If this blog were a Jeopardy category, it would be potpourri. As you can imagine, the political headlines this morning got my blood pumping as I walked downhill towards the Commuter Southbound bus stop. Said the journal "Bush pledged there will be no withdrawal from Iraq absent victory." One big thing about goals is that you have to have a metric to help you assess whether or not you've met them. According to the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq the definition of long-term victory in Iraq is "An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency." How do you measure defeating terrorists? Even the language is poor; "the terrorists"? What terrorists? Registered ones? The ones we currently know about? I'm no expert on this sort of thing but I highly doubt that there's like an "al Qaeda al night long" facebook group that we can hit up for names. Plus, in my mind defeating the terrorists is a catch-22...the capture or death of the last one will create innumerable new enemies of democracy. So, we are still basically languishing in a stay the course strategy with no attainable or foreseeable exit strategy. Awesome.
I also wanted to rant supreme on business (and I mean hard-core, business-school business) jargon. If I hear somebody describe the next step in a plan as actions "going forward" or discussing who "can talk to that" point, I will vomit. Probably on myself. Who talks like that? Don't be corporate drones, people! I think we just take ourselves a little too seriously "at the end of the day."
Next up: Michigan hoops! "Ha ha ha that's rich," you are probably thinking. "U of M hasn't participated in basketball since Chris Webber broke three major rules of that peach-basket game in one ill-fated play back in the nineties." NNNnnnnn sorry. Circle gets the square. I trekked down to a free game at Crisler Arena last night to watch the Wolverines face off against the Hurricanes (the only other nine letter mascot ending in 'ne' as far as I know) of Miami in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge. It was kind of crazy, because we kinda smacked them up. For serious! I think I might have to go watch some more games now because Big Blue is kinda fun to watch - they hustle and take charges and hit the O-glass and even had a pair of two-handed monster jams out of the half-court set.
Finally, today, a bit of irony. The spellchecker feature (OK, I'll just admit that I didn't know how to spell 'innumerable') on blogger.com doesn't recognize the word 'blog.' While you are pondering that, ponder this: tots are delicious.
I'm not really a movie theater guy - the prices at the Glen Cove Cineplex Odeon turned me off forever, I suppose. Luckily Ann Arbor just got a new (replacement) second-run theater and we gave it a trial run last night, taking in that one Steve Carrell movie "The 40 Year Old Virgin" for $1.50 each. It was funny but it was also nice to be at an empty theater, with a row (or 17 if we'd been so inclined) to ourselves.
Yesterday was also the day that I picked up a new framing, "Girl on the Phone" from an MSU art student in 1969. It turned out really well, as professionally framed art often does, and I'm really liking its presence on the wall over my console-ish table. It's a cubist, neo-modern, woodblock-print that people will have to come to see.
Welcome back to Ann Arbor for the second half of the second half of the first half of the first half of a Ross MBA.
Ridiculously short vacation recap: Turned 25. No root beer float (yet, thanks Mert) but deep fried turkey, baked turkey, baked ham, two excellent toppings, two vastly different movies, two Great Lakes, two drives in two types of inclement weather, and too little time. The highlight was likely a Lake Superior shoreline walk in what I like to call 'Michigan Saturday weather' (ie outstanding, sun-drenched goodness) on The Castle, or Lots I & II.
Ridiculously short commentary on what went down while I was out: GM faux-cut 30,000 jobs. Clearly I'd think about this differently if I knew somebody whose livelihood was in jeopardy, but as a Big Three advocate and GM owner I would like to see the General cutting things that it hasn't already cut. Re-announcing shift reductions and plant closings that were front page news in July does not fill me with good feelings about the direction of the company. In other news, people died on the slippery roads over Thanksgiving. This makes me sad but it is a close correlation with our acceptance of sub-par driving (and many other things) on a regular basis. From Belleville in the south to Munising in the north, there was too much speed, too few turn signals, and too little respect given to the weather. Driving on slippery roads is tough enough without people charging by on both sides of a UP passing lane - nevermind doing so without a blinker or a buffer of a few feet. I grew up with "watch out for the other guy" in my ear and it paid off bigtime this weekend. Next year, we're travelling by boat.
I played MBA hoops again last night - good fun despite inexplicably tired legs. Everyone present was lamenting the exhausting nature of the half-week, wondering if we could have survived three more days. and trying to figure out why it was so rough. The games were fun, even though the shots weren't falling for anybody. It felt like a cold winter night just before break... cue flashback to driving the Jeep up to late-night post-football-practice practice at RRHS. Earlier in the week we played S3 v Section 2 whirly ball, which left me a bit sore, maybe that was it! Whirly ball. That's quite a rig. Bumper cars and jai alai and lacrosse and basketball all in one. It's total chaos and totally fun, but watch for the lap-belt induced bruises.
The wintry weather has arrived right on schedule: just in time for TG travel. Despite snow-swept roads and chilly low temperatures, we're headed north. It's nice to be leaving at noon, though, and hopefully we'll beat weather and traffic to the other peninsula. Either way, it is time for vacay.
The midterm went off without a hitch, I think. Luckily for me I am a strong believer in the Dombrowski Deferral: 'I do not talk about exams after the exam because no good can possibly come from the conversation.' When you think about it, Nick is really right. At the moment I leave the testing facility I am the most confident in my score - even if I think I missed a few points, these are finite and known. In talking with other people, though, even if I get some confirmation of what I did correctly, I haven't added to my internal score-estimate. Conversely if some doubt is cast on my work, the internal tally drops. The crux of the issue is that you might as well believe the best as long as possible, so why is everybody asking me what I thought or what I did on #2?
Classes at Ross seem muted today by events past and future, although people really don't seem to be in a huge hurry to bail. It's a strange time in part because many international students are essentially taking a three day break from classes and little else, while some national students have families here and will stay. The actual traveling numbers of MBAs are fairly low, which nullifies the urgent sense of packing and impending travel that Webb breaks always had.
Feet back on the ground after the weekend. Despite my best efforts to be a dutiful, diligent fan - a trip to the Bus, a meal at the UMBSA Tailgate, Blue-ing Out, cheering with various (ironically maize) implements, and believing we would win - the Varsity fell short, again. Three losses in the last 0:53 of games this season, including two at home, made for a loooong walk back up the hill from the Big House.
The rest of the weekend was good; Jenelle and I watched "Bridge on the River Kwai" on Saturday in an effort to boost our knowledge of the classics, shopped for a sofa a little bit on Sunday, played Scrabble in the evening, and generally took it pretty easy.
Today is FIN503 midterm day. I'm not too stressed. As Josh pointed out at M-Trek Monday Huddle, though, this means you are either over-prepared or not prepared enough to be scared. Thanks to don't pointing that out earlier, buddy! Interestingly I have two scheduled events after the 7:00 pm conclusion of testivities: Go Blue! Rendezvous hospitality committee meeting (for which I'm not sure how I got involved) and S3 Whirly Ball. Late nights are good nights, I guess, but when am I going to get my pre-reading done for Thursday? No, seriously! When?
A day of studying invariably leads to some straying from work via the internet. Today churned up a throwback reminder to look in on our mighty little Mars Rovers. Spirit and Opportunity are both chugging away, whirring electrically across the Red Planet, abrasing rocks and beaming pictures back for all to share.
Finally, a thought about the USA Patriot Act. I wouldn't consider myself to be a civil liberties nut (though others may) but I saw a bumper sticker this weekend that hit home because it imparts wisdom from another time on our ever-more-wary society. As I've long lamented, terror is not beaten in the sense that it can be monitored and scouted and snuffed out once it becomes organic, and to attempt this is fruitless. Now I have a Winston Churchill quote to corroborate my sentiment:
Those who would trade a little freedom for a little security will soon find they have neither.
TMI and other manufacturing-minded peeps piled onto a big blue Michigan bus this morning and drove over to General Motors' Lansing Grand River Assembly plant for a tour. This is my first true production line in the purest manufacturing sense. Process lines I have seen before, production processes I've seen before, but the majestic moving assembly line was a first. GMLGRA builds some of my favorite cars, too (Cadillac CTS, STS, and SRX), so that was an added bonus. My manufacturing knowledge tells me that this factory is a great start for GM's implementation of lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System but being on the floor leaves you with the idea that they have a ways to go. Zero inventory? Not there yet? Zero defects? I counted about 30 'finished' cars in a sick bay with repairs starting at "squeaky deck lid" and ranging up. The andon, kanban, kaizen approaches have been implemented and are in use with the right attitude (a problem is a chance to improve!) but there are still problems related to quality that get passed down the line. The hard pill to swallow is that this is probably GM's best facility, building their top-of-the-line cars. It's hard to guess what the plant that shared the site must have looked like cranking out Malibus, Grand Ams, and Cavaliers until last summer.
Last night was Ross' irreverent sketch show rock 'n roll b-school. It was a pretty funny event. Highlights were "The Enron Song" (a Weezer cover wondering 'do you want to use my shredder?'), "God Bless the BBAs," the sketch "The Interview," and the video "Class Break." A familiar crowd was on hand and everybody seemed to be having a good time.
This afternoon I've been cleaning house a little bit and gearing up for the weekend. I'm so fired up for tomorrow that it seems like a total waste of time even having this evening and a Saturday morning. They are favored and we are hungry, which is the recipe for a great game. GO BLUE.
Today's random topic involves the composition of these posts. Well, not so much their composition but rather the post-posting modification of them. As I occassionally revisit things, I find typos and comma splices and other errati that glide through in the somewhat pell-mell keyboard frenzy that is blogging. My internal struggle is whether or not to change these things, and for now my instinct is "no." There's something about the transcript matching what was said (listen up, Mr. Scott McLellan of "That's correct" morphs into "I don't think that is correct" fame) that is just the way things have to be. If errors find their way into the written record so be it! They stay.
A big night preceeded this day. I was down at the IM building until 12:30 hooping it up and I'm paying for that burst of youthful energy this morning. It was fun though, even if my defensive quicks (those which I had, at least) are totally shot. I can hit the jumpers and find the cutters and whistle passes anywhere, but I can't stop a jab step crossover move to save my life.
It was like the first rainy, cold day of winter here and that cast a sort of pall over the school. Shoes squeak and drippy umbrellas fill up under-desk spaces, but mostly those few inter-class moments are pretty much spent indoors and away from the windows. At home I feel, because of the bald trees I think, like it should already be snowy midwinter. Word from those who know is that snowy late fall might arrive tomorrow.
Boeing launched the new 747-8 today, which signals the continuation of one of the great legacies in product design. I like the 747 family because it remains the fastest jetliner. It's the most recognizable airplane flying today. It's been the queen of the skies for 36 years, inspiring travel for the masses since the age of TWA and Concorde. That's the biggest accomplishment to me, that this marvel of engineering took to the skies so long ago and has remained relevant across the decades.
Plenty to post, but the documentary "Wal-Mart: High Cost of a Low Price" is the most prominent thing on my mind. The whole Wal-Mart scenario is just a pathetic bunch of fallacies, selfish premises, and misleading contradictions; in 2004 employees contributed $5 million to a personal rainy-day fund for employees having hard times, while the Waltons (net worth $102 billion) pitched in $6,000. Yip. That's the equivalent of a teacher giving less than a quarter..of a penny. CEO Leo Scott boasts that by sharing a New York hotel room with the CFO over $200 was saved by shareholders. Yip. The same Leo Scott that made $27 million. It's not that they are cheap, it's that they are fundamentally greedy. The whole lot of them.
Other than that it was a finance day. I worked on a problem set, then a case, then with a partner on the case, then with a team on the problem set, and then assembled and submitted the finished problem set. In between all that I had an initial meeting about the Art on View website that Abby and I are going to put together to highlight Ross's art collection. It's funny to work with a creative mind on things (or any mind other than my own, for that matter) because you see things differently from start to finish. Be it colors and contrasts or objectives and tie-ins, there is a whole order of bright ideas that need an opposite-brained person to see the light of day.
There wasn't a flyover by two F-14s from South Carolina like yesterday, the wind wasn't sheltered by the enormity of the Big House, and there was no band, but the MBA football season wound down this afternoon. We played section four...their whining and rough play took much of the enjoyment out of the afternoon. There were also a couple of errant passes that got picked off, which took even more of the enjoyment out of the afternoon for me and S3 lost by 7.
posted at 9:33 PM - comments
Saturday, November 12, 2005
It has been a few days but there's still not a ton blog about. Friday was all about TMI dining tutorial, studying, a talk from the leader of the Viper project at Dodge, then dinner with Jenelle and home to watch Amelie. This morning was UMBSA kegs and eggs tailgate and UM-Indiana in the Big House...a drubbing in front of a pre-Big Ten season crowd of 109 and a half. In the afternoon, more finance homework, then Monty Python and now SNL. The week felt busy from start to end but the amount of blogging material was much lower at the end.
posted at 11:24 PM - comments
Thursday, November 10, 2005
It's the tail end of MBA1, Fall B, week 2. Sadly, Thursday night means TMI's MFG501 core class instead of UMBSA Happy Hour, which I could really go for. We just got a(nother) 'don't cheat' lecture from a professor and that puts a damper on the whole afternoon.
Yesterday was good; our marketing presentation went extremely well. I've given a few presentations but never had as many people come up afterwards and say something positive. Then catching up on some career-spondence and helping with Food Fight flier distribution, btb for lunch, and MTrek kickoff meeting. In the evening, dinner with Jenelle. Not only had it been three days since I'd seen Jenelle, it had been three days since I'd eaten a meal at a table like a human. Today was good, too, despite late-breaking developments. I took care of MTrek business this morning, went to class, got set up for the work that lies ahead, and had lunch with a career contact from Boeing.
Lately there's been some discussion of 'the second tier' within perspecive companies, and I'm beginning to feel that I might be there. Plus, Brunswick is sniffing - I got a call from somebody who 'wants to chat.' I don't really know what that means, but I suspect that Brunswick Boat Group would be perhaps more interested in my background than some others. That's two companies, though, and I think you could add Textron to the list, but three doesn't seem like enough. Then it's on to outside searches; my feelings on this topic are mixed because my tendency would be to run back rather than forward but I'm not sure that this aligns with my desire to move into a 'more progressive' industry.
Technically speaking, this is an outdoor blog. I'm sitting in the courtyard of the library - the Portico - with the M-Trek core team camping out to raise awareness. We'll be here overnight, which is extra fun given that the weather forecast holds a 90% chance of severe thunderstorms (a watch) and 1.5" hail.
Busy, busy day here at Ross. My MO group's "LEA" honky-tonk, ba-donka-donk, quasi-zonk slide was a moderate hit...Sutcliffe called us out with saying the sound bytes from Section 5 were great, despite instructions not to vary from the slide template. The marketing; sigh. We met with the TA, worked around the PowerPoint deck we've put together, and hashed over the presentation. TMI had a module at six, which taught me how to lead change but didn't help me get the quantitative parts of the slideshow done. Then back to the library for a two hour wrap-up MKT session before heading to the Portico for cider and cookies.
Business school is life out of a backpack. I snapped up a Jansport laptop-specific, crunch-proof, multi-pocket, ergonomically-enhanced, lunch-pocket-enabled doozy of a backpack about 14 months ago and man am I ever glad. That thing carries, quite literally, my life for 14 hours a day. Laptop, wallet, keys, phone, food, books, and calculator all jam in there. Today from 8 until now it has contained everything that I need for a day in the life.
Life outside of my backpack included mostly just marketing - marketing and finance. The two main elements of my day were marketing, finance, and M-Trek...are the three things I did today. Along with eating a pasty. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition but more often than not if they would just check their Outlook calendar they would see that the Spanish were inquiring today. Five trans-Ross shuffles during the day seemed to take up more spare time than I had, but with whispering all afternoon on the silent floor of Kresge and a late-evening team meeting I think we got our marketing project into a good place...but the credit goes, strangely, to the finance team that bailed me out this week.
Team stuff continues to be a good source of bloggage. When I think about teams these days I think about my first NA570 project team last year - the Coasties and I hammering out a coastwise ATB in rapid fashion. Parsons took the time to actually form balanced, pre-evaluated teams, whereas 'down here' teams are slathered together like old shingles on a deer camp roof and the decrease in team function is profound. One of my biggest takeaways from grad school will definitely be the optimizing power of creating teams instead of making teams.
An alert reader forwarded a great article about the civil rights movement vis-a-vis the Rosa Parks post from last week. It's a think piece on the origins of movements; Parks as spontaneous hero contrasted against Parks and others as the foundations of something revolutionary.
S3 is slowly but surely developing a reputation as the forfeit section. Three faithful threes trotted out to Elbel Field today for ultimate frisbee and were quickly removed from contention. We thought about taking them on, but 3 versus 7 is bad odds and so we forfeited. Lucky for those who came out, the other teams are usually pretty stoked to play so we got to go for two games, filling in with another section who was short and needed subs. It's frustrating, though, because S3 holds (literally) about one third of all of the club leadership positions - clearly these are 70 peeps who want to get out and participate, just not at sport apparently.
Not a whole hoo-ha else going on today. Sure there were funny editorials with narrow-minded views over at the Daily Mess. Yes I had a team meeting. Of course there was emailing. As usual, I squeezed in some work even though I didn't want to. None of this stuff makes for good blogs, though. I guess I'll just have to have a great weekend, don our wigs on Saturday night, tear up Almendinger Park at the flag football playoff game on Sunday, and get back to you.
"Before" is a four letter word. Everybody, everywhere, with everything to do with the years prior to their arrival at Ross simply abbreviates this mysterious pre-experience as 'before.' This wasn't my area before. My experience before was this. I did this before and here are my thoughts. This doesn't make any sense to me, but I'm beginning to see that the reason is simply that nobody cares. This apathy is a mixed bag; Ross becomes, for better or worse, the defacto defining moment in your life by erasing the relevance of all other moments, professionally speaking. So unless you've saved a child from drowning in a river (Brian) or led relief efforts in an Acehnese town (Ian) or spent two years in the Peace Corps helping Bolivian women make yoghurt (Steve) your life begins at MLP now.
When people (mostly Amy, really) found out that I was going home to make cider over fall break, they were curious. Today, the curiousity ended with a refreshing breaktime snack of cider and doughnuts halfway through MO503. The deer apple, family cider mill, non-pastuerized blend whetted a half dozen whistles in the back row of the Michigan room and it was good.
Now it is 9 o'clock in the PM and I am multi-tasking like a madperson: career email, group email, group research, GSRA research, and blogging are all going on at once. It has occured to me that I may need to upgrade the RAM in my trusty hp nx9110 to keep up with the b-school pace of activity. Computers weren't designed with this level of student application loading in mind; NASA uses more power but they only run "MoonShotRocketGuide.exe" in their backroom. I've the six apps that make up the "MBA Fire Hose Suite" (Outlook, Firefox, Excel, PPT, Word, and WinAmp) running at the moment and the shuttling back and forth can bog things down.
Finally tonight, a mini-Rosa Parks tribute. People in southeast MI are pretty in tune with her passing and the significance of her life, but I think Al Sharpton parked the tribute, suggesting we should all be activists:
As long as I can, I'll speak out! When I can't speak out, I'll stand up! When I can't stand up, I'll sit in the way!
May we all be so brave.
posted at 8:46 PM - comments
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
It was a back and forth day, there's no way around it. Down south for class this morning, north for lunch, farther north for a meeting, then south for another meeting and a recruiting event.
Tonight's recruiting activity is of interest; Brunswick is here for internship presentations for last year. I was checking out their profile and there are some serious NavArch/MEng/MBA/MC job possibilities throughout that organization. In the grand recreational marine industry this has to be the only domestic company that offers that sort of opportunity, so I'm interested. Plus, I have to think that I'm going in with a bit of an edge on the other MBAs. I mean sure, a boat is just a thing, but it cannot possibly hurt to know a ton of certified, accredited, degreed stuff about that thing.
For whatever reason - the times, the weather, the price of onions - I just can't really get into this whole Supreme Court nomination debate. But now, with a conservative man nominated (from the mold of Antonin Scalia says NPR) to replace a female swing vote, I'm getting into it. It would appear that as his approval rating drops, the President runs right - far right, like a toss sweep right. My fear is that if Mr. Bush's approval rating drops any farther he might wind up selecting one third of the Trinity to be on the Court. In Judges Scalia and potentially Alito, we have somebody who thinks about contemporary issues in an 18th century framework. As insightful, forward thinking, and robust as the Constitution is I find it dubious that Jefferson was explicitly against Internet trade. But that's a topic for another time.
Group deadlines are an interesting thing; all of mine are cropping up early. This means that I have a group thing next Tuesday and another next Wednesday and my semester is virtually over, work-wise, on Thursday. Sweeeeet.