Monday, January 31, 2011

127 Hours = Plan B

A week or so ago, I had plans with my friend Kate to see "Black Swan," but I had to back out due to illness. At the time, the issue was that I was coughing so frequently, I knew I'd be a terrible movie companion. It turned out I had bronchitis.

We rescheduled for the 7 o'clock show tonight, and we eagerly anticipated the creepiness, but there were nebulous technical difficulties, and they were unable to show the film. (Oddly, this was Kate's third attempt to see this movie; maybe it just wasn't meant to be.) Faced with the prospect of either a refund or a voucher, we decided to see another Oscar-nominated depression-fest, "127 Hours," starring Yale's very own James Franco.

It was basically what I expected, but a little more interesting. I think Franco's Best Actor nomination is unsurprising; he has to carry a great deal of the dramatic weight, in scenes with no one to talk to. (Incidentally, Franco is pursuing a PhD in English here and, no, I haven't seen him.) I think it's a little bizarre that he's nominated for Best Actor *and* hosting the Oscars, but then again it seems clear that the show is trying to pull in more/younger viewers.

Anyway, the movie reminded me of that story last year of someone who (nearly) shared my name, age, state of residence and marital status, who had to cut off his arm after it got trapped in a furnace. These stories are something. I'm not sure I'd bother to go to such lengths to escape, but then again maybe some sort of crazy animal instinct would kick in. Who knows. I hope I never do.

Meanwhile, it was a very long day -- a typical Monday -- and I look forward to a very fun Tuesday, with an assortment of enjoyable and entertaining adventures, i.e. no class.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I skied

My first time skiing may very well be my last time, but I doubt I could have asked for a better setting, or better conditions, than Killington, Vermont. The weekend ski/snowboard trip is an annual Yale SOM tradition -- at least in the two years I've been there -- and a very popular one. About 200 students went; that's about 44% of the class.

I had a really fun weekend. Some people who experienced the weekend with me may not believe that, but it's true. The setting was picturesque. I loved having cocktails by a roaring fire, playing Celebrity with friends. I loved hitting the local bar and observing the athletic locals mingling with all my classmates. I enjoyed the too-expensive meals, and the unexpected "Sex & The City" mini-marathon that took place back at the condo when we were all exhausted. As for the skiing itself ...

I'd never skied before. Never touched skis, actually. Also never rollerbladed. I've ice skated a couple times, over 10 years ago, and was pretty awful at it. I'm also tall and highly uncoordinated. You can guess where this is going: This was not the activity for me.

This is quite an embarrassing confession, but I actually found my beginners' skiing experience on the bunny slopes more terrifying than leaping from an airplane at 12,000 feet. I really did. I know that's crazy. With skydiving, though, I knew I was safe, since it was a tandem jump, and the whole experience was almost too surreal to be scary. Not that I wasn't nervous -- I was, of course. But I wasn't freaking out.

On skis, though, I was freaking out. At first, the sensation was fun. I didn't mind sliding around, and I thought I was in for a brisk, relaxing time, kind of like parasailing. But once we really started going down hills and needing to turn and slow down lest we die, I was not pleased. I never felt in control or that I had any sense of balance, speed or direction, so I was pretty panicky. All I could think about was how easy it would be to break an ankle, twist a knee, shatter my spine or fly off the side of the track into the woods and pull a Sonny Bono.
I guess I don't like slipping and sliding around, and that's OK. I'm very glad I went and got the chance to try it, and hang in Killington. No regrets. No more skiing, either.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Yale School of Drama presents Ruzante

I assume everyone is familiar with the groundbreaking comedic work of 16th century Venetian actor/playwright Angelo Beolco. Right? Neither was I. Fortunately, I can access Wikipedia articles from my phone, which is helpful research prior to seeing a show like last night's "Ruzante," based on the writings of Beolco.

The show was apparently a slight derivation from the Yale School of Drama's annual commedia play. This is a type of Italian genre with particular types of stock characters who wore masks. I'm still not entirely clear on how this was a derivaiton and not a straight commedia, as I have nothing to compare it to. Perhaps it has something to do with this show being, I supposed, adapted and sewn together from other translated writings? Not sure about that.

Anyway, the play -- and I believe the whole genre -- was characterized by linguistic humor (funny turns of phrases, misunderstandings and mistakes, etc.), as well as swearing and a bit of raunchy material, which of course was raunchier and more shocking in the mid 1500s than today. Unless I'm just hard/impossible to shock. This is the fourth drama school production I've seen this year, and they've all been radically different. You get a sense, given the context, that there's some inside winking going on in these productions, since they are ultimately and primarily exercises for students. We as the audience are seeing an attempt to learn, explore and experiment, as much as an attempt to entertain. That's a context that matters, and can actually make the experience more interesting and fun.

Meanwhile, I'm mentally preparing to hike several blocks this morning and borrow some winter-weather gear in preparation for the ski trip this weekend, to Killington, VT. It'll be beautiful.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January is snowiest month in state's history

Yesterday, 6-9 inches of snow were predicted for overnight. But we got more like a foot and a half.

Weather isn't very interesting, I realize, so I've semi-attempted to keep this blog off that topic. That said, this has been a truly grueling, bizarre winter, very unlike last year. And it's not just my imagination; this is apparently the snowiest month in the history of the state! Read that story here.

There are real consequences to the snow, and the cold. For example, we Yale SOM students rely on the kindness of food-cart vendors to eat lunch, as we have no cafeteria this year. (Our cafeteria was converted to study space over the summer.) What if our food suppliers can't get to campus, or don't want to be out in the freezing cold? What will become of our tummies? Fortunately, about five of the carts appeared to have made it to school today, so I am still alive.

But these types of disruptions can really interrupt our little bubble of a world. Another example: This afternoon I have a class, Strategic Leadership Across Sectors, taught by Jeff Sonnenfeld, that relies on prominent guests for discussion. Today, one of our panelists is Sherron Watkins, the famous Enron whistleblower and former Time magazine Person of the Year (2002). Another is Daniel Scotto, also famous for being on the side of justice during that scandal. What becomes of our three-hour class if the guests are delayed? Dunno. Fortunately, all our guests today appear to have made it into New Haven.

The cold, snowy weather also:

1. Causes the floor in our apartment to be wet and dirty.

2. Makes people sick. I blame the weather, in part, for why I was sick for two weeks and developed bronchitis. And lousy feelings abound.

3. It and it leaves people stranded. I've had a couple classes canceled. My roommate had to crash at a friend's house last night because her car got trapped in the snow. One of the two prospective students I was supposed to interview today couldn't make it in, and he was hardly the only one.

4. Related to being stranded is not being able to get anywhere, like the grocery store. The food situation in my apartment is starting to get a little pathetic. If it weren't for leftovers from when my roommate threw a baby shower for two classmates on Tuesday, my dinner last night would have consisted of maybe cereal and a can of beans.

The snow may be beautiful to look at, from inside, but it can cause some ugly problems, and headaches. Fingers crossed we're able to leave town as planned tomorrow at noon, for the ski trip.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interviewing prospective students

I had a slightly surreal moment today while interviewing a prospective student. To give a little background, this is a fun opportunity and activity I applied for and have been doing all year; Yale SOM uses second-year students to interview prospective students. Only about 35% of applicants are invited to interview, and of those, something like a third or so of them are admitted. As interviewers, we spend 30 minutes with each candidate, then write up a report about our conversation. That report gets put into the candidate's application file, along with his or her application, essays and other materials, and the whole package is given to the admissions gurus. We, as interviewers, aren't involved in any decision-making per se; we just conduct the interview and write up our thoughts.

Anyway, these interview opportunities come in waves; this week I have 7 interviews, and 3 were today. They take place in different rooms. One of mine today was in the same office where I had my interview in 2009. I was sitting in the exact same spot. And in both cases, I could see the snow falling heavily outside the windows. Of course, in this case, I was on the other end of the conversation, which is definitely the preferable place to be!

The group of us who were selected to be interviewers went through some training, but in general the process is somewhat loose and more or less a conversation. I'm personally interested in hearing about people's motivations, rather than their accomplishments; I think accomplishments can usually be explained nicely in essays and on the application. I more want to know why -- why did you pick this major, why did you leave this job, why do you want to get an MBA, etc. It's really a lot of fun doing the interviews, and it's a great professional/leadership experience for me, too.

This was a very busy day; on top of the three interviews, and three classes -- one of which was three hours -- I also had two hour-long sessions helping first-year students prepare for their interviews tomorrow for summer internships with Deloitte, where I'll be working after school. So I have been tied up from the time I awoke at 6 a.m. until a few moments ago! It's going to be a long night, too, with much reading to do for my one and only class tomorrow. Part of my predicament today came about because I took a few hours last night for an extremely nice, leisurely dinner with my friend Yujie (pictured). We went to Ibiza. We were celebrating having accepted full-time jobs; and we were catching up on our gossip. I'm glad she'll be in New Jersey next year, not too far from where I'll be in New York.

Speaking of internships and jobs, I discovered this week that the internship program in which I participated this summer, at the Associated Press, has been put on hiatus this year. In fact, AP is suspending all of its internships this summer, as it focuses on its core businesses. In other words, it looks as though they don't want to spend the money. It's a shame because there were some first-year students who were interested in AP. Oh well; now I feel especially lucky to have had the experience I did.

Perhaps all the snow we've been getting will be good preparation for the weekend, as I join about 200 of my classmates for the annual SOM ski trip in Killington! Expect some good pictures.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A-tacky of the awful bedding

I hate my new bedding.

My old bedding was fantastic. It was super comfortable and, I thought, pretty classy -- homey, but not in a kitschy or overly Southern way. Unfortunately, after nearly a decade of use, it was overdue to be retired. To be loyal, I thought a reasonable solution would be to replace it with what seemed to be a slightly different version of the same thing, from the same company. So I went online and did just that. In the thumbnail, it looked fine.

In person, though, it looks dreadful, in a way this picture doesn't even fully capture. It's shiny and has a leopard quality. I'm fuming mad.

I've never returned anything I've ordered online; actually I'm not sure I've ever returned anything, period. But in this case, given what I spent and given that I'll have to live with this decision for a long time, I've inquired about a return. If they deny my request, which I imagine is possible since I did indeed unwrap it, I will donate it to Goodwill and feel like a hero. This is my fault, anyway, for being lazy and taking the order-online shortcut on an item I really should have shopped for in person. Shopping in person is an arduous prospect, though, in weather like this.

I suppose I just got a bit unlucky. Speaking of luck, and chance, we are discussing these very topics in my favorite class, Behavioral Perspectives on Management. Specifically, we're looking at the proven tendency of people to discount the role of chance in everyday life -- to look for meaning and connections in instances that are more likely to be explained just by chance, which, by nature, sometimes manifests in non-random-looking clumps. As an illustration, imagine you were going to flip a coin 10 times in a row. Before you do, write down a sequence of 10 coin flips that you think looks random. Most people will put something along the lines of H-T-H-H-T-H-T-T-T-H. But if you actually take out a coin and flip it 10 times, you'll almost certainly get a sequence that looks less random. When I did it, I got T-T-T-T-T-T-T-H-H-T.

And that happens. People generally do this. By the same token, they look for cause and meaning when there could be cause and meaning, but when it could just be a coincidence. Examples: Cancer clusters, or cities with abnormally high rates of cancer. When this happens, a lot of money is spent finding a cause, usually something environmental. But, then again, there are many, many cities and towns in the U.S. -- and some of them are going to have higher-than-average rates of cancer, for no reason other than chance. Anyway, it's an interesting phenomenon. We had to do an assignment pointing out real-world examples. I discussed people seeing religious imagery in ordinary objects, like this grilled cheese sandwich with an image of the Virgin Mary. Given how many objects there are a world, it stands to reason that some of them are going to resemble calm, pious-looking faces, which some people are going to interpret as resembling Jesus, the Virgin Mary or some other religious figure. That's not to say that God doesn't send some signals through your lunch -- anything's possible, and who am I to say? But it is to say chance alone would explain such things, regardless of any divine intervention.

What exactly this has to do with business is perhaps somewhat dubious, and still not entirely clear to me, although you can imagine using this kind of inside psychological information to manipulate customers or employees. Not that I'd ever do that.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Life of leisure

I may regret saying this, but I really think this semester ain't gonna be too hard, y'all. Neither being laid up with bronchitis during the week nor having lots of fun of the weekend seems to have put me behind, work-wise. That's because there's really not much to do!

I've had time to go out drinking, go out to dinner, catch a movie in theaters ("The King's Speech"), watch a couple movies on DVD, have friends over to hang out ... and I'm still completely caught up on all my readings and work. Plus I've had plenty of time to work with the first-year students who are interviewing this Thursday for internships at Deloitte. This is the life, I tell you. Let's hope it stays this way.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dangerously attractive

What a beautiful and miserable day. To walk is to risk frequent falling, as New Haven is covered in ice. But that makes for some beautiful images, my photographs of which I don't think do the real thing justice. I tried to enjoy my time out there in the winter wonderland, but frankly it was totally unpleasant, and I'm still quite sick. In fact, I went to the doctor, and guess what she told me. Guess what she told me. She said, "John, you have bronchitis."

So now I have a five-day regimen of antibiotics that will hopefully knock this junk out of me once and for all. I'm very fortunate that this was a light week work-wise.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Something deeply personal about my feelings

Yes, illness has won the day. I have tried to overcome the symptoms with medicine and positive thinking, but I'm allergic to the good over-the-counter cold medicines, and positive thinking presupposes a clear-mindedness that left me at the onset of this ghastly disease. I'm just being a baby, though. It's really a cold. But it won't go away! And when you have to brace the horrid winter conditions -- as I did today, because of an appointment on campus -- it's hard to recover.

Anyway, that's all I have to say about that. Sorry to not be more entertaining. Groan.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Just when I thought I was over the hump in my recovery from a typical cold, I was thrown back into the worst of the symptoms, more extreme than ever, this weekend. Luckily, I don't have class again until Wednesday, so I can afford to rest (i.e. not do work). And my roommate made matzah ball soup, so that's lucky, too.

Prior to this setback, I had two encounters I felt epitomized what I'd hoped for when I came back to school. The first was with a building -- the Gilmore Music Library, pictured above. One of my courses this semester is going to meet in a conference room just off the main library, so I went there to make sure I cound find it. Isn't it remarkable? Some of the study spaces in this school really do look out of a movie.

My second encounter was with a professor and an entire class. I'm TA-ing a course called the Economics & Financing of Journalism; there are 12 students. The professor graciously took us out to dinner Friday night in a private room at Mory's, and I thought it was a really special opportunity to get to spend time with a professor outside of school. When you begin school, you might expect/hope that such evenings will happen, but they're rare -- rare, not totally unheard of. Last semester, for example, a professor for whom I TA'd had the eight TAs to her house for a home-cooked thank-you meal at the end of the course. These are the kinds of things I think are so generous of professors because they needn't be done, but they'll be remembered by students for years and years to come. A more cynical angle is to point out that when we're all in a position to make generous donations to Yale, these are the memories we might remember fondly enough to add an extra 0.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

... And there's no night like a snow night?

Word is that the City of New Haven -- the governing operations of which, frankly, don't impress me -- will be towing cars tomorrow on a certain side of the street so that it can ... who knows. Plow, I guess? So this meant that I had to spend about an hour and a half this evening with a shovel and many layers of clothes, freeing my car from a situation I wouldn't have minded leaving it in for, say, three more months.

Don't think I didn't do a cost-benefit analysis, though. I wondered if the ticket and towing charge would be a premium worth paying. But I decided I'd just handle it myself, as a responsible citizen. It was not easy. But I guess that's the price one pays for a snow day.

Today I got some good news -- the Human Capital Club I co-founded was officially given club status by what's called the Clubs & Finance Committee today. Even though I expected that to be the outcome and would have gone apeshit had it not been, it's always exciting and a relief to get that official e-mail that begins with the word "Congratulations!" So I will have helped leave a legacy at the Yale School of Management for years to come. I think that's pretty sweet.

Today I also had two of my once-a-week courses for the first time: Strategic Leadership Across Sectors, which had a pretty remarkable guest-panelist list of Jim WoolseyDavid Carpenter and former U.S. Congressman Chris Shays. The panel spoke of many things, like the security/infrastructure threats that keep them up at night, the recent Tucson shooting and the 1996 Peruvian Japanese embassy hostage crisis. It was fascinating even though I'm struggling a tad to see the direct managerial learnings to be derived from the conversation. Guess that's why they are smart and important, and I am not. After that class, I had Leadership Strategies for Music Presenters, which will normally meet on Wednesdays but which this week was postponed a day because of the snow. It's taught by Robert Blocker, the dean of the music school. Today was just a get-to-know-you introduction, but in the future there will be an impressive roster of guest speakers, too. This is going to be a good semester.

We normally have Fridays off, but tomorrow classes meet because we're off Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I'm not sure why the school feels it necessary to observe the holiday and then take our usual day off away; either give us a day off or don't, I say.

Back to the snow, one good thing about getting super sweaty and nearly passing out from exhaustion is that it's been difficult to get to the gym since I returned from Florida; I've only been once, actually. Between snow storms, illness, early morning obligations and the gym-preventative surgery endured by my gym buddy, it's not easy. But next week. Next week.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There's no day like a snow day

I've heard different rumors about Yale's history with snow days. One is that the school has never officially had one; another is that it hasn't had one for 31 years. With 18 to 24 inches of snow in the forecast today, students were abuzz with curiosity as to whether today would call for an official cancellation.

It hasn't. But the e-mail we received said, basically, that professors may cancel classes at their discretion, and that regardless, students shouldn't come to class if they feel conditions aren't safe. Two of my three professors officially canceled their classes, and the third said he would hold class but understands if people can't make it and will be taping his lecture for those who miss it. After putting all these pieces together, I decided to postpone two one-on-one meetings I'd scheduled for today, and make this a snow day at least for yours truly.

My plan for the day involves preparing for a lecture/presentation I'm giving tomorrow and Saturday for students who are interviewing for human-capital and HR internships and jobs. The first-year core class that most touches upon these subjects is called Employee, and it is a third-quarter ("Spring-1") class. This means that many students will have barely begun the class when the interview for jobs. So, in my capacity as a co-leader of the Human Capital Club, I thought it would be helpful to offer a sort of Employee crash course for these people, touching on the main subjects. Preparing for this is turning out to be more time-consuming than I'd anticipated, but it's good review for me as well.

Also today I'm going to be doing readings for my first session of Strategic Leadership Across sectors, a three-hour once-a-week class that's very reading intensive and will mostly entail prominent guest speakers. I've also successfully roped some friends into a reading group for this course, so starting next week we'll be dividing the reading, meeting every Thursday for lunch and briefing each other on the highlights.

A final priority today will be watching "Get Him to the Greek," which arrived from Netflix yesterday. I mean, I'm a human being. I have every right to watch a movie. Every right. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Classes are sick! Or is it just me?

The first day of classes yesterday went well, except that the long day seemed to derail my recovery from a cold I caught over the weekend. But I just slept 10 hours and feel better, and I have no classes on Tuesdays. I do have some things to do today, though, including a morning doctor's appointment, coincidental to my cold. I'm going in to see if they can figure out why my feet have been in pain for years.

Also today I have some practice casing interviews with first-year students who are applying for summer internships at Deloitte, as well as a planning meeting for Q+, a session for the Leadership Development Program for which I am an advisor, and dinner plans with a friend. Fortunately I got so far ahead with work over the weekend that I don't have any pressing studying to do today, although if time allows there are some things I could read.

I'm optimistic about my course load, although it really hit me yesterday that these three-hour classes may be an endurance test. I've never had a three-hour class at SOM before, and this quarter I have three of them, on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. These courses meet just once a week. I think this arrangement is usually made because the professor is a visitor or has some other role at the school, or is very busy and important. The classes have loads of guest speakers on the itinerary, though, so I reckon the extent to which the three hours pass quickly depends on the extent to which the speakers are interesting.

Yesterday's lineup started at 8:30 a.m. with Investment Management, which I expect to be tough for me, but I wanted to take it to, well, learn more about investment management. This is the same reasoning that led me to take Corporate Finance last semester I don't expect to do much financial work in my career, but I consider these subjects critical elements to having a master's degree in business nevertheless. Corp Fin seemed to have many students who were like me, taking the class for "fun." I'm not so sure the same is true in Investment Management, though. Looking out at the crowd, I gathered that I was basically surrounded by future hedge-fund managers. One reason I'm not certain of that, though, is that this is the first semester that first-year students can take electives, and therefore this is the first semester where I've had classes with first-year students, many of whom I don't know. Anyway, I'm not going to let my perception of the class makeup deter me. I'll just do my best and learn what I can. That's the appropriate attitude in a program that doesn't have grades.

In the afternoon I had Behavioral Perspectives on Management, which I think is going to be fantastic. It's about the psychology of errors in judgment, basically. I love that kind of thing. And it's taught by Joe Simmons, who I had last year for Managing Marketing Programs, and he's a great classroom leader. He's a psych PhD who's quite funny and creates a good atmosphere, even though he does exude the somewhat bubble-bursted, melancholy demeanor of someone who knows far too much about the human mind for his own good.

The day ended with that three-hour class, the Economics & Financing of Journalism, for which I'm the TA. So it's basically like auditing the class; I'll attend, participate minimally where relevant and help the professor out with whatever logistics he needs handled, but I won't be doing the assignments. I actually won't be grading the assignments, either. Seems like an easy gig actually. I had lunch with the professor earlier in the day, and he's had quite an interesting career. And, oddly, he grew up in a house that's across the street from the School of Management. Sounds like the setup of a bizarre dream.

Anyway, I had to skip the gym this morning because I knew last night, as I was hacking myself silly, that rest was best. Now it's off to the doctor.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Go to the light

There was a great article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine about issues that arise in managing one's digital life after death. If I die tomorrow, what would happen to this blog, my Facebook page, my Flickr photos, my years of e-mail and whatever other personal bits and pieces of my life are out there, password protected? The answer is unclear, but coming up with an answer and managing the process is a business opportunity that's becoming increasingly popular to seize. I imagine this will become a particular issue as more older people get online, and as we younger people get older.

I set up a blog for my father during winter break, and he's updating it rather nicely. I'm not going to link to it here because he's trying to maintain some anonymity -- just because he doesn't want to be bothered. It's mostly going to consist of political writings and opinion pieces. I thought it would be fun for him and give him a constructive retirement activity.

This was a nice weekend overall, although I caught a cold. I still managed to check out the Yale Cabaret, run some errands, talk to friends on the phone and enjoy an evening with a gentleman caller. All things I like to do, and all things that will become harder to do when the semester starts in just eight hours.

With that, time to sleep. I have to be all rested for Investment Management tomorrow morning.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best practices for taking notes

With my final semester at SOM beginning in mere days, I am trying to be as fully prepared as possible. To that end, I did quite a bit of organizing yesterday, including a rather deep introspection on what types of note-taking strategies have worked in the past, and which ones I should employ this semester. I want to see if I can finally get this right, because throughout my academic life, I've gotten it pretty wrong.

I feel as though last semester was yet another example of failing to make the best use of my study time, and failing to read and take notes in the most useful and efficient way. Basically I start each term treating class the same, and that's a mistake because each course's best approach will depend on how the professor teaches, what the class is about, and what the requirements are. Is the class discussion-based, or lecture-based? Is it more quantitative or qualitative? Is the material totally new to me, or semi-familiar? Does the professor pass out notes at the start, at the end, or never? Does she post slides online, or just use the chalk board? Will there be mostly short-term deliverables like case write-ups and pop quizzes, or long-term ones like big group projects and exams? Depending on factors like these, it may or may not be useful to take handwritten notes in class, print out all the readings and attack them with a highlighter, or save smartly labeled files to a folder in one's C drive.

In approaching this new semester, I've decided to try to tailor my reading, studying and note-taking for each class based on what type of material is in the class and what the deliverables are. I've tried to reflect on what's worked and what hasn't, and come up with a distinct strategy for each class. A boiled-down version of what I've come up with so far:

  • Investment Management. This class requires a lot of textbook reading, the material is largely new and unfamiliar to me, and there's math. There's a midterm, a final exam and four problem sets. So I know I'll want to keep track of definitions, formulas and concepts in a place I can easily quiz myself and review them. Hence I'm going to try to use OneNote (pictured above), a program I saw undergrads using in Theory of Media, to keep track of concepts from the reading. I figured I can kill two birds -- learn Investment Management while also learning OneNote, in case I want to use it at work after school. I don't yet know whether the professor will be passing out notes or slides, so I'll deal with that strategy once I observe his behavior.
  • Behavioral Perspectives on Management. This course, on the other hand, is about the psychology of management. In each class, there's a 35% chance of a quiz, and the assignments tend to be short and personal. There's no exam. So it seems unnecessary to print out or save all the readings, but I'll need to do readings and make sure I get main concepts; so I'm going to keep a handwritten spiral journal.
  • Strategic Leadership Across Sectors. This is a long, once-a-week class with prominent guests and a shit-ton of reading, mostly news articles, so it would be futile and environmentally irresponsible to attempt to print them all out. However, there is a final, so some type of review-able log of the course will be useful. Hence I'm going to try to keep Word-based summary of key concepts and blocks of readings, because that final is open book.
My fourth semester-long class has changed, and I don't have a syllabus for it yet. I was going to take New Italian Cinema, but a new course was just offered at SOM that I really want to take, and it conflicts, schedule-wise, with the film-studies class. This one is called Leadership Strategies for Music Presenters, taught by the dean of the music school, and it's about the business of putting on concerts. It's limited to 10 people, but I applied and got the OK to enroll (I doubt it was terribly competitive, since most students, by now, probably have their schedules squared away). I also have a quarter-long class that starts in March, Navigating Organizations, but I'll cross that bridge after spring break.

Anyway, I hope that the efforts I'm putting into thoughtful study approaches are sustainable. I know in real life that it's easy to fall behind and get lazy, but I'm particularly excited about these courses and trying to go in with wide-open eyes and a system of constant assessment and scrutiny, not just in academics but in all areas of my life. It's my last chance to do this whole school thing the way I've always thought I could.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Learning to fly

When I was a journalist on a budget, I was accustomed to booking flights based almost solely on price. This sometimes led me to fly out of and into cities that were three or four hours from my home, all for the sake of saving a few dollars. That habit has unfortunately followed me, and I can only hope that when I am traveling regularly for work, I will learn how to travel properly.

This morning, my alarm was set for 5 a.m., but as is often the case when early morning travel approaches, I really woke up somewhere in the 3 to 3:30 a.m. range and never fell back to sleep. At 6 a.m., a van came to my parents' house to take me to the airport. I flew to Atlanta. At that airport, I took the famous "Plane Train" -- the farthest distance it can go, incidentally. I flew to New York City. I took the AirTran people-mover to the Howard Beach Station. I boarded the A subway and went what felt like 1,100 stops to Times Square. I took the 7 to Grand Central. I took the Metro North back to New Haven, a little less than two hours away. I took a cab home. All in all, I was traveling for about 12 hours.

As I think back, I wonder: Was it really impossible to fly directly into New Haven? How much more expensive would it have been, truly? I could've been home in a matter of hours, probably, rather than taking the entire day.

But home I am, and it's nice to be here. Real nice. There's snow on the ground, but not too much of it anymore. Most importantly -- my car's still here. So were some interesting pieces of mail, including a jury-duty notification. Back in Texas, I got one of those shortly before I moved away, and I was able to check off the "student" box as a legitimate excuse for being unavailable. But here in CT, being a student doesn't appear to be an excuse! So I will be there in a few weeks; hope it lasts only one day.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ho visto un film -- 'Ladri di Biciclette'

Today is my full final day in Florida. The itinerary has consisted of successfully sleeping in, burning more than 700 calories to death at the gymnasium, taking a dip in the pool, nearly totally conquering the relatively easy Monday New York Times crossword puzzle, and viewing Ladri di Biciclette, a classic neorealistic Italian film that really translates to Bicycle Thieves but is better known as The Bicycle Thief. This was the third, and will probably the final, movie I reviewed in preparation for a film-studies course I'm taking this spring.

Yesterday, I set up a blog for my father. He is a frequent contributor to the local newspaper's Letters to the Editor section, and doesn't like it when his letters are trimmed, edited or altogether not printed. I suggested he start a blog that would enable him to write whatever he wants whenever he feels like it, and he was intrigued, although since he is 73 I first had to explain what a blog is. He's caught on quickly and has already submitted five postings. In that regard, he's a good example for me. I think it will also give him something enjoyable and constructive to do; that's important when one is retired. I must admit I was somewhat reluctant to suggest, much less help, him launch this, since I don't agree with all his views, but who am I to prevent the healthy expression of free speech?

Visiting Florida is always fun and relaxing, and provides some instruction about retired life, which may seem very away but which I'm sure will be here before I know it. I fear being too sedentary and disconnected; actually I fear that now, not just in retirement. Those of us who are both lazy and introverted constantly struggle to be active and out there, making the most of life.

When I get back to New Haven tomorrow, I will have five full days to both relax and, more importantly, prepare for what will be my final semester at Yale, and probably my final semester of school in my whole life. My hopes and goals are high, so here's hoping they stay that way!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

It is 2011. I celebrated last night with a couple cocktails, a good meal, games and, of course, jumping into the pool at the stroke of midnight. Fortunately, it has warmed up in South Florida, and fortunatelier, our pool is generously heated.

I like to make New Year's resolutions, or at least engage in a few moments of New Year's self-reflection and goal-setting. This year, a few weeks ago in fact, I took a different approach. Instead of looking at myself and thinking about what I wanted to change, I started with a blank sheet and detailed how I thought I'd describe the perfect man if I met him. What would he be like? I listed about two dozen things, some of which I'm further from than others. I'm not yet certain how much time I'll invest in transforming these ideals into specific goals or actions, but I have a good place to start to make at least one or two improvements. I think it's good for one to always strive toward improvement!

Example: I've decided to audit an undergrad European history class this semester, because I've never taken European history and think a well educated ("perfect," dare I say) person would know some things about European history. If this is what I think, regardless of whether it's right or wrong, I should act accordingly.

Anyway, last night was fun. Text-messaging technology enabled me to exchange several good wishes for a happy new year -- in both Eastern and Central time, since I still have friends back in my home state of Missouri and in Texas, where I lived before returning to school. Speaking of returning to school, that's what I'll be doing in three days ... and just when it's finally starting to be beachgoing weather, too. Will have to take advantage today, since the gulf is just a short walk away.