All them reviews...

Deja Vu - saw this movie during the ski trip. It reminds me of Matrix and I thought it was pretty good. Denzel at his usual best.

Da Vinci Code - on the plane to Quito. Awful.

Julius Meinl again - our wait was 30 minutes which crossed the 2pm mark, hence breakfast was not an option. Sigh, will have to try baked eggs another time. We tried three desserts... a raspberry pistachio cake, a chocolate mousse banana cake, and the always welcoming molten chocolate cake. Oh yes, my American diet is returning in a big way.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of movies I'd love to see: Blood Diamond, The Good Sheppard, The Pursuit of Happiness...

Pub food...

Man I miss pub food. I had a nice a juicy hamburger yesterday at PJ Clark's. I can't believe I miss American food; it wasn't that Ecuadorian food isn't good - they were excellent - it's just that most meals were fish and veg based and was extremely healthy.

Mmmmm... oily and greasy burgers... tonight I need to reconnect with Chinese food.


Back from Galapagos

It was awesome. Unfortunately, I don't have time to write much (still in a hostal in Ecuador)... BUT... to give you an idea on how great the trip was, I'll share a photo of our guide:

This dude could find anything anywhere, as far as wild life was concerned. More will be shared later on my website and picture albums. I literally have thousands of pictures I need to sort out. Merry Christmas (me celebrated with decent turkey and awful Ecuadorian bubbly on the boat) and Happy New Year (GSBers, I need a party guide when I go back to Chicago tomorrow)!


Totally unprepared

I feel totally unprepared for the Galapagos Islands. I blame United for this. I got back home late and was just way too tired to do anything. Nonetheless, I needed to do laundry and pack and get information that I need when I arrive in Quito tonight at 9:30pm. I fell asleep during the drying process and got up at 5:30 am. Still dead tired from the whole day of traveling yesterday from the ski resort to Chicago, I managed to pack for the trip in the next hour or so.

But... I didn't really finish my Quito reading... I didn't really learn the Spanish that I should have learned... I just found out which airport (O'Hare, damn it) I was departing from today... I also just found out that I have a 3 hour wait in Miami... arg...

Then again, traveling totally unprepared has its merits. Sort of like going into a Corp Fin final... NOT. There's more surprises, for better or worse. My default is still doing my homework and organizing things before walking into a foreign place. I'm quite flexible, so even if I planned a lot, it's not like I visit a place like a tour group. I figure out what I want to see and compare it to where I am and make adjustments as I go. Not this time, I guess. I'll have to ask around in Quito to see what's there to do!

Merry Christmas, my dear readers. I'll be back to Chicago before New Year. Galapagos will deserve a dot in my map; in the meantime, you can see the updated map. The load time is slow and I blame it on the server in HK (more research needed, but I'm convinced it's not the file... by the way, check out this awesome site!)... my HK friends should have an easier time loading the map.

United Sucks

I hope this post will... uh... confirm what I already know but continue to go against my heart. Chicago can explain this: I have significant sunk costs (mileage) and high switching costs (no benefit on other airlines).

Anyway, on the way to Denver, our United flight had a malfunctioning radar. Yup, the usual delay ensues. They were trying to fix the part but United didn't have the part on hand. So instead, they had to go to another airline to get the part for our plane. Good times.

Coming back, United was able to one-up itself. They cancelled our flight from the resort to Denver entirely after checking all of us in and passing us through security. Chaos ensues. We were supposed to hop on a bus that would drive us to Denver. Only that there weren't enough seats. There was supposed to be a second bus. Only that now we have another option of waiting for an afternoon flight.

Five hours later, we arrived in Denver via the stupid bus. The only consolation prize was that I go to sit in Economy Plus.

I hate United. I cannot wait to go back to Asia Miles.



Compared to my first day skiing, the next few days were much better. I regained the feel and was starting to come down some easier blacks. Good times. I'm going to miss skiing when I am back in Hong Kong... sigh.

Anyway, since being in Chicago (Midwest), I have had great experiences with all strangers that I've met. They're all nice and polite. (Some of my Chinese classmates have found this disturbing because the is no prior relationship build up and they find it hard to accept a stranger's random hello.) But during this ski trip, I had an unbelievable rude experience. After a grill-your-own-steak meal and a couple of drinks, a bunch of GSBers left the restaurant to go back to the ski condos. The shuttle made one stop at a local restaurant to pick up people. The shuttle had two seats left and a family of four came aboard.

There were two young kids so I offered my seat to the kids and knelt near the driver's seat. The father and his daughter took my row and I crouched right in front of them. I offered a smile. No response from dad. Maybe he didn't see me. I looked at him a bit, just a bit pissed off that he has completely ignored me. He stared right back at me. No smile. No nod. No nothing. A completely blank look. Never said anything nor acknowleged me. The family got off the shuttle at their stop. As soon as the driver closed the door, everybody in the bus started talking about how rude the family (well, dad and mom, I guess) was. Even the driver chipped in: maybe they are from the East coast. haha. I held my tongue: I'm from the East Coast...

I'm courteous on public transportation not because I want to be praised for my actions. It's the right thing to do. But... I've never experienced such rudeness!


Ski trip report

My first day ended in disaster, so to say. Was cramping from 2pm and on. My time away from skiing probably hurt. The altitude hurt. The overconfidence hurt. The great powder in Steamboat did not. I had fun, that's the most important part. Now let me inject some oxygen into my legs.

A lot of drinking so far. I'm considering putting beer in my reservoir. Not. Why would I need to do that when there's free booze at 3pm to 5pm and discounted booze from 9pm onwards.

By the way, the State Department has just condemned Iranian president for saying that Israel will soon be wiped out. I condemn that too... and then there's the double standard of letting Japanese politicians get away with claiming the Nanjing Massacre didn't happen. How can you claim to lead the world to democracy/freedom and make the world a better place for everybody? Shouldn't you have the same standards?

Meanwhile, Taiwan elections again proceeded in quite a messy way. For the presidential elections, there was the dramatic "assassination attempt; for the mayor (it's the mayor, for god's sake! a freaking mayor!), there was the dramatic "buying votes" accusation.

In Hong Kong, the pro-democratic (I have a beef about this name, I believe most politicians are pro-democratic in Hong Kong - won't get votes otherwise - the difference is in time frame and format) party won a huge victory in the preliminary rounds. It probably won't matter at the end, since you do need blessings from China to make anything possible. But it's a start.



I'm off to Steamboat to ski with a bunch of GSBers (140 strong)... this will be a better experience than my last ski venture. Can't wait.


Something Lighter...

Time for a lighter post... apparently I reflect upon myself and eat in my free time.

Volare: really excellent Italian food. I had a linguine that was perhaps the best I have had in years. The risotto was also very good (I stole some off PP's plate). Dessert was tempting; but like all Italian dishes, we were filled with pasta already. Upon hearing my praise for Volare, a friend of mine commented that Italian food taste the same everywhere. Come to think about it, she's quite right. Boston's North End offers some of the best Italian food in the country (though one of the best lies in a little corner of Somerville (Slumerville), where I had my graduation dinner); oh, but you can't discount NYC's authenticity; but wait, Toronto also has very good Italian restaurants; in fact, Italian food in Hong Kong is also very good! Yup, they taste the same everywhere. But hey, that also means you can't go wrong anywhere. Even Edinburgh! Anyway, highly recommended restaurant.

Takkatsu: I was tempted to add my own review in citysearch. If there were a score, it needs to be a 9.6 and nothing lower. Here's a decent review. Let me start by recommending two dishes, which was recommended to me by Mr. YM, who commented that Takkatsu was the best pork cutlet restaurant in the US. Talk about high expectations! They were met with ease. My recs are the same as Mr. YM's: the crab croquette and #3 on the entree list, which is Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet) made from black pork. Also decent on the menu is the agedashi tofu (great sauce) and #5 on the entree, a slightly more meaty pork cutlet choice. The succulent pork obviously does the magic, but I should also give credit to the katsu sauce. If I had a bottle of that stuff, I think there will be a few meals with only white rice and sauce... hmmm... Anyway, I wish I could try all the other options at some point. No worries, I'm definitely going back for more. My only complain? Lack of desserts options.

The week after exams...

Man, what a waste. I finished exams on Monday but accomplished absolutely nothing since then. It was a remarkable coincidence that the week had to be freaking freezing in Chicago. I can't wait till I can ski. Anyway, for most of the week, I found myself being trapped in my apartment. There was an odd reluctance to reach out to friends (besides an excellent Italian meal on Monday night after the exam... more on that later, I hope), so I ended up staying home doing miscellaneous stuff all day. But, really, there's a reason why they are called miscellaneous: there isn't that much of it.

With alone time came lonely time; with lonely time came reflection time. It isn't bad, I guess, though sometimes it can overwhelm me. I've mentioned that the quarter has been strangely unsatisfying. That feeling magnified during the freezing week. In particular, I reflected quite a bit on how much I've changed and why I have become who I am now.

Take my reluctance to reach out during the week. Why is that? Hong Kong and Tufts me would have certainly reached out way before any boredom materialized. In fact, I was always the one organizing events for my friends, being the good host during parties, working the crowd... I guess I still do some of that, but not nearly as much as I used to. When I delved deeper, I find that, now, I only do those things when I'm "official," when I have the responsibility to do them. No more volunteering.

I attribute some of it to age. With age comes the more mellow me. However, mellow usually doesn't lead to me sitting alone at home when I could have called friends. As uncomfortable an answer it was, I found that Alan has really contributed to this particular change. Maybe it's being afraid of being too close; maybe it's not wanting to have too much fun... to be honest, I can't really articulate it clearly(which makes me feel bad... cus I'm not trying to blame it on some intangible), but the subconscious me seems to know.

Unfortunately, the subconscious me doesn't wake up during blog writing. So, to review the week: I worked on my website (check out!), read some books, got hostals set up in Galapagos, laid out finances for the next year (I'm so broke; thank you MBA), typed up my Scotland trip (uploaded), checked out possible courses to take next quarter (I have only one, sigh), and made one small step closer to photo lessons thanks to Huckle Cat. Now if only I had the time to actually take those classes.


Bait Ball

I love coming home at 3am, turning the TV on, and getting good programs on Animal Planet. I've seen this episode before (Called "Massive Nature," shmoo, not "Blue Planet") before and blogged about it. Yesterday's viewing was from the beginning though. The particular segment that I stayed awake to watch was the sardine bait ball. (Come on, even at 3am, the mention of a sardine bait ball should always excite you)

The dolphins separated the pack of sardines (called a bait ball) from the main pack by blowing bubbles into the pack of fish. Afterwards, the sharks, birds, and seals joined in. The rest you can see in my previous post. The program concludes that "becoming separated is what made these fish vulnerable" and that the sardines' doom was facilitated because "these predators have ignored each other (because of how easy it is to hunt sardine bait balls)".

So... stick with the pack. If you show weakness, every one will want a piece of you.



I forget that MBA costs money...

Oh well, that's what those loans are for...

I'm going on the GSB ski trip... then Galapagos... Yes, I'll need those loans.

I just realized that a bunch of my colleagues are going to be studying abroad next quarter... I knew a few of them would, but I didn't really realize the extent of it. It's going to be a lonely winter in Chicago!

I'm so bored.


$12,000 well spent!?

Some fellow classmate commented that my blog has been reduced to food and movie (read: fun) reviews since the middle of the quarter. Quite true, perhaps, because those things inspire me to write. There are other things that inspire me to write, but they may not be appropriate in this forum. Anyway, back to the blog.

Chicago is freaking cold now. I went from T-shirt in Boston to full ski gear in Chicago. It was so cold outside that I had brain freeze from just walking outside. And my bathroom door frame shrunk (seriously, due to coldness) and I almost got stuck in the bathroom. I've also never swore that much while walking alone. I hope the slopes aren't this cold...!

Corporate Finance - for all the hoola about the GSB being a finance school, this class is quite disappointing for many who have no background in finance. The teacher is actually above average, and yet sometimes he just looses the class. I can't really identify exactly what I learned from the class, which is my biggest beef with it. There should be some tools I can take home, but there weren't many (which is good for my finals, actually). Instead, what I think I learned was some very high level views on the world of financing. In fact, this is probably quite typical of what the GSB is about... giving you some high level tool kits and see what you can do with it. Didn't like this class that much, but intrigued by the subject nonetheless.

This also happens to be the only class this quarter in which I got cold called. Arg. My finals were quite disastrous, I think, but could go either way since I kept pulling sh!t out of my behind. For high level things, these may work. If I get an A, it will be the biggest insult in the Chicago education system. I don't really want a C though...

Negotiations - some have called this "an extention of LEAD." I have to disagree. One way to judge a class is from the finals, which was a group paper on an actual negotiation process. I'm not sure how the professor is going to grade it, but I have to say that I learned a lot from writing the paper. It consolidated what we've learned all quarter and addressed each tool one by one. Much more than LEAD.

I loved this class. I think every MBA should take some form of this class. You could argue every part of life is about negotiations... (uh oh, this is wandering into LEAD world) so this class is going to be useful at every part of life. =) haha. Seriously, I think a lot of people, like myself, went into the class skeptical. But through all the actual negotiation exercises, many of us realized that there is, in fact, some science behind negotiations. If we are able to break down the elements like we do in class, we can influence the negotiations in our favor. And that's all I ask in life: to had the odds stacked for me and not against me.

Organizational Change - heavy class discussions about nothing solid always makes a class fun... if the teacher and the students have all done their jobs. I'd say 90% of the time the class is in good flow and that we're learning a quite a bit. It's a VERY soft class, basically about how to make change happen - from motivation to creativity to gaining buy in to admitting mistakes to assessing blame in times of failure. Did I learn a set of frameworks that I can use? Perhaps. Was it worth my time? Absolutely. Would I take it again? Most likely. Would I recommend it to you? Only if you are interested in understanding how organizations work.

It's that kind of class.

Chicago Asia Pacific Group - this might as well be a class. haha. I loved everything I did for them.


Why AG?

It was a very odd feeling walking around AG and chatting with the various people that I still know. On one hand, I have made the decision to follow my goal all along; on the other hand, I am witnessing what I will miss out on.

For many people, returning to the old firm usually means visiting a few people here and there. For me and AG, it's from the CEO to the analyst that I helped hire out of undergraduate. It's no surprise that I spend a whole day at AG every time I visit.

Perhaps I will do this for shmoo... why AG is the right firm.

For any consulting firm, it starts from the people. Obviously, they are all nice people: friendly, helpful, driven, sharp, smart, etc etc. With a mix of PhDs and MBAs, AG avoids the typical cut throat career path that many other consulting embrace. It's a very intellectual/ academic/ collegial place to work. Everybody seems to be having fun and enjoying life.

Workwise, fundamentally, all AG hires like to do problem solving with the data at hand. Because of the nature of the work (consulting for law suites), there is very little pressure to find an answer to please. Rather, it's finding the right answer and doing it correctly. Highly intellectual yet not too much pressure from the clients. I would venture to say that dollar per pressure is very very high among the similarly paid.

So why am I not heading back? Because the location (Boston) isn't right now. More importantly, which brings me back to the nice things about AG, is that the door is always open for me to return.

Needless to say, I'm very grateful for what AG has done for me the person and my career. It's sad to walk around the Boston office saying "I'm not coming back" and goodbye to people that I truly care about. Yet, I'm very happy that I went through AG in my life. For every thank you I received from AG, I also want to thank them back. It was a great run.


Boston Review

Picture from Carlton Hill, Edinburgh...

Someone doesn't like me mentioning Oishii... I wonder who he/she is... man, it makes me hungry just thinking about it. Other things that make me hungry are all the places I got wined and dined at this weekend. Oh, Boston, how I miss you; nostalgic again; Boston is a pretty nice city when it's warm... which was odd given that it's already December. Anyway, the important stuff... chronologically:

Grafton Street - yummy recommendation from the cooking stories. She never disappoints. The seafood was excellent: I ordered a pan seared salmon that was cooked to perfection while cooking stories ordered a scallop dish that was so good it beat my dish. Good start to the food in Boston. The dessert menu included pecan pie... but somehow we resisted that temptation. Passing by Bartley's was cool too, I smelled the grease and was almost tempted to go in for a burger and a milk shake. Oh, the milk shake. It was closed, so I saved my body a little bit.

Mentei - lunch with an old friend. This little noodle shop is tucked away in the middle of Newbury Street (if that's possible) and is always popular with Japanese students in the area. Excellent noodles as usual. The pork cutlet was excellent, and the noodles were nice, although the soup base was a bit salty towards the end.

Oishii - sorry, I can't resist. But... I also wanted to clarify a bit that my dinner, while excellent, was not as good as I expected. The fatty tuna sashimi made my day, but I have to say the other items were not as good as I remembered.

The Palm - although The Palm is everywhere (there's one right beside my home), I've never been there. The lunch didn't disappoint at all. I took a sliced tenderloin that turned out quite surprising. The sauce was some peppercorn variation and it complimented the beef very well. The "The Palm's Famous Cheesecake" was the common choice over the other dessert option and it was very good. The slightly sweet crust was expecially tasty.

Fleming Steakhouse - Supposingly the best steak in Boston, they served a medium to me rather than the mediem rare that I wanted. Didn't complain or ask for a change. Anyway, even the medium steak was pretty good. At the end, I took a slice of medium rare and that was much better. Arg. Should have asked for a change. As a result, I can't comment on the steak; my imagination says it's really really good. Is it Gibson good...? Have to compare on dessert.

Dessert was interesting... I ordered the creme brulee, still my personal measuring standard for steak house dessert. (Shula's still has the best - from 3 years ago) And had a great discussion with one of the offerees on the quality of this one. We agreed on everything: the creme was too think and the crust was not heated enough for the sugar to melt, resulting in little sugar crystals getting stuck in between our teeth. Needless to say, my current comparison places Gibson's over Felming.

But this brings me to another point. I love having food with other people who appreciate food. I'm no food expert or connoisseur (maybe just on a few food items), but having the creme burlee discussion with the other offeree was fun. Maybe it's too hard on the food, but at least someone knew how to evaluate the food we were eating and not blindly submitting to the price.



Oishii... finally, I come back to you. I had so much sushi I had food coma. Ironically, really not the best result from having sushi. Oh well. It was good. Especially the fatty tuna sashimi... it melted in my mouth. The spider roll was a little disappointing, though the taco sushi more than made up for it. There's a South End version of Oishii as well, but I really just wanted to go to the old place where I met Teddy Bruschi. Good times, good times. Maybe if I have a chance I will go to the South End Oishii... but for now, let me sleep in food coma.

Twas a great day in Boston.