Spring Quarter, First Week

It's nice to see everybody back from abroad, including the elusive Meghaks and BSLW. Now Spring quarter begins. I can't even imagine how much slacking I can do...

After Power & Influence on Monday, I had Managing in Organizations on Tuesday morning. Epley is a high energy guy who will jump into the lecture seats and then back to behind his computer. Like other OB classes, I can't really pin point as to exactly what is being taught. haha. Just kidding... the class tries to bridge the difference between what one should do and what one actually does. Since there is a difference between the two, it is essential that one understands the reasons behind the difference and correct it if one can.

I audited Thaler's class at night. For non-GSBers, Dick Thaler's class is the most demanded class at the GSB. His first class was a disappointment... perhaps because I've heard most of the concepts before. I will give him one more chance.

Wednesday I don't have class, but I was still on campus to present to OMSA on how the Dim Sum Sake Tasting Festival went and prepare for Hong Kong Commissioner's visit to the GSB. Both went quite well.

Thursday was the killer day to end the week (no class on Friday).

Pricing's Dube drank WAY too much coffee before he came to class. He speaks too loud, too fast, and too much. Oh wait... that's not coffee. That's how he usually behaves. I'm pretty sure the class was lost at a few moments on insignificant points and we kept spinning in circles trying o answer a simple question. Anyway, I'm a firm believer that the professor makes all the difference. Dube is enthusiastic so I have hope.

Strategy and Structure promises to be a pretty good class. I have yet another semi-crazy professor in Bothner. The class is of course about strategy and how to determine strategy for a company given the situation (yup, sounds strangely like OB classes!). The contents of the class is pretty good, but the best part is when Bothner manages the case discussion. He snaps and he yaps at answers that aren't good, then may or may not insult you. Semi-correct answers and acknowledged and then dismissed. Correct answers allow the class to move on. No extra answers, no extra bullshit. My favorite.


Last GSB Quarter

It's sad to start the Spring quarter.

Here's the schedule:
Monday afternoon - Power and Influence with Menon
Tuesday morning - Managing in Organizations with Epley
Thursday afternoon - Pricing with Dube
Thursday night - Strategy and Structure with Bothner

So it should be a very promising quarter. Today's P&I class was pretty good. There was a decent discussion on how to correctly measure and view power. Also, a particular interesting topic that came up is hard skills vs. soft skills. Despite GSB's reputation for being hardcore on the hard skills, I've always been a believer of the acquisition of both types of skills. GSB indeed gives us a very solid background in hard skills and has less respect for softer skills. However, hard skills can only get you so far... the higher up you go, the more people you will deal with, and the more soft skills you'll need.

So P&I will be a soft class. =) Good.


Cozumel in 5 days

More details and pictures here... though the time stamp approach is fun too!

3/18 5pm - departure
3/18 9pm - arrive in resort: this is why we chose Cozumel, nice and close!
3/18 930 - you can't beat buffet dinner
3/18 10 - it's impossible to beat free booze all night
3/19 10am - buffet breakfast... along with free booze
3/19 12pm - sail
3/19 130 - lunch buffet... along with free booze
3/19 3pm - beach, read, drink, sunbath
3/19 5pm - beach bar closes
3/19 501 - move to pool bar
3/19 6pm - after three Pinas and a tequila shot, pool bar closes
3/19 830 - wake up from "nap" and go to steak dinner
3/19 10pm - drink at reception bar
3/19 1130 - off to Senor Frogs, a club in downtown Cozumel
3/20 2am - back at the resort, somehow made it back to the room
3/20 8am - scuba diving class... with hangover
3/20 1pm - scuba diving in Cozumel reefs
3/20 5pm - beach
3/20 7pm - dinner buffet!
3/20 9pm - let the drinking begin
3/21 10am - beach
3/21 12pm - attempt to windsurf
3/21 1215 - admit defeat, try to swim back to shore
3/21 2pm - finally got back, damn it
3/21 330 - Sail
3/21 4pm - Beach
3/21 7pm - nap
3/21 830 - dinner at steakhouse
3/21 945 - Black Russian
3/21 10pm - 1st tequila shot
3/21 1001 - 3rd tequila shot
3/21 1030 - 4th tequila shot
3/22 800 - buffet breakfast, with lots of grapefruit to sober up
3/22 930 - depart for airport
3/22 7pm - back safely at home


Double Dipping Movies again

I love AMC River East. I don't even feel remotely bad by double dipping in this theater. There's no guard against whatsoever and people are just roaming along. I hope they don't read this blog. Or... you could make a pretty good business case that this would attract movie goers to this theater because of the possible double viewing. Since theaters make money on concessions and not the movie ticket itself, they don't really care at all. Theaters just want you there for as long as possible so you can buy stuff to eat and drink. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is the case and all theaters should relax restrictions. Have I ever mentioned that I have a perfect way of catching double dippers...? Yet I digress.

Zodiac: I walked out of the movie slightly unsatisfied because (spoiler alert!!!) the crime remained unsolved. It's like a 3 hour law and order episode that has one of those ambiguous endings. Anyway, performances were quite good, and I do miss Goose (Top Gun). I haven't decided if I can recommend this movie. I say it's pretty good if you have the right expectations going in. I expected a crime thriller with some dramatic climax that reveals the real killer. No such thing. Quite a mellow movie, really.

Namesake: I just wanted to say first that I can't really imagine Kumar being in any other character. And that was that. Uh, the theater was filled with Indian parents with their own teenagers. EK and I fit in nicely as minorities. Anyway, I hope the book was much better than the movie. The movie is about people finding their paths; but sadly, it fails completely in convincing me of anything. In fact, the movie left me hanging at many points where the characters just move on and there wasn't any substance that developed. Maybe this is because I can't relate...? Not recommended.


Back from Cozumel

Cozumel must be one of the first trips I took that was purely for leisure. Say no to hectic travel schedules. Say no to activities after activities. Say no to scouting good restaurants. Say no to historical Mayan sites. Say no to picture taking all the time. Say no to reading Lonely Planets beforehand.

Say yes to All-Inclusive Resort. More on this later...!

Here's a picture of us (right to left: PP, myself, and HR) scuba diving at the beautiful reefs of Cozumel. Which reminds me... diving may be the only circumstances where I enjoy taking pictures of people more than the scenery.


Post Final Syndrome

It's fitting that St. Patty's day fell right after finals. I watched them dye the Chicago river green at 11am on Saturday, very cool. From my apartment, I can also see everybody carrying a drink. 11am! Anyway, I ended the day at a salsa club with way too much alcohol in my system. Just in time for Cozumel, I say!

Reviews that are due:

The Last King of Scotland - great movie. Forest Whitaker won a best actor award in it. The Scot in the movie isn't bad either. Walking out of the theater, I struggled to find what was so good about the movie. Maybe it's the development of the Scottish kid. Starting as a brash, confident, naive kid, he left Africa as the complete opposite.

Coco Pazzo Cafe - great Italian food. I ordered a very salty meat dish... but the clam linguine smelled great (garlic always does the job) and was very tasty as well. Dessert, as usual, is my weakness and was very good.

Aria - this nice restaurant is tucked away right next to Columbus Plaza. The bar was really cool and I hope to visit it some time. Anyway, the food at Aria was okay. It's international fusion food, which should always raise some alarms. Oh well. The veal shank wasn't bad with masala. It wasn't great either. The atmosphere at the restaurant was great though, and the service was very good. Our waiter was quite lively and seemed ready to sing and dance. But... most important of all, I didn't bring my camera. Arg.

Goro-san - this man can cook.


Why not Hyde Park?

Here's why:

0800: just woke up... must finish both hand in finals before 4 today...
1000: two loops of ESPN, arg, time to head to campus to be efficient
1020: arrived safely in Hyde Park after following a slow Volvo for a frustrating long time (i.e. 5 seconds)
1030: settled into the Winter Garden, putting finishing touches on Mary Kay (Marketing channels)
1035: HB wanders over for a short chat
1050: CL wanders over for a short chat
1130: lunch at Noodles... their Singaporean noodles were okay and the Thai Ice Tea was pretty good
1230: back in HPC Winter Garden, continue Project Dial Tone case (Private Equity)
100: friend #1 comes over for a chat
110: friend #2 comes over for a chat
200: friend #3 comes over for a chat
215: Must study, move to student lounge
330: Done with case, print to hand in
520: Back in downtown
600: feeling empty and bored
601: nap
800: cook dinner... mmm... curry...
900: food coma
945: spotted friend on MSN, checked movie times, ask if she wants to see movie
955: agree on movie - The Last King of Scotland, showing at AMC River East at 10pm
1000: leave Columbus Plaza to head to the theaters
1008: arrive at theaters
1010: sit in comfy seats, previews just ended, movie starts (review later)

Yup, that's why I live downtown. It's close enough to Hyde Park (sounding scarily similar to 害怕k...). There are GSBers living around downtown. And... I could get a movie crew going in 15 minutes. We left Columbus Plaza at the movie start time and still made it in time! This would never happen in HP.


$12,880 well spent, especially the $880!

After a super relaxing finals week, I'm getting ready for Cozumel and Mexico. Yay!

Private Equity Finance with Zingales - this is a great class taught by a great professor. Definitely a class where I learned a lot of new material. It probably won't be useful in my next job just yet, but there are great takeaways from the class. One, for example, is that valuations don't matter that much. Relationships and all the qualitative stuff is what make or break a deal. Yup, very encouraging for the quant jock school GSB! But that's how I learned about entrepreneurs, angel funds, search funds, venture capital funds, stage funding, private equity funds, various buy-outs, etc etc. If it were all valuation, it would have been boring to me and I wouldn't have registered much. The approach Zingales takes is to breeze through the quant stuff and focus on relationships. Good idea, I say. He is very good at managing case discussions. Highly recommended for non-entrepreneurs (I hear entrepreneurs love Kaplan and Meadow for the more real world approach).

Business Policy with Davis - by far the most inspiring class I have ever taken at any level of school, although someone thinks the complete opposite. I knew it would be controversial. It's a very soft class with very little analytical thinking required (or so some thought). Anyway, the class teaches some business strategies, mostly from a leader's point of view. Davis then tries to push these strategies into your every day life. Sometimes he skips the business part and goes straight to how strategies would work for our personal lives. The final paper, 40% of our grade, is about our personal strategy looking into the future. It was one of the most difficult projects that I have undertaken. For business cases, you can reach an answer, right or wrong, and hand it in. When the case is about yourself, it'll never have the perfect answer. In fact, I finished the paper way ahead of time, read it the day before it was due, and decided that I would re-write the whole thing. This never happens with regular school work. I highly highly highly recommend this class for all those who have question marks about life. In fact, I think all MBAs should complete the final project regardless of whether they are taking this class.

Marketing Channels with Mitchell - this class bothers me quite a bit. The teacher is great and very enthusiastic about the subject. She manages case discussions very well. Yet there is something strangely unsatisfying about the class. Part of it is that the subject is the last P in the 4Ps, hence the least importance given by marketers. Another part of it is that channels is very foreign to most students (unlike advertising) and therefore is difficult to demonstrate the effects of it in real life. While case discussions were good, the actual tools taught in class (such as the elusive efficiency analysis) were rarely applied. Also, there were no international cases at all which would have been extremely interesting. The class has room for improvement as there is good material; more context must be given for students to appreciate it. Yes, we're very demanding. This class also features the gender bias exam. I'd recommend the class... the current format means that if you have to be really interested in marketing. With some changes, I think non marketers will enjoy the class as well.

New Venture Lab with Orion's Mind - it's not about the teacher, it's about the client. The only reason I would audit a lab class is because I liked the industry (education) and the client (Emily, she was great). The overall experience was very good and I learned A LOT about entrepreneurship, from their optimism and lack of scenario planning to understanding primitive financials. Just a phenomenal experience. If you are considering taking this class, I would say do it only if you find an industry that you are truly interested in. Highly recommended as well.

Photography I and II with Chicago Photography Center - level I in photography was eye-opening but not overly complicated. I knew some of the basic concepts and theories of photography, and the class helped me put everything in perspective and correct frameworks. Learning the actual effects of shutter speeds and apertures and experimenting on them was very helpful in my skills as a photographer. Did I get better from level I? Not really. What I did learn was that now I know how to experiment and anticipate what the pictures will look like even before taking the picture. We also learned about the relationship between the photographer and the subject: I bet this isn't taught in typical photo classes. Extremely helpful. Meanwhile, level II is a completely different animal. I'm learning dynamic ranges, gray cards, white balances... basic for pros but quite sophisticated techniques for me. Instead of photographic assignments, I get experimental assignments, which means I'm testing the camera instead of testing my skills. Great class. Highly recommended. No slight to the GSB, but I'm learning so much more from this class than my other classes! Best yet... it's only $440 per class!

Alas... the conclusion: take classes that you like... at least with those classes, you can take something away for yourself and feel that you have learned much more.


Marketing STP

Chicago State University is advertising during commercial breaks of South Park. What does this say about South Park viewers? Better yet, what does this say about potential Chicago State University?

I feel this will be a good HBS case that can illustrate how STP can go wrong (or right, who knows...?).

This whole week I've been able to work for one efficient hour, two inefficient hours, and three procrastinating hours every day. Good times. I love finals without exams.


Gender Bias Exams and Condoms

I have two finals both due on Thursday.

The first is for private equity and is a take home case exam on telemarketing acquisitions. I hate telemarketing. Why are my case finals all about products I don't like (frozen dog food, pharma, telecom, etc)? Anyway, I've mentioned that this class puts the fear in me; that sentiment has not changed. The qualitative analysis of the telemarketing industry was fairly straight forward, but the quantitative part of the case will be a challenge for me. Either way, the pain will go away soon.

The second is for the marketing channel class. This particular take home case is Mary Kay Inc., the direct sales beauty product company, and was written by Kellogg. I have to say the case sucks. The case writer didn't put a lot of information about Mary Kay; instead, there were data regarding the change of demographics in the US. I know nothing about beauty products. I can't even segment the market! AND the case doesn't even have that information! Nonetheless, I will BS my way through... and hope that the professor doesn't read student blogs.

Yup, hence my title: gender bias exams. If the case had sufficient information about the industry, I don't mind it. However, this MK case has very little information about the industry (most information is about the channel). Plus the exam instructions did not exclude information outside of the case, meaning that people familiar with MK are at a distinct advantage when it comes to this exam.

Anyway, I'm done bitching. In between taking breaks, which were in between brief spurts of studying, I bought a pair of shoes yesterday (for those who are keeping score, thats: study, break, shop, break, study), which led to this conversation:

Me: I bought shoes yesterday!
Nameless: Oh, how are they?
Me: Cole Haan, they are very comfy!
Nameless: How comfy?
Me: Fits like a condom, it's great.
Nameless: Condoms are comfy?

Despite finals, this is still a very relaxing week! Alright, back to beauty products. I can't wait to go to Cozumel. Hopefully can scuba dive a bit and also learn how to wind surf (again) and surf.


Eric also goes to White Castle

Hey, in my defense:
1. I have never been to White Castle
2. I just saw Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
3. It was my first time watching Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
4. It's finals week...
5. Did I mention it was also the first time I saw Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle?

Anyway, the burgers were disgusting. But the experience was good. And this might be the first time I've developed a craving while watching TV.

Also on the plate in the past few days were:

West Egg: can't beat greasy and oily brunch. Country Fried Steak and Grabowski are highly recommended. By the way, they have grapefruit juice too, so your entire sober up package is here.

Indian Garden: AS has been recommending this place since the start of the school year... uh... I mean start of LAST school year. I finally went with Shmoo, PP, IMa and his wife Elena. It was good. Rare in that it was Indian food that didn't put me to sleep. The Poori is highly recommended!

Sola: I'll let the pictures speak for themselves... this place beats Erwin's brunch. Plus there was plenty of light to take decent pictures. The waiters were freaking tall though.

French toast with marble sauce
White chocolate bread pudding

My dad called this morning and asked about my eating habits. I guess he's been seeing all these eating out pictures that he's getting worried. No worries, dad, I'm just not taking pictures of:
1. Instant noodles
2. Chuncky soup
3. 45 different forms of dumplings
4. Microwave dinner
5. BnJ pints

By the way, I just found out that Google Talk can be used to place pretty good calls to others who also use Google Talk. If you use Google's chat program within Gmail, you won't have this function. Anyway, fun stuff. Use it.

Back to finals. Arg. I had a very elaborate dream about going to Mexico and having my camera stolen. Not good times. I recovered it in my dreams, but still...


Sake Dim Sum Party

One of the best experiences I had in business school is that of student group leadership. With the conclusion of the Sake Dim Sum Party last Saturday, my tenure as a Chicago Asia Pacific Group co-chair has officially ended. I still have a few loose ends to tie up next quarter (including a visit by the CEO of JWT China!), but I'm basically done.

I must say that my experience with CAPG has been the most rewarding experience of all my business school endeavors. Yes, more than classes, TNDCs, poker games, ski trips, etc etc. Actually, the reason is quite simple: friends.

Some people in business school (such as p***y) think that student group co-chairs run the school and should do everything to enhance student life. Such motivation stems from love of power and also willingness to help respectively, which is great if it is the latter (I sincerely hope so!). Depending on your perspective, you could love the result or the process. I love the process.

So here's what I've learned from CAPG, all good for life:

1. Friendships. Not only did I make great friends with the co-chairs, I also made great friends with volunteers (thank you AW and TT, you guys are incredible). Having the chance to work closely with different people is great. And sometimes not so great, but hey... still got to know him or her!

2. Leadership. The best place to practice leadership is at a student organization. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You are dealing with different personalities, different type of events, different type of responsibilities, non-MBAs, the administration, budgets, etc. Yup, it's like a real business except that when you screw up, the administration comes to the rescue.

3. Network. Someone once commented that being a CAPG co-chair will limit your network in the Chinese population. Load of bull shit. Nothing will limit your network if you work for it. But being a co-chair does help the network with other co-chairs and also within your group.

4. Crisis management. I feel the rush when shit happens. Not that I want shit to happen, but those are times where everything is tested. And that is the essence of leadership: how can you turn crisis into opportunities? Either way, in such a protected environment as the GSB, it's the perfect place to practice crisis management!

5. Mentorship. I enjoy being mentored and mentoring. Giving something back to the community has been something that is missing from my resume because I prefer a more intimate form of mentorship.


Multiple Reviews on Everything!

So much to review... starting with all the work I faced, as discussed previously.

Personal Strategy: well, at least I kept my promise in doing some actual work. It's about 90% complete. I went through multiple versions and I think I have finally found the correct formula.

Marketing Channels: a mess to be cleaned up... and will be. I'm going to learn more about team dynamics and labor division than marketing channels from this project.

Orion's Mind: seems like the team is getting things together. Let's see how our audience will react to our proposals.

Private Equity Finance: yup, still open to a C... and it still puts the big fear (and hurt) in me.

Black Snake Moan: for those in the US, you may have seen those weird commercials with Sam L Jackson chains Christina Ricci. Well, I got to see the 2 hour version of it... with added bonus of watching Justin Timberlake act like a whimp... and uh... a very naked Christina Ricci. Anyway, I won't spoil the movie for you, but I liked it quite well. Not because of the nudity, but the simple premise of the movie.

PJ Clarke: it's just a sports bar. But the ribs were pretty good and, my god, the ice cream cookie was to die for.

Blue Water Grill: dinner on Sunday night was at the surprisingly tranquil Blue Water Grill. The Sea Bass was excellent. The Mahi Mahi was okay, though the Shiitake mushrooms more than made up for it. Dessert was a donut hole with molten chocolate inside and you dip it in vanilla sauce. Something called the lollipop... awesome.

Gibson's: this old school steakhouse never disappoints. I had the Chicago Cut and Pecan Pie for dessert. The Cut was a very juicy steak though there were sections of fat that was a bit disappointing. I guess you can't avoid those. One of the best done medium rares though, which I would argue as a lost art in steakhouses - too often than not they get too safe and over cook the meat.

Chinatown restaurant: why would I even credit them with a review. The new "Taiwanese" restaurant disappointed badly. I'm going to stick with Joy Yee's and Keung Kee.


Current Mood

Well, here's a good picture that described my current mood. I've been typing up my personal strategy paper (fascinating project from the Business Policy class) which is supposed to utilize strategies we learn from business and apply it to out own personal lives.

The picture is taken in Scotland, and you can see a couple in the lower right hand corner enjoying the sunset.


Apologies for the pictures from De La Costa

You can't see them because they are not jpg format. They are raw files. I wonder why Blogger cannot show raw files.

Oh well.


Marketing = Cult

So right now, I'm sitting in my marketing channel class, and it's showing a DVD clip about how marketing has changed... into a cult. It's no longer just an ad or a product. It's a life style and experience.

They then showed "cult members". Started with Falun Gong member and ended with Mac users. They were talking in the same wavelength though. Scary.

Okay, back to class.


Food vs. Work

Regardless of the work that I was facing, I went to De La Costa for some fine dining with a friend (Here's a prior review). Excellent stuff.

The restaurant has a very good ambiance and the food was great. Last time I went was limited to appetizers and tapas. This time we had the steakentre which was a good surprise. The dessert (some strawberry soufflé + chocolate mousse + avocado ice cream) was good and each separate item complimented each other very well. Too bad my pictures were very good.

Naturally, I have made no progress in any of my homework. Oh well. This entire week is going to be food dominated, ending with (hopefully) Gibson's on Monday night. Can't wait. Yup, and on the work front, I hope to get started on my personal strategy paper. I have a good idea on what exactly I want to write... so I guess that means I have no excuse to not make progress this week! Had a really rough class in photography - it felt like Corp Fin.

Anyway, here are some pictures to tickle your palate.

Hamachi Cerviche

Uruguarian Steak with Tempura Green Beans