Tuesday, May 24, 2011


On Sunday, I was nervous. My stomach would get in knots whenever I thought about delivering the commencement speech on Monday afternoon. Fortunately, my friend Carla, in town from North Carolina, has been an amazing support and welcome distraction all weekend. We spent a fun (albeit cold) day at Coney Island. I recommend the freak show.

But as I was trying to fall asleep on Sunday night, with lines of my speech and various logistics of graduation day running through my head, I could feel the bed shaking as my heart was thumping and pounding with nerves. I could momentarily calm myself down with reassurances like, "You can do this!" but those were generally fleeting. Overall, I thought, "If I'm this terrified now, in bed, I really might die of an anxiety attack tomorrow."

On Monday morning, I woke up early, and Carla and I watched my favorite episode of "The Golden Girls" ("Bang the Drum Stanley"). Fearing parking problems arising from a usual trip to the gym, I took a jog around my neighborhood (East Rock), which did wonders. I made a well-rounded breakfast but didn't make too much progress eating it.

There was some uncertainty in the morning about whether the folks from Student Academic Services would postpone graduation for rain. This was a call they had to make by 8:30 a.m. The rain plan would mean a new time and venue. Despite being overcast, the regular time and place were kept. I skipped the large morning ceremony, as I'd always intended to do, because I had family members and friends driving into New Haven around that time. In all, I feel really lucky to have had lots of my favorite people in the audience on my behalf -- Carla, Kristin, Dave, Matt, Shiri and her husband Adam and son Josh, and my brothers and parents.

In the moment of the proceedings, I was much calmer than I'd expected. I think the key was having smiling faces of friends around me, joking and enjoying the day. This lifted me out of my fright and made the occasion fun, as of course it should be. We lined up in alphabetical order in front of Steinbach and filed into Caulkins Courtyard, and I broke from the group and took a seat on the side of the stage to await my cue. Dean Oster gave a short, characteristically dry opening, and then Economies of Scale, a four-person male a cappella group consisting of three second-years and my good friend Bryce from the first year, did a funny ditty about SOM. This all went by quickly, and the breeze in the courtyard and misty humidity just made the environment so pleasant, there was no place to be freaking out. I'd considered many mental tricks I was going to play on myself to keep calm, but ended up forgetting them, or not needing them. I just waited and went up when my name was called, and it was fine.

I was thrilled to get through it in one piece, and happy with how it went. People seemed to enjoy it, and I received some kind and encouraging compliments.

This was a very special occasion not just because of graduation but because it was also a family reunion, as well as the first time some of my oldest friends have ever met. It was surreal to be in the classroom where I took things like Accounting, Spreadsheet Modeling and Employee, A74, and see these people who are so important to me eating sandwiches and talking to one another. It was very dream-like.

Afterward, Carla and I drove to my brother's house for snacks, and so I could say hello to my sister-in-law and nephews, and then we all went out to dinner. We talked about many topics, like bridges, Bin Laden and favorite meals -- not much about ourselves, which is typical of my family, who seem to subscribe to Don and Betty Draper's belief that it's rude to talk about oneself. We had a nice time.

Anyway, it was a great day. I'm glad I ran for speaker, because it's something I'll always remember. And I'm glad I decided to get an MBA!

There's one line from my speech about how during school I've learned that becoming my best does not mean changing into someone else, but rather means having confidence in what makes me original. I think that relates to the main question of this blog, which is what it's like for a journalist to get an MBA. I've heard this characterized as a major leap, as if I were a mime who decided to go to medical school.

But I came to realize that a lot of the skills I took for granted in my career are valued, useful and important in business -- things like writing clearly, being accurate and fair, asking probing questions, and making sure I do whatever I have to do to understand something.

It hasn't all been seamless. I had never looked at an income statement before school, nor had I given even a passing thought to stock markets or how one might value a company. So there were vocabulary and conceptual gaps that I'd consider unclosable, although I made some headway. And disposition-wise, I think there's a tendency for journalists to want to stay quietly off to the side, which is at odds with management education that encourages one to make waves. Journalists do make waves, but by observing and communicating, not "leading" in the traditional management sense.

But overall, the transition from newspapers to business wasn't as much of a leap as one might expect. I wanted to get an MBA to have a healthier and faster-moving career, to experience a new environment, and to see how far I could challenge myself, and I did all that and more.

I appreciate all of you who were regular readers, as well as those of you who popped in and out. I hope any of this was interesting or useful. It was to me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A couple things must go

One of my dearest and oldest friends, Carla, arrived in New Haven yesterday from North Carolina and is spending the weekend here, in advance of Monday's commencement. It's a real nerve-calming energy to have her here. I gave her a little tour of SOM yesterday, and we had dinner with some friends last night. Two of those friends had wonderful news -- both have been offered jobs that they will be accepting, in New York! I'm really excited for them because the positions are wonderful and a great fit, and of course selfishly I'm delighted they will be in New York.

Carla selflessly insisted on helping me in whatever way she could while she was here, and I'm not one to decline a hand, so given her successful history in selling things online, I've put her to work helping me sell some of the furniture I won't have room for in my new place. We're starting with three items, and two have already had inquiries. I'm sure they will be gone in no time. Someone is coming today, in fact, to (hopefully) haul away a chest of drawers.

Today we will be bopping around New Haven a bit. I'm sort of a terrible local for never having been to Louis' Lunch, the supposed birthplace of the hamburger. We may try our luck there today, although I imagine the city is flooded with kinfolk who are in town for graduations, and others may have my bright idea. We'll see. There aren't many items left on my unofficial New Haven Bucket List, but that's one.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Knot in my stomach and lump in my throat

I am not going to be able to fit all my furniture into my New York studio, which I'm moving to in less than two weeks. That much is clear. To see what I'm really working with, though, I cut out scaled representations of my furniture and have been arranging the pieces over a floor plan. Nothing makes me too thrilled, but I'll make it work somehow.

I must admit that I am currently emotionally overwhelmed and have knots in my stomach. The impending move and job are what I dreamed of when I was applying to Yale, and I've been lucky enough to see them coming since November, but now that everything's just around the corner I feel like I'm accelerating into a fog. I think what's on the other side will be amazing. But I still have those knots.

You would think that with school officially over -- all my grades are in, and there's nothing academic left to do -- I would be all smiles and relaxation, but between doing paperwork for Deloitte, selling and packing my things, family headed into town, preparing to deliver the commencement speech, figuring out how to unload my car, getting ready for a wedding, and actually moving to New York and getting settled, it seems like an insane mad dash to June 1. I know that after that, I'll be immediately without much to do, and that will be my life for two months. But getting there is not a leisurely walk in the park!

I feel somewhat un-allowed to discuss that, though, because I am fortunate and should be grateful, and I am. But gratitude and good fortune don't pack my stuff, and they don't write and memorize my speech, and they don't plow through my to-do list while I nap.

I got a lot done today, though. A whole lot.

Stop and smell the sea

My last day in the Caribbean was perhaps my favorite, as I went with two classmates to explore St. John. We hiked to a place called Honeymoon Bay, which is where I shot the video above. The weather and the water were perfect at first, and then a storm started rolling in, so we took refuge at a fancy resort and ate delicious but overpriced salads. We went on another much longer hike and met up with another classmate for a root beer. By the time we returned on the ferry to St. Thomas, we were all totally wiped out. I did have the energy, though, to put one final 25-cent bet on my lucky #11 on roulette, and sure enough it hit! Made $9 in 20 seconds. I think that put me up about $54 overall for the trip, basically covering the day in St. John.

Now I have returned to the unseasonably cold, wet mainland. Overall the trip was worth it. It was relaxing enough to be recharging, and active enough to be fun. It gave me a chance to hang out with some different people, and get a bit of a tan. After two months in New York without any income I may temporarily regret spending $1,500 on this vacation, but if that happens I'll just look back on my pictures and (hopefully) smile.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Firework video bomb

Last night was an amazing amount of fun, as we had our last group dinner on St. Thomas, accompanied by karaoke. I busted out this number. I came away with several enjoyable clips, but none so much so as this one, thanks to a photo (er, video?) bomb. SOM inspires!

Almost everyone is leaving St. Thomas today, but a couple folks and I are staying on for an extra day (because it was so much cheaper to fly tomorrow).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The creatures of St. Thomas

Greetings from St. Thomas, where today is Day 5 of my seven-day vacation, and my first time accessing the World Wide Web. I'm here on our Class of 2011 trip, along with several dozen classmates. It's a tradition. Last year, the Class of 2010 went on a cruise. This year, we're stationed at an rather nice all-inclusive resort.

It's been a lot of fun so far, mostly sitting on the beach, taking advantage of free meals, dipping in the pool and fooling around in the casino. I am, so far, up $33.50 at blackjack and down $31.00 on roulette, thus up $2.50 overall, and determined not to play roulette again. The weather has been consistent -- mostly overcast, with one massive downpour per day and a few bursts of sunshine. One actually doesn't want too much sun here because it does fry the skin almost upon contact, so I have no complaints. It's warm and breezy, and that's relaxing.

A couple of my close friends came on the trip, and many didn't, which has been both a bummer and a nice opportunity to reconnect with some classmates whose paths I rarely crossed during school. Last night, I discovered that when one of my classmates was a kid visiting his grandfather in my hometown, he hit a golf ball at the driving range and struck a car parked in front of a house across the street. We lived across the street from that country club, and I think the victim may have been my brother's car. I've sent a message to my mom for verification.

I'm glad I came even though a nontrivial amount of madness awaits me in the two weeks that will follow my return. And per my original plan, this blog will end in one week's time, as I will have completed my MBA and thus will no longer be a journalist pursuing one. I'll probably post some final thoughts on Tuesday the 24th, the day after commencement. No thoughts for now, though. Just the sound of waves and warm breezes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The falls of Falls Village

Tomorrow at an absurd hour I leave for a week-long trip to St. Thomas, but yesterday I took a pre-trip mini-trip to visit a friend who lives in a rural area of Northwest Connecticut, in a little town called Falls Village. It couldn't have been a more beautiful day, and we took a walk/hike, some of which is actually the Appalachian Trail. If that trail interests you at all, I highly recommend the very funny book "A Walk in the Woods," by Bill Bryson.

Now I've returned and -- would you believe it -- am still not finished grading those damn Innovator papers, which linger above like a cloud. I have a dozen left, and then my TA duties are complete, which thereby makes my SOM tasks complete, aside from attending and speaking at commencement in two weeks.

I am trying to decide whether to take my laptop to the Virgin Islands so I can blog and work on my speech. Part of me says "No, John, take this opportunity to distance yourself from technology and focus on the moment by enjoying the sunshine and friendhip." And that part of me says, "John, the two aren't mutually exclusive; you can focus on the moment by enjoying the sunshine and friendship, but you'll be frustrated if you come up with some speech ideas and don't have your laptop with you. Plus you'll be eager to edit and post some pictures and stories. Take the damn thing."

We'll see which part of me prevails.

In the meantime, today I absolutely must finish these papers, so I'm off to what I suppose will be my last day ever working in a Yale library. Until I realize school is where it's at, and I come back for my PhD.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Don't burn the toast

It was fantastic serendipity that our class dinner was on Friday night because I happened to finish everything merely two hours beforehand, leaving me in quite a celebratory mood and more than happy to stay out until 1 in the morning.

Our dinner was at the Lawn Club, a short walk from both SOM and my apartment, and featured a few slideshows, as well as some superlatives and, at the end, a pass-the-microphone toasting segment. Good feelings were abundant, and by my count it looked like there were about 19 tables of 10 people each, meaning that a good 80% of our class was in attendance. Check out my quant skills at work!

There was an after-party at a downtown bar called The Study, which at first was a little jarring because we were packed into a hot room with loud music. But once I escaped into the general bar area, I had some great conversations and really enjoyed myself. It was late before I knew it.

A lot of feelings swirl around all this. One is that I'm still working through the adjustment of being a non-drinker in these situations; everyone was given packets of drink tickets, no less. The interesting thing is that, time and again, I find the beginning of the evening somewhat challenging, but after a short while I really, really prefer being sober. Conversations are much better and more memorable. And, frankly, it's a trip to finally notice how alcohol actually affects people. In the past I didn't observe the changes because I was probably drunker than everyone else. But it's a funny experience to be stone sober while your friends rant, hug, ramble and cry. I like it, actually.

Some people are pretty emotional now, and I'm not totally there yet, even though I know I will be. I loved this experience deeply, and I have a feeling I will be a ball of tears when I'm moving out of my apartment. Until then it doesn't quite seem over yet.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Journalist completes MBA, blogs

And with one hastily written nine-page paper, followed by an even more hastily written five-page paper, I can now check "Get an MBA" off my to-do list. Holy frijoles, I am done.

Done! Not kinda done, but done-done. Academically, at least. Despite the rush, I think I went out on some pretty solid notes, and I'm proud of the work I've been able to crank out this week. This is one of those times I'm glad I used to write things on deadline for a living; you never know when that'll come in handy.

This is a weird feeling. Graduate school seemed to be a full-speed-ahead train, and now it feels like it just evaporated into the air. I'm looking at a binder and a notebook I no longer need, and evidence strewn around of several days of intensity ... text books, papers, empty glasses, pens, But now I can, you know, take a breath and clean up! This will be an overly dramatic characterization, but it's like in the movies when someone's spouse dies and they have to clean out the closet. I'll be cleaning out my MBA closet this weekend, I suppose -- all the evidence I did this. And I'll be separating what to keep from what to dump.

To extend my last post, where I summarized the three classes I had finished, I'll do the same for the two I wrapped up today. I have time before I need to shower and get ready for our celebratory class dinner at the Lawn Club!

Behavioral Perspectives on Management. This course looked at human behavior and contrasted it with management theory, for the main punchline that we should rely on evidence, not instinct, when making decisions. We discussed biases, heuristics, chance, emotions, context, mental accounting, and loads of other things, and ended on happiness. Our professor, Joe Simmons, has a psychology and marketing background and is very interested in controlled studies, so most of the lectures were heavy on the results of those studies. Then it was up to us, through our short papers called "application assignments" as well as through other papers, to apply these studies and academic readings to real life. In a lot of ways, this was my favorite class, and I actually did every reading all semester, which is quite a feat. Our final paper was supposed to be a long application of course concepts to a policy or program we would like to develop or change. I invented a behaviorally focused restaurant with a totally new way of ordering, eating and paying. I would be more detailed, but I actually think it's a billion-dollar idea, so I'm going to keep it for now.

Navigating Organizations. All my classes this spring were a semester long except this one, which was only second quarter. But we covered a lot in that short time. The professor, Cade Massey, who also co-taught our Negotiations class in the core, used an enormous variety of materials to teach us about power, networks, influence and stark realities about how companies really operate. His goal was to teach us about how to rise the ranks, either so we could do so, or so we could notice when others are trying to do so. This was a great course I've highly recommended to friends in the class below me. Especially with me about to enter new waters as a consultant, these are topics I will encounter and be glad to know more about.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

3 out of 5 ain't bad

I am almost done. Three of my five classes are totally finished, with a presentation yesterday and two exams today. When I wrap up a class I like to give some closing thoughts on it, since that's kind of a central goal of this blog -- to share the MBA experience.

Leadership Strategies for Music Presenters. This class was taught by the dean of the music school, Robert Blocker, and was taken by about a dozen Yale School of Music students and five School of Management students, including myself. It was a weekly three-hour class that almost always featured a guest, and we hit on high-level themes (like artistic vision) as well as drilled-down specifics (like how to deal with difficult personalities on a board). In a contest to determine which course during my MBA left me having learned the most stuff, this one would not win, but it was one of my favorite experiences at Yale. I got to know some musicians, as well as the dean and music faculty, and the class was such a pleasure. We visited Steinway & Sons in New York and the City Opera, and almost every week followed class with a delicious and interesting three-course dinner in a private room at the Graduate Club. This was not like an SOM course; it was slow-moving without a lot of concrete takeaways, and it was more about teaching through experiences and relationships as opposed to readings, problem sets and PowerPoints. And I think that's a good approach for certain subjects.

Investment Management. I took this class for a couple reasons. I love math. I loved the Investor course in our core (Fall-2, second quarter of first year). And I think people with an MBA should know about financial things, even if they don't dive into them for a living. These were many of the reasons I took Corporate Finance last semester; that course was tough for me, but I'm glad I took it. Same here. The material in this class ended up being a lot more challenging than I expected -- everytime I blinked there were models with lots of Greek letters or calculus or natural logs or bell curves with shaded areas scribbled all over the board. I had several "Wha?" moments. We covered a shit load of material, including market history, arbitrage pricing theory, factor models, active portfolio management, behavioral finance, portfolio evaluation, private equity, endowments, hedge funds, options, futures, swaps, fixed income, international diversification, ethics ... each of these things could be (and in some cases is) its own class. So it really was an intense overview of this subject. But I've done well and think the final went great. I'm probably not going to get a Distinction, since that would require outperforming 90% of my peers who all seemed to be quite comfortable with all this stuff, but when I inevitably get my Proficient I may choose to believe I was close. This was taught quite well by a new professor named Justin Murfin, who was excellent.

Strategic Leadership Across Sectors. Nobody calls it that, first of all. Everyone just calls it "Sonnenfeld," after the professor. This was in many ways a bizarre class, kind of the School of Management equivalent of my music class. Each week, we met for three hours with an array of amazing guests you wouldn't believe. The details would be fantastic blog fodder, but I've been carefully mum about it because apparently a student a few years ago was expelled for blogging about something that was discussed in the class. So I'm afraid to even mention who our guests were. Just not worth it. Like the music class, it was weak on structure and takeaways, but I bet this is the type of class I'll always remember, if only for the proximity-to-fame factor.

So those are the three I've finished with. I'll give my two cents on the others over the weekend. Just about done! Can't believe it. Just can't believe it ...

Monday, May 2, 2011

An eye for 2,973 eyes

People don't have crystal-clear memories, I've learned in my Behavioral Perspectives course. We tell and re-tell stories and lose details over time, and eventually our version of the truth is an unintentionally warped collection of details we think we remember.

So it goes with "Where were you on 9/11?" I was in St. Louis, with my boyfriend at the time, Brad. I had graduated from UNC the May prior and had spent the summer editing copy for the Columbus Dispatch. I was taking about a month to unwind in St. Louis, my home town. Brad had been visiting for a few days and was supposed to fly back to Omaha on Sept. 11 (a Tuesday). One of his friends called to tell him to turn on the TV, and so we did, and we watched things unfold from there. I don't remember too much else that day. We went to a seafood restaurant for a late lunch at some point, and my friend Jenny came over and we watched TV for a while. Later in the week, maybe the next day even, Brad rented a car and drove back to Omaha.

Now I may also remember where I was on May 1, 2011, as the news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed. I was here on the couch taking care of some school-related things on my laptop, when my roommate, stationed in the dining room, shouted that bin Laden had been killed. I think her mom had called to tell her. From there we were scanning the web, although the main story on nytimes.com wouldn't even open (due to immense traffic, I assume). We opened links on cnn.com and nytimes.com to a live stream from the White House, where Obama was scheduled to make an address. We don't have cable. The speech was little awkward. Obama was at a podium (or lectern), in front of microphones, but he wasn't making eye contact with the camera, and there was no audience, so it wasn't clear who he was talking to. It was a sort of off-putting way to deliver the news. Just earlier this week he made headlines by being rather funny at the White House Correspondents Dinner, in the wake of producing his long-form birth certificate. This was an interesting contrast.

So that's where I was, and now I've recorded it to help assist my future self that will twist and delete the details. I have to admit, part of me isn't totally gung-ho to see photos of people dancing in the streets shouting "USA!" after we've killed someone. Not that bin Laden wasn't an SOB, but might we be inciting anger in the Muslim world by reacting this way? Perhaps some decorum is in order?

Maybe I'm just no fun.

Or maybe I'm selfishly thinking about the Manhattan high-rise I'm moving into later this month.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It does have that swing

I remembered to bring my camera to a swing dance I attended Saturday night, but I neglected to re-insert the memory card. This left me with only an iPhone to take this photo, which looks dark and dreary and does not represent an event that was actually very fun and lively. My friend Erika took me; there was a live band and an hour-long lesson. I sweat a lot and didn't injure anyone too badly. We were learning some moves to show off at her wedding, which is later this month.

I had spent the day, prior to dancing, in a knotted-stomach state, trying to tackle the monster load of work before me. I decided not to cancel, though, and the exercise and laughs were good for me, I think. So was the frozen yogurt beforehand and the fries afterward.

Today I've cranked out a paper that's due tomorrow and taken care of some other odds and ends not worth explaining. I am now going to treat TA-ing like it's my full-time job and attempt to grade 40 papers in the next 8 hours. I'm going to try to spend 10 minutes on each one and then take a 10 minute break each hour. Wish me luck.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A deluxe apartment in the sky

Today was not relaxing. I went into New York on Thursday evening for dinner with future co-workers, then crashed at my friend Brian's place but didn't get the best night's sleep because I was tossing and turning. I woke up with back pain and spent the day running (seriously, running) around half of Manhattan, looking for an apartment to move into in a month's time.

My broker and I saw lots of different types of places in neighborhoods including the Financial District, the East Village and the West Village, but ultimately I decided to go with a studio in Hell's Kitchen, the last place I saw. I've heard mixed reviews of the neighborhood, but the superiority of the apartment and its building were too glaring to ignore, and ultimately that's what rent is paying for. Compared to the others, it was a bigger place (though still quite small), extremely nice, up on the 36th floor, with views of the river, great amenities in the building, near things to do and near the subway. It's no coincidence that the best place was also the most expensive, but I only went $25/month over my limit, so I think I came out OK.

I have to say that today was a little scary, and I wasn't anticipating that. I think that all throughout graduate school, this move to New York to become a consultant has seemed like a neat story, something interesting to talk about (and blog about). But it's such a huge change that it's almost felt like it was happening to someone else. Over the past 24 hours it's never felt more real. I was actually eating with Deloitte people talking about lots of details about the job, and then I was filling out an application for an apartment in Manhattan. And it became more real, and tangible, that my life is indeed going to be these things. I'm going to wake up in the apartment I selected today, make my way a couple blocks toward a subway, and head off to work as a consultant.

This was both very exciting on one hand but suddenly a little frightening, too. One of my fears is that New York, while exciting, makes me feel a little lonely, and I'm hoping that the friends I have who live there will have time for me, that many of my friends from SOM will end up there, and of course that I'll make new ones. That's one area of my life I've been very lucky; even as I was sometimes frustrated by my career and my financial limitations as a journalist in Texas, I somehow managed to have lots of good friends. I think New York is such a busy and tiring place, with so many strangers swirling around you, that being with friends is critical to keeping a level head. (I do already know a couple guys in Hell's Kitchen, so that's fortunate.)

Anyway, it's been exhausting and fun. This weekend will be very work-intensive. I have about 54 papers to grade for the class I TA, as well as my own final projects and exam prep. Gnite.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Square footage

Quite frankly, I'm a ball of stress, and this will continue for at least 10 days. I can barely process all that's on my plate. But I think I'll feel better once I've secured a place to live in New York, which will be my mission tomorrow. Fortunately, for this task, I have enlisted the assistance of a broker, recommended through a classmate/friend who has a lot of experience in the city. Yesterday, he sent me 18 listings, and tomorrow we're going to look at about 5-8 of them. My hope is to return to New Haven with a place.

I'm really looking forward to living in the city. One adjustment I will have to make is downsizing. I'll be making a good living, but because I am determined to live in Manhattan in a nice place, the trade-off is square footage. Most of the listings I received were for studios, with a few one-bedroom apartments (or "junior one-bedrooms," a term I'd never heard before), with areas no greater than 550 square feet.

I'm trying to imagine that area. My one-bedroom apartment back in Fort Worth was 800 square feet, and there was actually too much space for my stuff. But my apartment in Dallas was 695 (and two stories), and it was barely enough room for my things. So 500 does concern me a little. But this is also an opportunity to unload some pieces I truly don't, or won't, use:

1. My weights and bench, which because I go to the gym a couples time a week I only use about once a week these days. If I take a building with a gym, I'd be happy to sell this.

2. My black leather chair and ottoman, currently used primarily as a receptacle for mail and dirty clothes, and only rarely for reading.

3. My dining room table and chairs, which currently live in storage and, after four years, have been used for their intended purposes only a handful of times.

But these types of concerns still live slightly out on the horizon. When I visit places, I want to concentrate on the feel and emotion of the space, which sounds all new-agey but which I've come to believe is key, after many years at many different addresses. I know I can adapt to even the strangest and most limiting of physical characteristics. I even once lived in a bedroom attached to a garage in an elderly woman's house, without so much as a chair. What matters is charm -- that homey feeling, or that sophisticated aura, the intangible energy that gives a home personality. I once lived in a place like that. It wasn't really special on paper -- just a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, the bottom floor of a duplex, without a dishwasher or garbage disposal or anything particularly amazing about it. But there was something about the colors, the way trees would sway in the sunshine outside the windows, the way the angles snaked around to make the place look bigger than it was ... the little things that don't show up in a real-estate listing. That's what I'm looking for ... much to my broker's frustration, probably.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What 8 months of winter do

It's 70 degrees and sunny. Although I barely remember what this is like, or who was president the last time it was this nice in New Haven, I knew enough to realize I should take advantage and try to begin the slow, arduous process of regaining color on my skin. Especially since I'll be in St. Thomas in two weeks, it's important to get a base, or something resembling one.

Today in one of my courses, Navigating Organizations, we discussed status, and how increases in status can come with consequences, such as not being challenged or exposed to new ideas. We watched a funny clip to illustrate the point, from "The Devil Wears Prada," a film I enjoy watching. Note the way Meryl Streep's character, Miranda, disregards common manners, chooses not to bother with mundane tasks (like hanging up her coat) and doesn't seek or consider opposing views. In the movie these things are played for our amusement, but they are also genuinely symptomatic of real-life increases in status.

In this same course, we recently did an activity called a leverage inventory, where we asked former co-workers and supervisors to complete a rather detailed survey about what types of "influence tactics" we tended to use at work. The questions asked for observations about behavior, as opposed to judgments about them, so the idea is to provide students with honest feedback about what they do and don't do, not whether that's good or bad. The behaviors fall into three categories:

1. Relationships (things like allocentrism, networks, team-building, coalitions)
2. Rhetoric (ethos, logos and pathos)
3. Meta-tools (strategies about strategies, like agency, intentionality and situation awareness)

We were then carefully categorized and rated against our peers. Of the 68 categories, my highest z-score (the one where I was most above the class average) was "Uses stories to help make my points," a sign of pathos. My lowest z-score was "Is able to tolerate conflict," which falls under "might." Both of these results make sense to me. I was a journalist, so I indeed like to tell stories. And I was a youngest child with two much older (and not particularly emotionally supportive) brothers, so it's very ingrained in me to do everything in my power to avoid conflict at all costs.

This limitation actually had consequences today. For the class I'm TA-ing this quarter, I ended up being in charge of helping groups of students reschedule their final activity if they had a conflict. I found myself caught between unhappy students and an unresponsive administrator. To avoid conflict, I politely waited for the administrator to say "go," as I kept increasingly impatient students in limbo, trying to appease them with jokes and reassurances that everything would be OK. Finally, with decision time upon us, I had to put my foot down and get answers, so I went over the administrator's head and resolved this issue, which had been brewing for almost a week, in 10 minutes. The moral: My desire to avoid conflict just made things worse, and if I had been mightier from the start, I would have saved myself a lot of headaches.

Sara Bareilles (who shares my birthday) has a beautiful bridge in a song (at 2:02 below) where she sings, "All my life I've tried to make everybody happy while I just hurt and hide, waiting for someone to tell me it's my turn to decide." That's a sentiment more symptomatic of a victim complex than I would like to attribute to myself, but I relate to the phenomenon where the more you try to please everyone, often the more pain you will endure. That's unsustainable, and thus ruins your ability to make everybody happy. So that balance between sternness and appeasement is critical.

So watch out for yourself, and go out and get some sun sometimes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Problems are a thing of the past

Today I turned my final problem set, perhaps for the rest of my life. It was for my Investment Management course. The questions were about fixed income and forward markets. I wish I could call it my best work, but with just five more days of class, it's a little hard to give such matters my all. I am far more interested in looking at New York City apartments online!

Another last-of-its-kind event today was my final admissions interview. As I've mentioned previously, this was my favorite of my many school activities. Coincidentally, on my way to the interview, I ran into a prospective student I interviewed a couple months ago who was admitted (in part, no doubt, because of my glowing recommendation) and was on campus visiting, trying to make his final decision about where to go. He has to choose by Friday, from an array of very prestigious programs. But this person's real struggle was one of culture; he loves Yale SOM's culture, but just isn't sure about whether it's the best fit for his particular career goals, given the course offerings (or lack thereof, in his particular niche field of interest).

I naturally can't answer that for him, but I do think a cooperative, friendly culture helps students take risks, connect with one another and gain confidence, and if you're not in a comfortable environment, you won't be successful. To that end, I'd always lean toward the best fit, assuming you're deciding among schools in the same tier. For some people that is Harvard. For others, it's most certainly not. When I attended a Harvard information session back in 2008, I was uncomfortable. I felt like a goofy two-headed alien, in fact. That was a signal to me that I shouldn't apply. I'm probably not the right person for that program, and that's probably not the right program for me. When I visted Yale SOM, I felt much more comfortable, and it made me even more excited and eager to attend.

There will be lots of other "lasts" over the next few days and weeks -- last class, last presentation, last exam, last paper. My mind hasn't really absorbed it at all. I get sniffly just thinking about it. Better get back to work and continue ignoring the inevitable.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Guests keep a house in order

If ever you feel like your apartment needs tidying up, invite friends over to play games a few days in advance. It will prompt you to pull out the Swiffer and go through your stack of mail.

Lately, I've had two kinds of guests. Friends, as usual, and prospective future tenants, who have been dropping in regularly to see our apartment. I am surprised it wasn't scooped up by the first visitor. Maybe our decoration and cleanliness skills are detracting from the apartment's natural beauty.

Speaking of home-seekers, I'll be looking for apartments in New York with full force next week, in the hopes to have this very important, exciting and somewhat overwhelming task wrapped up. I still keep flipping on my priorities but ultimately feel this unjustifiable need to live alone in Manhattan in a luxurious shrine to my awesomeness, even though that's not a wise use of my money. But I value these living years in terms of new experiences, and that lifestyle is something I want to try. I don't like seeing other people's lives and wondering what they're like. I like to try on lives, like shirts.

I'm more than ready for spring. We had a one-day burst of warmth and beauty a couple weeks ago, but it's been slow-going ever since. It's currently 44 and raining; the high today is 53. Right now in Fort Worth, where I moved from, it's 72, with a high of 91. Ninety-one!

These next two weeks are going to be a shocking disaster as far as work goes. I have long projects and papers in three classes, final exams in the other two, and an immense pile of grading around the corner for the class I TA. But then it all ends with a bang on Friday, May 6. I just have to keep that date in mind. After that, it's warm beaches, friends and family and good times forever.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sally's does exist after all

New Haven is famous for pizza, and the two pizzerias with perhaps the largest reputations and longest lines are Pepe's and Sally's. Both are in a lovely area known as Wooster Square. Some friends and I tried Pepe's last fall and since then had made several attempts to eat at Sally's, its nearby rival. But it seemed like each time we went, it was closed. This began a long-running joke that Sally's was an urban legend, and not a real place. I refused to believe it until I saw it.

My urban-legend theory is now officially debunked.

To eat at Sally's, you need to block off considerable time because you're looking at two absurdly long waits, one in the line outside, and one after you've ordered. I think they are playing up to the power of anticipation. All said, we arrived at about 8 and left at maybe 11. And all we ate were four pretty straightforward small pizzas. They were good, though. The most original was the white potato-and-rosemary pizza. Sally's also distinguishes itself by serving its pizzas without cheese unless you request otherwise, so we tried it that way with the meatball. The idea is to emphasize the sauce, which was good.

But especially now that I'm a bit more business-savvy, and marketing-savvy, I do look at a place like Sally's through a skeptical lens. I wonder if equivalent pizzas delivered by Domino's would even be noticed as anything outside average. Far more importantly, though, is that we had fun. Great conversation and laughs. And we can check Sally's off the ol' New Haven Bucket List.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I will not bow! Or will I?

Tonight I performed three original songs, about 10 minutes of music, as part of an arts advocacy concert organized by a young woman from the music school who I know from a course I'm taking this semester called Leadership Strategies for Music Presenters, taught by the dean of the music school. I was originally under the impression that the purpose of the show was to feature performers from outside the music school, and indeed that may have been the original vision, but in reality I was one of only two amateur acts; the other was a string quartet consisting of students from some of the science programs; and they were hardly amateurs.

To be honest, performing was terrifying. I say that knowing that the audience was small, the venue comfortable and the occasion low-stakes. I didn't think I would be so nervous, but in the moment I really got shaken up. I hadn't performed in a "recital" since college, 10 years ago, although I have played before an audience, though, at a couple weddings since then. Those occasions were also terrifying, come to think of it. Maybe I don't like playing the piano in front of people! Good to know.

I do like feedback, though, and sharing personal things, so that was my motivation. It's an odd proposition to play original songs for an audience. I've been writing songs since I was about 9, and there are several dozen I've done as an adult that I like, so which ones should I select? Which ones are the most "me"? To steal language commonly reserved for the designers on "Project Runway," what do I feel really represents who I am as an artist?

But I chose. It was a good evening, and I was glad that some friends came out for support. Friendly faces are nice to see in an audience.

I think I've made some awfully good friends at SOM. But there are still some people I don't know. To correct that, I've been setting up some coffee chats with classmates whose paths I never really crossed. My first one was this week, with a girl named Michelle who comes after me in alphabetical order. Therefore, I will be reading her name at commencement. I'd heard about her from time to time, but we were just in different cohorts, classes, clubs and social circles, so somehow I never met her.

Anyway, I was grateful she accepted my somewhat bizarre invitation. Inspired by how well that went, I then invited the person before me in alphabetical order, who I also haven't met. We're having coffee tomorrow.

FYI, there are about 230 people in my class. So it's not totally criminal that there are still people I haven't met. But I have a few more weeks to make a dent.

Oh give me a home

It's fun to look at New York City apartments, even virtually. The more I peruse, the more my imagination runs wild. And the less certain I am of what I want.

Manhattan or Brooklyn? Studio or one-bedroom? Alone or with a roommate? Historic or modern? Near hipsters, bankers or families? Austere or Lavish?

And baked in those choices are fundamental questions of priority. Do I really care about a view? About sunlight? About floors, dishwashers, doormen, gyms, parking, high ceilings, etc? And regarding neighborhood, how much do I care about being near things to do, and what kinds of things am I really talking about?

Fortunately, being in a position to ask these questions is an awfully fortunate "problem" to have. And I'm looking to rent, so my decision isn't permanent. No reason to put too much pressure on this decision. At the same time, I would love to know that in the next couple years I'll be moving into somewhere I might actually stay for, oh, 10 years. Wouldn't that be something for a rootless wanderer like me. I could invest in personalized envelopes!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roller derby and fishing

Yesterday, I went to the roller derby, and today I went fishing, which was fun and outdoorsy even though we didn't end up with anything to cook. (No worries -- I had chicken and rice.)

The roller derby was fun; it's always good to get out of Yale sometimes and do an activity elsewhere in Connecticut. We refer to our company in such cases as "townies," aware of course that this is funny because it's a bit derogatory toward non-Yale of Connecticut. I'd been to a roller derby back in Texas. I think I wrote a story about it. Anyway, one needn't understand the rules to get the basic gist, that aggressive-acting women skate counter-clockwise, elbow each other sometimes, and fall down.

Fishing was a bust in the fishing sense, but a great time in the outdoor-enjoyment sense. And best of all, it's free. Well, cheap. We bought worms. Anyway, in all a good weekend. I'm hoping that my upcoming job with Deloitte will afford me work-free weekends, at least most of the time. It's nice to have 2 of 7 days totally to oneself.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shirtless fire thrower

As a co-leader of Q+ (the LGBT group at Yale SOM), I'm often asked about the gay scene in Yale and New Haven, and I more or less say that from what I hear it's fine if that's your bag, but that I really don't know. I'm gay, and happy to have gay friends if they possess other qualities I look for in a friend, but I've never been compelled to seek out the gay scene, which I associate with late nights, parties, clubs and soap opera-worthy interminglings.

I'm an early riser. I like sunrises and breakfast. I like one-on-one interactions and small groups, singing along with the radio in the car, reading over coffee, talking and snacking in a living room. I like games and interesting articles and things that are beautiful or challenge my mind. I like flowers and silence and sunlight. I don't like dark rooms, and I don't like night time. I don't like noise, or moving awkwardly to bad music. And now I don't drink, and only very rarely have a cigarette. Maybe I'm just a dorky old man, but the "scene" doesn't really fit my tastes.

I can partake of the scene a couple times a year, but for me it's the emotional equivalent of going to a baseball game. It's something I never think about unless I'm there, so someone usually has to suggest it and take me there. And if I'm there, it's fine, but I'm also kind of keeping an eye on the clock.

This has nothing to do with having a problem with being gay or disliking gay people. On the contrary, I've been out since high school and have no problem with being gay at all. I wouldn't have co-led Q+ otherwise. Do I like gay people? Sure, to the extent I like people, but what does that mean? Do I like people from Kansas? Some, but not all. Do I like vegetarians? Some, but not all. Those aren't relevant dimensions to me. I have gay friends, but they're not my friends because they're gay, they're my friends because we get along.

Last night, two first-year students threw a reception at their house for LGBT and allied admitted students, and when that disbanded, a couple of us went to a party hosted by some gay Divinity School students. That's where I shot the video above, of the fire thrower. There, among the people I spoke to was a first-year PhD student in psychology (fresh out of undergrad, I assume). He asked if I was a prospective student, and I said I was a second-year MBA, about to graduate in a couple weeks. From what I could hear amid the cacophony, he said something like "Really? Wow ... So you must never come out," meaning of course that he didn't recognize me. I also interpret the surprise to imply being almost accused of actively avoiding the gay scene, as if it's the default and I had to opt out of it by doing other things with my time. The truth is I feel like I go out a lot, but of course he wasn't asking if I leave my house, he was asking why I don't spend my time with the gays. To that, I ask myself, "Why would I, necessarily?"

This weekend, I'm going fishing with Matt, one of my best friends. Matt's straight. Some of my closest friends are straight guys, in fact. Most are straight girls. Some of my friends are black, and some are not. Some are married, others single. They are fat and thin, older and younger, American and international, Southern and Northern, analytical and creative, able-bodied and disabled. If I were to tally, I dunno, maybe 10% of my friends are gay, reflecting the population at large. It might be even more. But I just don't care about that. I want to be around people who are nice, funny and interesting, people I can talk to and trust and feel good around. People who get me, and who I get. Why do I care who they kiss?

Friday, April 15, 2011

A literal sign of our legacy

I got a little dewy-eyed today when I strolled by the club fair. This is Welcome Weekend, when admitted students visit the campus -- some have decided to certainly come to Yale SOM, and others have not. Among the activities is a club fair, mostly manned by the first-year students who have been chosen or elected as club leaders for next year.

I co-led two clubs this year, Q+ (the LGBT group) and the Human Capital Club, which I co-founded with my friend Erika. The purpose of this club is to help students learn about careers on the "people" side of business, which can include human-capital consulting (which is what I'll be doing after school), human-resources management, organizational design and strategy, training and development, and so on. Many business schools have such a club; ours did not, and now it does.

I was so delighted to see the official blue "Human Capital" sign shown above. Last fall, when our club wasn't yet "official," we had to borrow some space at the Operations Club table and do a sign-in sheet with a makeshift, handwritten sign. But now that we're officially approved, we are here to stay, and that's a nice feeling.

At noon, I attended a rather straightforward town hall meeting with the dean-designate, Ted Snyder, who is coming to Yale SOM next year from the University of Chicago. He discussed some of his plans for the school and took questions. I foresee much change on the horizon for my beloved school -- and even if that change is for the better, it's still a tiny bit sad to know it will change. The school is moving into a new building, for example -- a modern glass structure currently under construction and set to open in 2013. The class size will go up a bit, from the roughly 230 it's at now to as great as 300 (still small for a top-tier MBA program, granted, but a 30% increase in size isn't insignificant, especially when it comes to class cohesion and intimacy). It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Human Capital Club, among other things, under the new dean's leadership. I have no idea what his views on this are.

I love SOM and therefore want to see it be the best it can be, and like any school (or anything at all), there's room for improvement. There are some improvements that would be universally deemed as such; there are others about which there might be disagreement. Time will tell what kinds of "improvements" come to the school after I make my exit next month.

2 for 2 on ice

Every year, the second-year students play the first-year students in an ice hockey game known as the Garstka Cup, named for one of SOM's deputy deans (and our accounting professor in the core). Last year, my class won, and this year, they won again, 5 to 2. It was a good time.

This event coincides with Welcome Weekend, which consists of events for admitted students, some of whom have accepted their invitations to Yale, some of which are still deciding. Last night, the LGBT groups at SOM and the law school teamed up to have a mixer, at 116 Crown. We get a lot of questions from prospective gay students about how many LGBT students there are at SOM, and the honest answer is that there aren't many. There are 6 self-identified out students in my class, and 9 in the class below me. The numbers are much larger at the law school. But depending on how much socializing with LGBT students is a priority, the Yale community is quite large, and quite accepting.

Many more fun Welcome Weekend events are to come, including a talk this afternoon by the incoming dean! I look forward to hearing from him.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Don't judge -- just give me a headline

Today's section of Innovator -- a first-year class for which I am a TA this quarter -- was a memorable repeat of a class we had last year during which Mark Sebell, CEO of Creative Realities, led a session on brainstorming and building upon absurd ideas without judgment. Our other special guest this year was Laura Walker, President and CEO of WNYC, and thus the topic had to do with some new ideas for radio.

There are right and wrong ways to brainstorm, which a lot of people don't realize. Often a brainstorming session is misinterpreted to mean a disorganized free-form time during which people throw out ideas. But there's a process to a good brainstorm, and it involves a section where everyone's statements start with "I wish ..." and another during which everyone's statements begin with "We could." Sometimes great practical ideas stem from what began as impractical, ridiculous ideas. And the more absurd the idea, the better. And Sebell also encourages people to speak just in headlines -- get right to the point. To often, we stammer around with unnecessary setup and explanation.

The students came up with great ideas and seemed (generally) to be pretty engaged! Innovator is an interesting class; it's very important, and a lot of fun, and yet still some people resist. I can't understand it. Who doesn't like to be creative and talk about neat stuff?

Perhaps more importantly, if you visit the website, you will see a video featuring a gorgeous guy who also visited our class today. Distracting!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hot pot

As part of SOM's April Foolery, a set of regular fun activities organized by students, a group of us last night enjoyed a hot-pot Chinese meal. This is where you dip veggies, meats and other things into a large pot of boiling broth. You can then mix or dip the results with some sauces. It's a fun activity with a mild aspect of danger, as one is dealing with raw foods (and raw egg).

Afterward we felt the need for frozen yogurt at one of those places where you pile on the toppings and pay by the ounce. Therefore, by the night's end, I didn't even want to think about all the various competing things sitting side by side in my stomach. The gym this morning was well-needed.

Food is an integral part of the MBA experience -- so much revolves around lunches and dinners. Today, for example I attended a lunchtime speaking event with Jed Bernstein, a Broadway theater and television producer who was one of the first graduating classes at SOM ('79). Since food was there, and free, I had a delicious Thanksgiving-type sandwich with turkey, stuffing and some other goodies on it. And there are more meals to come this week, including tomorrow night's Club Transition Dinner, where we hand over control of clubs and discuss our experiences. There's always food all over the place, basically. Last week on my way into a class, there was a sandwich platter out in the hall, and I grabbed one. Don't even know what it was from. You do crazy things when you're living on student loans and hungry!

Because of all the regular food. exercise has also been integral. My friend Matt and I have been dedicated and are still going two or three times a week, bright and early at 7 in the morning. I find that if I don't go in the morning, it never happens. And I'm a morning person anyway, so it's not painful.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fading in and out

For the third -- and I reckon final -- time in my business-school exerience, I'm getting the chance to employ my previous-career video skills, which by video-production standards may not have been anything to brag about, but which by MBA standards are, well, pretty kickass.

My first time getting to doodle around with video editing for a class was second quarter, during Negotiations. One of our assignments was to film a negotiation, and then we had to edit each others' videos. This was fun. Then at the end of Innovator last year, fourth quarter, my group chose to do a video in lieu of a paper, per an option for the final project. I think it was this choice that earned me a coveted Distinction, and hence is why I'm TA-ing that class this quarter. And, finally, in my Navigating Organizations course this quarter, we were assigned groups of four and asked to do a video of up to 5 minutes, employing some persuasive-communication techniques we're studying. We could choose one of two topics -- the light one, which is trying to get people to go to the beach in the winter, and the more serious one, which is trying to get people to sign up to be organ donors.

We picked the latter. I'm excited about our project, in progress. In my editing hands, it's coming off on the dramatic side -- like a public-service announcement -- but I think it'll do. My group members (which, although randomly assigned, happened to be three of my closest friends) and I had to enlist some non-SOM people to "act" for it. These subjects include my friend Matt. I had to get him to act like he's not an organ donor and explain why. Our message is that people's excuses, although they may seem benign, have life-threatening consequences! (I am, by the way, a donor.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Who is this woman, this Oprah?

I'm interested in pop culture, more so than many other types of culture, and thus enjoyed yesterday's book reading and Q&A with Kathryn Lofton, author of Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, at Labyrinth Books. Lofton is an assistant professor of Religious Studies and American Studies at Yale. Read a bit more about it here.

Oprah is an intriguing media icon to weigh in on, but I hadn't previously considered her "sermonizing" as religious per se, and I left the talk seeing how religious frameworks do indeed apply to her, from her humble beginnings to her androgyny to her congregation of an audience. I consider this a piece of a larger American idea of Mogul as Hero, which we discuss rdea of egularly in a course I take called Strategic Leadership Across Sectors, taught by Jeff Sonnenfeld (one of our "BFD" professors). Professor Sonnenfeld applies the hero-journey mythology to modern-day executives, convincingly. What that says about us, and our values, is of course great fodder for debate. 

Anyway, this larger-than-life aspiration seems often in business school to be framed as a given aspiration, or a calling any of us might answer. I don't think an MBA is a path any likelier to lead to greatness than any other path -- Oprah doesn't have one -- but our program's focus on management and leadership leads us to discussions about our goals and visions, and how we can best use the tools of power to shape the world. I have an internal block against this type of talk and don't seek "power" per se; I just want a good job I enjoy that's stimulating and provides. Still, if I can clearly envision myself in a organization's higher-level jobs, I may want to be in them.

On another topic, I dabbled in a bit of karaoke yesterday at one of our April Foolery events. These are daily activities for students at SOM, ranging from sports to meals to whatever. The party then ended at a friend's house in the form of the American Idol game on PlayStation, or one of those newfangled consoles ... everything after NES is modern to me. Back in Texas, karaoke was like my part-time job. Now that I'm a non-drinker I had to rely on my own courage, not Long Island Iced Teas, to get me up there, but I did it nevertheless, twice. It helped that the stage was not the center of patrons' attention.

Speaking of "old lives," for one of my classes we're putting together a persuasive video (more or less a PSA), thereby allowing me again to use my video-editing trick from days of yore. Our job is to try to incorporate some theories about persuasion to get people to want to be organ donors. I may try to post the final product here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Counselor flashbacks

It's been a busy week -- no surprise -- with some moments where I, as a second-year, felt a bit like a camp counselor. One of my involvements this year was as a Second Year Advisor for the Leadership Development Program (LDP), a year-long course for first-year students in which they explore values and commitments. It's a program that has faults and limitations and is not widely appreciated, so much so that it is being shelved next year. But I enjoyed it last year (which is why I wanted to be an SYA this year).

My favorite of the sessions last year was the one that the students plan. Our activity was a speed-dating type of event where we went around and talked about first impressions vs. current impressions of one another. It was both helpful and a good bonding experience. This year, the group for which I'm an SYA decided to go to a local indoor climbing facility and climb. I declined to participate because I figured this activity was for them, not me ... and I felt it would totally undermine my credibility as an advisor if they saw me struggling to do this activity. (I'm joking, sorta.) Anyway, they had a nice time. Not sure it was as valuable as my session last year, but c'est la vie.

I am also, this quarter, a Teaching Assistant for Innovator, a first-year course on innovation, as the name implied. Thursday's class included this activity, in which groups try to build a tall tower out of uncooked spaghetti, tape and string, that will support a marshmallow. The punchline is that young children are very good at this activity because they don't plan, they just start experimenting. This approach is sometimes best when one doesn't know whether an outcome is possible. MBAs, on the other hand, tend to be more methodical, and run out of time or build sub-standard towers. Our classes confirmed that this is true.

TA-ing is fun (and you make a bit of money); plus it's a good way to review material. Innovator is a particularly cool class. In general I've enjoyed my activities this year that have connected me to the class coming up behind us. They're a good group. They're also going to have an interesting experience at SOM because the new dean will be joining them next year.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Darlin', I love you, but give me Park Avenue

It was an interesting weekend. On Saturday night, I saw Nameless Forest, a "play" better described as a "dance piece" incorporating sculpture, audience participation and, my personal favorite, lots of male nudity. Beyond that it's hard to describe ... just part of the Yale artistic community's culture, in which one feels unintellectual and uncultured for questioning or objecting to, well, anything. I'll miss it. 

And on Sunday, I went to Rhode Island to visit an old friend from college and hang out with her family, which now includes three daughters. We went to Wrights Dairy Farm and saw cows and roosters. It was a nice little area that naturally smelled farmy. It was a far contrast to what I'll be experiencing in a few months as I move to New York!

I've been in touch now with two brokers, both through suggestions from classmates who have lived in the city. It's very exciting to see what my money can buy me, although everything is about trade-offs that I'm not totally certain how to make. What is more important to me, floor space, or in-building amenities? Proximity to subways or new renovations? How flexible am I on price? I fear going overboard with what I can "afford" and then struggling with the cash I have left over after taxes, rent and loans. By my calculations, my goal rent should be about $2,000, but when a broker sends something that looks absolutely amazing for $2,500, it's easy to start justifying the expense (even though in my previous life I would/could never have nonchalantly bumped my rent up by $500 a month).

City life is going to be a real delight, I think. I'm on the edge of my seat. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

This blog

Here's the ultimate meta topic: a posting about this blog.

I was just thinking about whether I would consider this blog a success, for either me or anyone. I think I'd give a B. I'm proud to have regularly posted and not slacked off. And I would rather have done this blog than done nothing. But overall I'm not sure my vision was well-executed.

My original thought was that my transition from newspaper journalism into an MBA program would interest friends and strangers, and be something fun to document for myself. Before beginning, I decided not to be anonymous because I figured it would be too limiting. How could I, after all, say anything specific or interesting about this experience without identifying myself? What would be left to say?

All the same, identifying myself has prevented me from discussing personal developments and opinions that some people may want to know. I have to consider that a classmate, professor, future employer or family member could find these musings, and that makes some topics off-limits, such as gossip about my classmates, how much money I'll be making at Deloitte, my romantic life and personal family matters. I've alluded to these areas, but only broadly. I just can't discuss these topics here in depth and maintain any piece of mind that it won't come back to haunt me.

I've sought to balance three things: (1) keeping a journal for myself, (2) sharing news with friends, and (3) sharing information and perspectives for people interested in what it's like to be a journalist pursuing an MBA. Unfortunately, these three things aren't always compatible. If this were a diary, I would write more about my feelings, worries and personal affairs. If it were strictly for friends, the style would be less formal, and the specifics more personal. In trying to aim mostly at #3, I've sanitized things a bit and, at worst, been somewhat mundane. I often don't realize this is the case until I go back and read; then I'll notice that there are ruts where all I ever seem to talk about is how busy and stressed I am. Of course I also sometimes discuss off-topic matters, like a movie or song. I'd do that regardless of the audience.

Anyway, I'm going to keep plugging away until commencement (May 23), so my last post will probably be May 24 or so. Then I'll close. When I'm finished, as time allows, I might try to massage out the boring stuff and perhaps pull the whole thing into a more entertaining narrative (like a book, I suppose). Like I said, I'm glad I did this. I hope it hasn't been too painful to stay with me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why is everyone so mean to Rebecca Black?

When I was a journalist, my coverage area was usually entertainment, and I have been an avid follower of music for 20 years. I've seen, along with everyone, overnight Internet phenomena come and go. But this Rebecca Black thing really gets my blood boiling.

The cruelty and ridicule this poor thing is enduring is outrageous, and this country should be ashamed of itself. She is a 13-year-old child! She had an opportunity to do what was more or less a silly bit of karaoke and a mall-quality video, posted it online for fun, and is loathed? On what grounds? Yes, the song is unprofessionally written, produced and performed. Why does its existence anger people so? And why is that anger directed at the child? She didn't even write the song.

It pains me to think about the fact that this kid, who we can imagine is sensitive as she is a human adolescent, is going to be scarred and traumatized by this ridiculous swelling of cruel group-think.

She needs some sort of professional handling, and I think one of two things needs to happen. (1) The video is removed, she refuses to do any sort of further interviews or public appearances, moves to a new town with her mom, changes her name and goes into therapy. (2) Her mother hires a media-savvy manager, or small team of people, who are good at handling children's show-biz careers in a caring way, and who can somehow leverage this sudden fame into a career in the entertainment business. Option (2) probably needs to begin with some kind of damage-control video that says, in effect, "Hello, I am a child, I was given a chance to sing a silly pop song and put it online, which I did."

When I was 13, I was writing songs on the piano, with lyrics, that I would be mortified if people heard today. And had YouTube existed then, I might have given an attempt to post a little video -- little, skinny me, singing a ridiculous song I'd written. Thank goodness I had the freedom to live out my dreams in my head instead of trying to do it on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fun to spare

I'm shy, and was slow to make friends in high school, but by senior year things had really clicked. I feel like the same thing is happening in grad-school. This semester (the equivalent of our "senior year") has definitely been my favorite, by far. I feel like my friendships are solid, I'm efficient in my studying, I'm more surefooted in what I'm doing, and I'm generally happier.

Perhaps stemming from that goodwill, I decided earlier this week to run for commencement speaker. Our graduation is May 23 (frighteningly close). Students vote in a three-stage process that began with a nomination stage. People who accepted their nominations then submitted speech sketches, which were posted and subject to blind voting. And, lastly, there was a tryout where the five finalists read truncated versions of their speeches to an audience of students in the class. This made for a busy week, but I'm honored to have been voted commencement speaker today. Speaking at graduation will be a memorable experience for me, one I hope I can live up to. Plus it will be good leverage for getting friends and family to attend.

The rather dizzying commencement-selection process put me a bit behind work-wise, and it's been a long day, so I'm going to hit the hay and rise at 5 a.m.; I have an assignment due at 8, a class at 10:10, and a reading to finish by 11:30. This weekend will be well-earned.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My bracket is officially busted


With UNC's loss tonight, I now have no horses in the Final Four. What a snooze. I guess I can at least root for Connecticut, my current state's home team. My support will no doubt ensure their defeat.

Not that anybody could've predicted the bizarre outcome of teams seeded 3, 4, 8 and 11 in the Final Four. It's been fun to watch, though. Lots of tense and exciting moments. I'm happy for VCU ... what a great underdog story.

It just goes to show that past performance doesn't necessarily predict future success. Some of my "underdog" friends and classmates at SOM have landed incredible full-time jobs and internships. I might even be in that category. But when you get to the tournament, what got you there doesn't matter anymore; it's how you play going forward that counts!

That inspires me to go back to my readings. I don't want to blow it in the home stretch.