two pieces of wood and a c-clamp. I love what we came up with and have a photo of it but can't post it yet because two of the other sections haven't done the assignment yet, and one never knows who might stumble onto this wildly popular blog.

Tomorrow I have my first-ever appointment with Yale Health Services, for two different and not terribly interesting reasons -- both having to do with getting checked for genetic cancers I am urged to get checked out routinely (thyroid and skin). No symptoms, mind you, just a nice preventative checkup. Anyway, I am curious to see how efficient and pleasant Yale Health Services is/are. I'll provide an update, if I survive.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The power of the written word

Classes start tomorrow, and so I am doing some readings this evening. This is the fourth quarter and is therefore my fourth attempt at a fresh start, as I vow not to get behind this time. Actually I must pat myself on the back a bit because I've done a decent job of keeping up with readings. This quarter, though, is going to be particularly intense because I have 5 classes (last quarter I had 4) and they are all reading- and case-heavy ... all 5. Seriously!

This is good news in the sense that, even though I'm good enough at math to enjoy it and get by, I tend to get better marks and be more engaged in the more qualitative classes. Other good news is that I finally, for the very first time, don't have an 8:15 a.m. class! Here's a look at this quarter's roster for me -- three required courses (the end of our first-year core) and two electives:

10 - 11:20 a.m. Monday/Wednesday: Innovator. This is another "Organizational Perspective" class that looks at business problems and issues from a certain stakeholder's point of view. (Previous classes have included "Investor," "Customer," "Competitor" and, my favorite, "Employee.") This one looks like it'll be what it sounds like it'll be -- how to come up with good new ideas and products.

2:40 - 4 p.m. Monday/Wednesday: State & Society. Another "Organizational Perspective" requirement for first-years. Looks at government's interaction with business, and at laws and ethics. It's taught by the Socratic method, so it will be important to be prepared, although there are actually no individual written assignments in the course; just a group paper and a take-home final. That doesn't mean it'll be easy, though ... it looks like a lot of work, and I know the professors are famous for cold-calling.

4:10 - 5:30 p.m. Monday/Wednesday: Managing Marketing Programs. An elective. Pretty self-explanatory; the syllabus confirms the title.

9 - 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays: Integrated Leadership Perspective (ILP). This is the capstone of our curriculum. It's team-taught by our previous professors, and others, and it looks like it will use the raw case method to tie everything we've learned together. A raw case is one where we use real-world data sources, like news articles, Web sites and videos, as opposed to a "cooked case," which is where a university researches an event or a company and writes up a 20-or-so-page case about it, complete with nicely written exhibits with graphs or financial statements or whatever. This is the class nobody seems to quite understand yet ... I'm not entirely clear on exactly what we'll be doing.

2:40 - 5:40 p.m. Thursdays: Coaching Skills for Managemers. I signed up for this somewhat at the last moment, but this is, again, pretty self-explanatory given the title. We do readings, write-ups and exercises to become better coachers. It's a soft skill, but a really important one, I think, and one I could probably stand to enhance.

So that's what the quarter looks like! It will be over before you know it ... Just seven weeks. (Gulp ... I need to have an internship by then!)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'm home

A view of the mountains during my flight from San Francisco to New York I'm back in New Haven, where it's a beautiful 60 degrees, a far cry from the New Haven to which I said goodbye three weeks ago. The trip home from Australia was a somewhat monotonous version of the trip there. This time, I didn't have high adventure to look forward to, so I was mostly trying to pass the time, which I did by watching even more movies and TV shows (The Lovely Bones, Big, Everybody's Fine, Big Bang Theory ...). Good plane movies/shows.

It was, of course, a very long trip, beginning on what was technically the morning of March 19th and ending later that same day, even though something like 36 hours had passed; I basically got to live 3/19 twice, which could have been exciting had all that time not been spent in seats not made for people of my stature. After returning, I had no trouble falling asleep and was out cold for a good 12 hours. Woke up at noon, and am now doing laundry and trying to get ready for the upcoming week. Classes begin Monday.

So ends the International Experience trip. I really enjoyed it and think it's a neat addition to SOM's curriculum. One drawback to the trip is that it interfered with recruiting; I won't yet elaborate, but I have my fingers crossed. We're getting down to the wire. I want the internship of my dreams!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gnite, Melbourne (sniff)

Melbourne, from the 88th floor of the Eureka Skydeck

Restroom curiosity

Men pee on walls in Australia. Sorry that I can't not post this. But in Australian men's rooms, there is often a rather curious installation, pictured above.

This is where I am supposed to pee.

In fact, I am supposed to stand on the grate, then pee against the wall. The urine slides down the wall and makes its way toward a drain; when I step off the grate, water will flow down and flush it out ... or so I've heard. After using these things several times throughout our trip, I was at one yesterday when my friend Jeremy came in and told me I was doing it wrong -- I wasn't standing on the grate, I was standing on the tile floor, aiming over the grate. To me, the grate did not look like something I should be standing on.

What do I know? There aren't signs or anything.

So I have only heard about the weight-activated flushing system. Maybe sometime today I'll have the pleasure of putting it to the test.

Kangaroo steak. In other Australian culture news, look to the left and see my dinner last night, a kangaroo steak. I had tasted kangaroo on a pizza a couple days prior, but this really allowed me to savor the flavor of this hippity-hoppitying little creature. It tastes like a steak that tastes funny.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last day in Melbourne

Jeremy, Zandra, Yujie, Chris and Nicole The Internet situation in Melbourne has been most unacceptable; I currently have 10 minutes remaining on a 30-minute limit, so I'll try to hit some highlights with haste:

1. Did some karaoke Tuesday night, which was fantastic. It was akin to what is popular in Japan, with about 20 or so of us renting a private room and getting a nearly limitlness flow of alcohol, singing privately. A ton of fun; I'd always had a bit of an aversion to that, because, as a former karaoke regular, I thought there'd be almost no point if you took away the audience. But it becomes a totally different kind of experience ... just lots of laughs and dancing and great times. Do it if you ever get the opportunity.

2. We had business meetings on Tuesday which were interesting, but mColdstream Hillsore interesting was our itinerary Wednesday, which was totally booze-focused. We began by meeting with Ian Johnston, CEO of Foster's, before touring the Carlton Draught Brewery and then Coldstream Hills vineyard, pictured at right in an iPhone photo that doesn't do the scenery justice. Not a bad way to spend St. Patrick's Day.

3. The trip has officially ended, with a nice dinner last night. Today a few of us are hanging around just for fun ... we're planning to go to the beach and maybe to a couple sites in the city (museums and such). Then tomorrow morning I head back for America! Our fourth quarter starts Monday.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Simpsons statue?

Sideshow Bob Greetings from Melbourne! It's beautiful here, and quite a bit more European than the other cities we've visited. I'm writing from a McDonald's, where there is free wi-fi, and have little time, but I wanted to post this regal statue of Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons.

Today we're visiting more companies -- BHP Billiton, a mining company that is also the biggest company in Australia; VFMC, a fund management company; and the Melbourne Convention Center. Tomorrow is booze day -- a winery, Carlton Brewhouse, Fosters Group and Coldstream Hills Winery. Let's hope free samples abound.

Feeling much better healthwise. Went for a delightful swim on the roof of the hotel last night and may muster the strength to do actual exercise tonight.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sea sickness

I forgot to mention in my brief post about our trip to the Great Barrier Reef just how horribly rough our voyage was out there. There were such high winds in the forecast that there was speculation beforehand that the trip would be canceled. It wasn't, but I can't believe we made it out there in one piece.

The boat had two levels and was mostly indoors. It's set up to be a nice cruise; they have tea and coffee when you board, and then we hook up to a pontoon during the day, where there was a pretty fancy and elaborate buffet lunch (with cold salads, lasagna, sushi, curried eggs, all kinds of things). The boat and the pontoon stayed tied together all day, and you could go back and forth between the two. The boat continued to serve snacks, ice cream, etc., and when we got back on there was fresh fruit and cheese, crackers and summer sausage.

I mention all this to point out that this wasn't just some floating bus.

But the luxury aspect, to the extent there was one, turned into wacky farce when the boat became so violently tumultuous that people could not stand up or walk around without being flung into walls or other people. It was as if the world was ending. The staff continued to try to do their normal routine, walking around to sign people up for activities, smiling and acting like this wasn't the worst experience everyone had ever had. Before not too long, the staff's job turned solely into providing people with white paper bags and escorting them to the back of the boat. By about halfway into the trip, the bottom front of the boat where I'd stationed myself was almost entirely empty ... everyone was at the back of the boat, throwing up, lying down and getting drenchced with sea water.

I didn't get sea sick; I never have.

The ride back was better ... good enough, in fact, that we could play a few rousing games of Spoons, Asshole and Crazy Eights.

More diving

Today I went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. I did not bring my camera and didn't purchase the photos they took, but the one above is of Wally, a fish I did in fact touch. We got along great. Part of the reason I passed on photos is that I went scuba diving 11 years ago in Cancun and have a roll of film of what I saw and don't ever look at it, especially now that you can get all these images online. The camera is just one more thing to keep track of, and I really wanted to enjoy and experience the day.

Off to eat seafood. Maybe I'll end up gobbling some of the friends I made earlier today.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I think I Cairns

John Metz gets cuddly with a Cairns koala. Today was the best day in Australia yet! I felt much better, health-wise, which allowed me to enjoy the day. We had a great plane trip -- it's fun as a group -- to Cairns, a tropical, lush town in Northern Australia (hence warmer than Sydney, which is south ... remember, we're below the Equator down here, so everything is backwards).

Skyrail view in Cairns
Our tour guide, who I must take a photo of, is German, and quite a character. We had a bizarrely luxurious lunch outside in shaded comfort with fans and cold towels and a few courses, ending with fantastic fruit. Then we had an awesome visit to Skyrail, an eco-friendly tourism company that offers a full rain forest experience. The gondola ride was gorgeous; the area looked more like a more-impresssive version of North Carolina's Appalachian mountains. It's no New Zealand, but it's awfully nice. Then we came back to the hotel, went swimming, and went out for dinner and drinks.

Tomorrow: The Great Barrier Reef.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Last full day in Sydney :-(

A model of Sydney, at the Town Hall Another packed day. First we visited the Town Hall to hear someone lay out plans for what the city will look like in 2030. You can check it out here. The mission is to make it more sustainable and connected. Throughout our visit to various companies I've noticed people's strong feelings and relationships with the government, and the media. It's something of a paternalistic society -- people expect government to take care of things, and also blame the government for interfering with everything. This meeting reinforced that; these are big plans for major changes in the city. They're neat changes, but the implementation of the changes seems awfully top-down.

Next we had a short break before visiting Cochlear, a company that manufactures implants for people with hearing loss -- not to be confused with hearing aids, which amplify sound. Cochlear implants use digital technology to recreate sounds and send messages to the brain, or something. This was the first company we've visited that prohibited photography. Then we ended the day at Macquarie, a bank that was uncharacteristically profitable during the global financial crisis. I have to admit I didn't follow much of that presentation, although I did make good on the challenge to myself to ask a question.

We have an early start tomorrow before we head to Cairns. It's going to be a great weekend, if I start feeling better! I can't believe I'm still so run down ... sore and achy, and it gets worse throughout the day. I thought it was go away on its own, but no. The plan in Cairns involves visiting the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeling and all kinds of fun goodies, so I demand health! Send me your health!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cruise + Booze = Good News

Fun-time cruisers include Sam, Professor Dawson, Mark, Aminah, Kim, Yujie and Colin. We visited three more companies yesterday: Anacacia Capital, a private equity firm founded by an SOM alumnus; Telstra, Australia's enormous telecom leader and perhaps the most prized brand in the country; and Qantas, the world's longest continuously running airline. Great visits, followed by a dinner and boozing cruise (pictured) and a couple hours at a bar meeting with a few Yale alumns who live in Sydney. All in all, a great day.

The hotel has been great -- very comfortable beds and a staggering free breakfast buffet. Name a breakfast food, and it's there ... as are foods you would not name, like mushrooms, baked beans and pork dumplings. People from foreign countries have, like, some awesome culinary ideas. One observation I have about Australia, and New Zealand, is that we're constantly offered refreshments. At St. Vincent's Hospital the other day, for example, we had tea time from 8:30 to 9, then back-to-back half-hour presentations, and then another tea time from 10 to 10:30, followed by a tour, then lunch, with more tea, at noon. I can't imagine that happening in the States ... we'd maybe start with coffee, then push through to lunch.

They love to feed guests tea, coffee, sweet pastries, juice and fruit. Interestingly, we're never served soda.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A studio, hospital and university visitor crawls into a bed

Scenes from Mission Impossible were filmed here at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney. Above you will see a photo of my Australia group at Fox Studios Australia, the first official company visit in which we partook on Tuesday, following a very nice bus tour around Sydney. So far Sydney seems like an amazing city -- so much culture crammed together, but with breathtaking views of the water and a fantastic climate. I've never been to San Francisco, but several people made the comparison.

The visit to Fox Studios was fun, although they did not currently have anything in production. Lots of movies have been filmed at this site, though -- Mission: Impossible, parts of Star Wars Episodes II and III, the second and third Matrix films, Moulin Rouge! and the famously unsuccessful epic Australia. After Fox, we hit the town at Darling Harbor, an area with restaurants, pubs and casinos on the water. Things here are pretty expensive, although this place had some decent drink specials. Cigarettes in the machine were 13.50 AUD (Australian dollars) though, which is about the same price in U.S. dollars. Egads!

I didn't sleep too well, which ended up doing me in for today's very long itinerary. I increasingly felt feverish and run down, so as soon as we returned to the hotel, which we just did, I took a few Advil and crawled into bed, where I intend to stay. But our visits were interesting. We started at St. Vincent's Hospital, which is a private and public hospital started by an order of nuns. Turns out that public health in Australia, which is free, is quite good, except for the sometimes incredibly long waits. The mission of this hospital is to turn nobody away. We got a nice tour through the ER, a new mental health building they're about to move into, and a cool simulation station (pictured below), where staff practice lifesaving techniques on dummies.

After St. Vincent's we went to one of the local business schools -- AGSM at UNSW, FYI -- for a lecture and a bit of mingling with students. Oddly the first guy I mingled with was from Hartford. Small world. One of the cool things about this lecture at the school, besides the part when we were evacuated because of a fire alarm, was that I could follow the content thanks to business school; terms that once were foreign now are familiar! That's a nice feeling; makes me feel I'm getting some of my U.S. dollars' worth.

Our final stop was at Austrade, the federal government's foreign trade agency, although by this point in the trip we were pretty pooped. It was interesting, though, and we had access to their chief economist, who is constantly quoted in newspaper articles. A Harvard man.

In our travels we briefly went through Oxford Street, which is the gay area I wanted to check out tonight, but that's obviously not happening. If I can coax a few people into coming with me tomorrow, and if I'm feeling better, I may venture out. We learned on one of our tours that Sydney supposedly has the biggest gay population of any city in the world, even beating San Francisco. Not sure if that's per-capita or what.

Another big day tomorrow! Pray for my recovery ... I don't want to end up like this guy:

Employees of St. Vincent's Hospital practice saving a dummy from cardiac arrest.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Living it up in Sydney, mate

John Metz, sleepy in Sydney, Australia. I have arrived in Sydney, Australia, totally exhausted. Perhaps three days of adventurous activities are catching up to me, or perhaps I awoke too early this morning. The travel caused us to gain two hours, so although it's only 9 p.m. and I have no right to be tired, it's really 11 p.m. in Queenstown, so ... you know, sorry. I'll be here all week, folks, so there will be plenty of time to do stuff. I am thrilled to be here. It's warm, and the hotel is wonderful. Comfy.

Having missed the Oscars for the first time ever due to being in the air, I just watched a few speeches on YouTube. Sandra Bullock was great; Mo'Nique was expectedly totally ungracious. She did deliver a great performance, though.

Tomorrow begins the actual school-sanctioned "international experience" that prompted all this travel, beginning with a city tour, followed by a visit to Fox Studios Australia, which should appeal to me. The dress is business formal. I have brought two suits and five shirt-tie combos and will be crossing my fingers that everything works out wardrobe-wise.

The rest of the week's agenda in Sydney is packed. More to come! My Internet is somewhat limited, and my days will be busy, but I will do my best to provide updates because I'm dedicated.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The best burger, ice cream and lamb

Aminah, of our group, enjoys a mushroom and tomato pizza at The Cow in Queenstown, NZ At my last job, at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, we did a pretty extensive roundup of the best ________ in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which you can see here. Topics included Best Old-School Deli Sandwich, Best Wine List and Best View.

A few times in New Zealand I found myself using superlatives to describe what we were eating. Granted, I'm on vacation in a stunning place, so maybe ice cream here just tastes better than the same ice cream would taste in New Haven on a gloomy, cold, rainy, miserable day ... God, how I don't want to go back.

Anyway, among these amazing eats here were:

1. BEST ICE CREAM -- Patagonia, a chocolate shop with 30 flavours of gelato-style ice cream. So good we went twice, and may return before leaving this afternoon. Once for banana-split, and another for mocha cream. And I usually consider ice cream cones to be a nonessential component, but in this case they were fantastic -- crispy, thin and sweet, like a cookie.

2. BEST LAMB -- This is a no-brainer, for New Zealand has famously good New Zealand lamb, but nevertheless my dinner at Chico's was stunning; lamb of a perfect color, with a peppery crust, and so tender it just disappeared in your mouth.

3. BEST BURGER -- Fergburger. Best burger I have ever, ever had. Perfect beef, brie, bun and aioli, but I think what sends it over the edge is the tomato relish, which I think is a locally popular condiment because it was made available during lunch at our canoe/jet boating trip yesterday. And I ate a whole lot of burgers for, as we did an NCAA-style tournament competition to find the best burger in the Metroplex.

4. BEST PIZZA, MAYBE -- Our mushroom and tomato pizza at The Cow was pretty awesome. Maybe not the best ever -- Hi, Imo's -- but awfully good. And it's the only place I took a photo. Stupid, stupid (hitting self).

Funyaking and jet boating

Kim, John and Aminah A glorious and tiring day was had in the sun by us, as we went on a combination "jet boarding" and "funyaking" excursion on the Dart River and saw some truly amazing views.

Jet boarding is like jet skiing except you're on a boat. It's a clever invention; if it's going fast, it can hover and scoot over just 5 inches of water. Because the canals around the mountains are shallow, I often thought we were headed for doom, but we always skated effortlessly even over the shallowest areas.

Funyaking is, as you may have guessed, a combination of fun and kayaking (guess they think kayaking isn't fun). It wasn't actually kayaking, though; it was canoeing in inflatable canoes. It was tiring but a lot of fun -- a full day event. We started at 7:30 and got home at about 5.

Not sure what the plan is tonight, but tomorrow we leave this place, which is really unfortunate. I love it here so!

John, blocking your view

Friday, March 5, 2010

Us alive

Aminah, Kim and John Here we are, after our skydiving adventure.

I skydove

John Metz skydives with ShaneIt was so fun! And surprisingly not that scary, honestly. I expected to be sweating buckets and hyperventilating, but for some reason I was pretty darn calm. I knew my tandem master, Shane, wouldn't let me down. By killing us.

I went with Aminah and Kim. We crammed into a very small plane and went up 12,000 feet. The freefall was about 50 seconds, and then there was about another five minutes of soaring down via parachute. The freefall was intense and cold, like being blasted with an industrial fan. The floating was peaceful and beautiful. You just can't beat the scenery in NZ!

Anyway, it was a fantastic experience, and I got loads of pictures and a DVD. I'd totally do it again.

New Zealand picture

New ZealandYesterday, our morning was a bit thwarted by some rain, but once it cleared (as you can see it did), we were out there. Had pizza at The Cow, a cute locally popular place that used to be a farm house in the mid-1800s, then went on a pretty strenuous and scary hike, took the gondola up to Skyline, where we had a ridiculous buffet dinner. Here is one of our many breathtaking views.

Today, skydiving! Not a cloud in the sky ...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm in New Zealand!

I am here. The views I saw from the plane were the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen, and we've also seen some absolutely amazing views from the ground. Unfortunately my iPhone, which is doubling as my camera, died pretty early on the trip, so I missed all that. It is charging, and great pictures will come. The weather is perfect. The sun is brutal, although we were warned about that; after having lunch outside and strolling around downtown, I'm already pink! Good riddance to my ghostlike appearance.

The trip was not really that bad. From the moment the cab picked me up to the moment we arrived at our lodging, it was 32 hours of cab rides, a train ride, three plane rides, waiting in airports and strolling around Queenstown while our apartment was being cleaned. The flights were fine; the NYC to LA leg on United was what you'd expect -- we had to pay too much for too little in the way of snacks, and we were given a movie and some shows we could watch, but no choices. The big Air New Zealand leg, from LA to Auckland, was quite different ... two pretty good meals, with free wine, and a pretty awesome personal console on which we could pick from a very wide variety of movies, TV shows, albums and even video games. So I wasn't bored, to be sure. I saw "The Blind Side" and "A Serious Man," played "Tetris," watched some "30 Rock" and a bad show called "Better Off Ted." Plus I brought a book of crossword puzzles and a couple books. I was prepared.

Now we're all showering and taking a little break before we hit the town tonight. We have plans to hike tomorrow, skydive Saturday and go kayaking and jet boating on Sunday. I'm so excited! It's going to be an awesome trip.

One of the issues some people have with the required International Experience is that it can conflict with recruiting. Just as I was about to leave LA, I got an e-mail that I was invited for a phone interview with PBS, and the suggested time was this Monday. I had to ask for a two-week postponement, but they were accommodating. I wonder if other recruiters are less so.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why am I here?

A breakout room at the Yale School of Management I am racing to the finish, my friends. This morning I had coffee with my sister-in-law, who happened to be at my school discussing a case with one of the finance professors. This was great, if for no other reason because it got me up, showered and dressed in plenty of time to have a long, productive day. I decided I needed a change of scenery as I finish my statistical modeling exam and complete my final paper. As practically nobody is here because of spring break, I have the SOM building nearly to myself, and am currently in a breakout room, which is called that, I suppose, because groups can "break out" from the rest of the school and work together, although it could also be referring to my complexion, which, due to stress, has seen better days.

I have mailed my materials to The Associated Press and think I can get everything I need to get done today. I better! I refuse to leave this room until I have finished all my course work, and then I can dedicate the rest of my day to a couple errands and packing.

The only time I've flown to another continent was 10 years ago when I went to Germany for three weeks with my friend Debi. We had a great time, and the traveling went smoothly, but ever since then I have had a recurring nightmare about being at an airport, unprepared for an international trip because I forgot my luggage or my passport. So that unease is setting in. I just have to be on the ball, because I can't think of anything worse than getting stuck in some other country without any stuff or identification. (Shudder) Fortunately I'm traveling with three classmates, so all the logistics aren't entirely on my shoulders. We'll manage to figure out how to get from one place to another.

It's going to be a LOOOOOOOOOOONG trip. I mean long. Just thinking about wearing the same clothes that whole time makes me feel gross. Can I change into my jammies on the plane?