Guess the Company and Division

In a fancy restaurant in the West loop, there's a crowd of students, dressed business causual, surrounding a middle age white man in khakis and blue shirt. The 50-strong crowd is 95% male. Among the male, it is 80% Indians, 10% Asian, 10% token white guy. For my GSB colleagues,

What's the company?
What's the division?

In this certain presentation/reception, I suddenly thought of my hate for the "Backspace" button. So much raw emotions being censored by that button. Yet so many mistakes avoided. I'm torn. If I write blogs without using "Backspace" but for spelling and grammar, it would be much more entertaining.

Emotions of course triggered by not using the Backspace and making mean language. Should have used that stupid button. Oh well.


Classes, baby!

Until my first class, I never realized that I was back at school. Here's what transpired:

1:30 - in class, just in time...!
1:35 - professor starts introducing himself and the course
1:38 - dozing already...

Just kidding. It wasn't that bad, though you'll be hard-pressed to make a good case for me NOT to doze in Corporate Finance. Anyway, it was remarkable that I could have really used this first class in my case work during the summer.

Next up was Negotiations. Again, I could have used the first class material in my summer case. This is going to be a pretty good class. In particular, the first negotiation practice was quite interesting. I'm a seller with a bottom line and my task is to negotiate with a buyer. Since I do not know his bottom line, my strategy going in was to never make the initial offer. I was going to wait for the initial offer and then assess what the buyer's bottom line might be. This was, in fact, most seller's strategy. Whatever I did worked, as I sold 2.4 times my bottom line. Back in class, however, our professor disagrees with the strategy. Instead, we should definitely offer first and make that offer an unreasonable. Thus creating expectations for (anchoring) your counterparty for a high number. This will be a good class.

This morning was Organizational Change. What I hope to get out of class is a toolkit for organizational change that I may be able to use in consulting. The first class was rather promising. Funny thing was I never planned to take the class. Only after failing miserably in bidding for classes did I end up with this class. Class discussions are going to drive the quality, and the professor seemed pretty good at moderating. And hence my three classes of the Fall quarter. M T and W. Th and F off. I think this will be okay. hehe.

I seem to have missed this one class though... would have been worth the tuition for sure.

US vs. HK 2

After a very productive day at the Winter Garden (oh yeah, you know what I mean), I headed to Chinatown, which made me realize that I missed some crucial elements of comparing US and HK:

Haircut - that's it, Chinese barbers in the US really suck; all they want to do is to buzz all your hair off... and they don't care what you say. "Not so short, please..." "Buzz"
HUGE advantage: Hong Kong

Dinner at Phoenix - I expect the poor quality, but that 18% for parties over six really kills.
Advantage: Hong Kong.

Hopefully my hair will grow back in time for tomorrow's dinner reception...


GSB Life...

I have classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, which means I don't have classes on the first two days of school. So, what did I do? Go to school.

All those first years roaming the school... about a year ago, I was in the same position. Roaming the student activities fair, trying to decide which clubs I should join. I joined Management Consulting Group and Business Solution Group because I wanted to do management consulting. I signed onto Chicago Asia Pacific Group and Chinese Business Student Association because I wanted to return to Hong Kong for my summer internships. I joined sail club, poker club, basketball club, etc so I can tell myself I have a life outside of school and career.

I don't think I really thought about it that way, but it seems like I did a pretty good job in my first year as far as how I used the student groups. Management consulting in Hong Kong. Poker. Basketball. I miss the sail club event though. Should have gone to Virgin Islands. Also, should have gone to Galapagos Islands.

I can't really believe that a year has already passed.


My New GF

She's cute. She's beautiful. She's pretty cool. Bold, even. She's a bit heavy, but she has a great body. And I mean GREAT body. She doesn't know I have a blog, so I can pretty much write anything I want.

She let's me decide everything. When I don't feel like it, she'll make all the decisions for me. She's easy to read, yet there's a sophistication that I can't really understand (I'm trying). She's a bit flashy on the outside, but conservative inside. There's obviously a lot that I need to learn about her.

She doesn't really ask for anything, though buying her accessories is going to cost me big time. I think she's quite perfect, to be honest.

Her name is Nikon D80. My new toy. I love her. Maybe I can forget. Oh, and did I mention tomorrow is the first school day?


Hong Kong vs USA

Well... since a big part of my career decision depends on geography, what can beat a HKG vs USA list!? Here goes, in no particular order:

Food: ...... nah, no need to compare
Advantage: Hong Kong

Work culture: HK - work hard, play hard; US - work hard, play harder
Advantage: Hong Kong

Hours: HK - til you drop; US - til dinner
Advantage: USA

Friends: HK - a lot, probably reached max; US - a lot, room for growth
Advantage: I can't really tell

Family: HK - there's some; US - there's none
Advantage: Hong Kong

Weight: HK - you need a diet; US - you lost weight
Advantage: Okay, I think I like US better.

Facial hair: why does my facial hair grow faster in HKG!?
Advantage: USA

Size matters: HK - I am Moses when entering the packed trains; US - my neck hurts from looking up
Advantage: Hong Kong

Air: HK - smog; US - blue skys
Advantage: US

Water: HK - needs to boil; US - ready to drink
Advantage: US

Poker: HK - many games, low stakes; US - some games, high stakes
Advantage: Hong Kong

TV: HK - no ESPN (but possible, I hear); US - ESPN
Advantage: US, slightly

Basketball: HK - size matters; US - go play in the kiddie court
Advantage: Hong Kong

Hiking: HK - any time; US - depends on location, far away anyway
advantage: Hong Kong

Photography: HK - smog; US - many places
Advantage: Europe =)

This is fun... but I need to sleep. Today was the first company presentation for me. Standing outside of the circle of students surrounding the recruiter who may or may not have the power to make a difference in you being interviewed or hired, I can't help but think why am I still standing there. There's an easy way out: sign on the dotted line! (Oh I really don't enjoy this recruiting thing!)

I have genuine concerns, that's why. The presenter today left one impression with me: go with your gut because you will never regret it; even if you fail, you will learn something about yourself; go with your head over you gut, you will regret if you fail. I just have to check all the obstacles to what my gut is telling me.

Do I need to count which place wins the advantages?


Little Miss Sunshine

I feel shameless if I leave comments on my own blog. Therefore, I will reply to your comments here: one can of course have different group of friends; my questions is if you have many groups, you may have less of a friendship than if you only hung out with one group. Especially among new groups. I know that I don't have to spend time with my middle school friends and they will continue to be good true forever friends.

I guess a Chicago way of asking the question is whether time spent with person (measured by some unit of time - either in hours or in frequency or both) is correlated to degree of friendship (measured by... uh... I don't know... money - how much are you willing to lend Eric without assurances he will pay you back), adjusted for current wealth and generosity (damn, can't measure that though!). Sorry, couldn't resist.

Just saw the movie Little Miss Sunshine. I loved it. Unfortunately, the moment of simple joy can never persist in real life. You always get sucked back into troubles in life.

Also on the list of movies I want to see but probably won't: Thank You for Not Smoking, Illusionist, An Inconvenient Truth, Hollywoodland, This Movie is Not Yet Rated (I think that's what it's called - too lazy to do background research)...

The Departed, starring an improbable cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, and Jack Nicholson, will be on Oct 6. I'm very much looking forward to the American remake of the HK hit movie. I doubt that the replication can match the original, only because the emphasis on collectivism will probably not ring any bells among American audience. Or maybe they will heavily edit the movie, which actually won't be a bad thing at all!


Good point, Shmoo...

I guess the question should be if I am not fully committed to a circle of friends, can I truly make good friends out of them?


Good times, good times...

I do miss all my buddies in business school. Half of them I can see at TNDC; the other half I can see at Chinatown. Which brings me to some of my thoughts on making friends.

When I applied to college, I wrote about how I hoped to find a true identity for the boy who counts in Chinese but speaks in English. Ten years later (!!!!), I could write the same piece. I still count in Chinese, and English is still my default language. Just take a look at my circles of friends. At Chicago, I have, on one hand, the American friends. The crew hangs out at bars, talks (real talking) in school, studies moderately, and always has fun doing whatever. On the other hand, I have the Chinese crowd, separated into China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. These crews hang out at each other's homes, says hi and bye in school, studies hard, and always seems to be serious.

Makes me wonder a bit... if you are not committed to one crew, can you still make true friends out of both groups? If on Thursday night I choose not to go to TNDC (hence missing my American friends at the bar) because there's a poker game (or killer - arg, I hate that game) at a Chinese friends' house, or vice versa, would either group think less of me? Surely it makes some difference, right?

Hm... just writing this makes me feel young.


Safety alert....!?

The following is a safety alert released by the U of C police:

Between 6:45 and 7:05 a.m., Monday, September 11, (reported on September 12) on South Kenwood Avenue between Hyde Park Blvd. and 52nd Streets, a woman was leaving her residence when she was confronted by a man who forced her against a gate and fondled her. He fled with the victim's lunch container when a passerby happened on the scene. The offender was described as an African American in his 20's, about 5'10", with a strong body odor and bad breath, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. Police are investigating.

Man, the States is awesome. Not.

Back in Chitown...

It feels good to be back home... ops, did I say home!?

Anyway, my first night back was already greeted by Bain returnees. They're hosting a dinner for all the Chicago Bainees. And tonight? Same thing of course. Bain returnees plus potential GSB Bainees (I think - there are so many Bain events I'm forgeting which one is which... all have free food though, so they do know my weakness).

Meanwhile, I've received several emails (uh... okay, the big 3 + Booz) about various consulting companies as well as a couple of phone calls on whether I'm still interested in management consulting. Reality checks in quick!

I finished the book Guns Germs and Steel. Shmoo mentioned that it was repetitive. He was right. Still a pretty good book that I would recommend though. The premise is noble -history, on a grand level, is basically science - but a bit too aggressive. To establish a theory that would explain all of human history would surely invite criticisms in form of exceptions. As I read the book, I nodded in my mind and I kept thinking of exceptions to the author's rule. And I could find many. This of course does not dilute his theory of how the current world is shaped. What I would be most interested in finding out is whether the theory is still relevant for the future.

Started "The End of Poverty" by Jeff Sachs. The book quickly refers to Guns Germs and Steel. So far so good. Sachs thinks we can end poverty (i.e. where people cannot survive on their own income) by 2025. Good luck.


Since my last post...

A very good friend of mine got married... and we did not have a proper bachelor party...

I went hiking... for the first time this year, as sad as that sounded... and it wasn't even a real hike...

I felt really bad for a person...

I almost cried at the wedding...

I met a very pretty medical doctor...

I finished Guns, Germs, and Steel...

I started Say No to Poverty...

I felt really good for another person...

I vowed to blog more...

I became roommates with my old roommate from almost 10 years ago...

I was woken up at 625am by a conference call from Japan...

I was woken up at 900am by an insurance agent...

I played basketball...

I worked out...

I watched football... American Football...

I watched baseball...

I do miss the States, I guess.


SF now...

I've come to my friend's wedding... instead, we seem to be in a perpetual bachelor party... good times all around. (G, I hope you're not reading... and if you are... this is just a big fat lie)

Japan was a lot of fun... enough fun that it warrants a dot on my website. =) stay tuned

I can't wait to get back to Chicago.


Yokohama day...

Let's see... what exactly did I do in Yokohama? Nothing much, really... just walking around and aimlessly taking pictures. Yes, I have turned into a Japanese tourist. With no schedule and no rush though, so I do pride myself on that.

While going through a huge indoor mall searching for food, I did see Cold Stong Creamery. Yummy. There was a line outside so I didn't really bother. One thing different though... the ice cream packers started to sing and dance in symphony every now and then. I thought it was quite funny. The Japanese customers loved it.

1000Y to go to the top of Japan's tallest building... look, I've been to Japan's highest spot, Mount Fuji, already. No thanks.

Took a bus to the Sankaien Garden (三溪園). Got off at the wrong station but nonetheless managed to get to the Garden (By the way, the "en" in Sankaien means garden already, so the translations don't really work out). Beautiful garden with some awesome Japanese houses. Had a very Zen feeling to it. Meanwhile, Japanese tour groups whisked by at high speeds. The phenomenon of Japanese tourists is quite ironic actually: Japanese emphasizes patience and spending a lot of time on your craft (For a really bad example, see Tom Cruise's The Last Sumarai). There's something Zen about everything the Japanese do. I distinctly remember Alan admiring some Japanese video gamers who have made their play more of an art than entertainment. Anyway, Japan is also about JIT production and efficiency.

Back to the tour groups: Japanese tour groups seem to have become some manufacturing production line. They are fast and efficient. Ironically, at the Sankaien Garden, where peace and tranquility rule, where people are supposed to be quiet and enjoy the environment, where I reflect on life a little bit, tour groups drive by and snap their pictures and leave. Quite amazing.

These are areas where no one speak English... so when I left, I had no idea where to go. I didn't want to go back the original route, so I took another exit and spent the next hour walking beside a highway... until I finally hit the railroad station that I thought was a couple of minutes away from the garden exit.


Lost in translation

I finally left Hong Kong.

I didn't really properly say goodbye to Hong Kong because my mind wasn't really on it. Nor did I plan for my trip to Japan. Pre-occupied (still) by the break up... uh... the being dumped... I just never quite got my act together to plan things that weren't urgent.

Anyway, here I am in Tokyo's Asakusa area... happy that I got internet access, yet beating myself up for getting it in my room. Now I may just stay in all day to revamp my website! um... not.

I spent the last three days hanging with KB, an old friend from college who used to be my summer roommate. Somehow, she and I became good friends despite having very different personalities. My prudent party style has served her well in her wilder days, I guess, looking out for her all the time. We both liked to be around friends and organize events (less so for me now, I guess)... so there was the connection. Anyway, we went to her summer vacation house with a bunch of her friends.

The beach was really nice, the onsen was unbelievable. It's just that everybody spoke Japanese. They all speak English, but of course Japanese is the default language. Immediately I thought of Lost in Translation... thing is, I've been around enough Japanese people to recognize words here and there, but not knowing what they mean entirely. For them, it was a gathering of friends to talk about what they have been up to and stuff. For me, it was like watching a movie, only I didn't really understand what was going on the movie and that the movie sometimes called on me. =)

Nonetheless, I found myself more amused than frustrated. Japanese is a very cute language to learn.

Back in Tokyo, I checked into the hotel and first took a hot bath. Then it was dinner time. Here was our conversation:

Josekin (yes, I need a better nickname... how's about HKG, or Hong Kong Guy, in a tribute to SG, the Sports Guy?)...

HKG: Sumimase... (excuse me, aka the phase you use all the time at any place when you are talking to someone else) I'm looking for a restaurant to have dinner, do you have any recommendations?
Hotel girl: McDonald-u. Turn right-do, then turn left-do (using sign language with broken English to guide me)
HKG: Japanese restaurant-u?
Hotel girl: Gomene (sorry), restaurants all close Sunday night.
HKG: I can walk further away to find a better restaurant?
Hotel girl: Gomene (sorry)... (thinking)... Denny's, only 3 minutes walk away
HKG: ...... arigato (thank you)
Hotel girl: Turn right-do, then right-do... 3 minute walk
HKG: hurrying out before she walks me to Denny's and makes me eat there

I love Japanese who are trying to help. They keep thinking what is best for you and will do everything in their power to make it happen.

I ended up at a Japanese restaurant where I have to purchase my meal ticket from a vending machine outside the restaurant (can't read the Japanese, but can connect pictures to words), then go in and be served, return ticket to cook as he executes the orders from the vending machine, then eat standing up, then leaving, all done in 15 minutes. I tell you, Japanese are the most efficient.

Tomorrow I go to Yokohama.