It finally happened: the six month WSJ subscription that I used unusable frequent flier miles from a now-bankrupt airline to get back in July of last year has finally ended. I purposefully ignored the resubscription requests, even when the envelopes actually had a dollar bill in them, holding out for a free subscription to the online edition that I may just have to wait until fall to get. All the same, I'm going to miss grabbing my copy off the mail shelf in the lobby of 2200 Fuller and reading What's News on my way to the bus... that will always feel like b-school to me.
Kind of a quiet tail end of the week but for the first time in my life I am wishing for another weekday. In a few years I may reread this and cringe, but this week went by too fast to accomplish the things on my list. MAP analysis will spill over into the weekend, MTrek coordination and GBR arrangements will spill into evenings, weekends, and next week, and all else will cascade downward like a giant meta-physical chocolate fountain.
There have been milestones to celebrate, though, no matter how minor. An email last evening confirmed that we are 'go' for Art on View website content development via a database computer that has very limited access. The arrival of "Just Dune It" and "Viva Ross Vegas!" websites wraps up what was a long and often ill-timed Mtrek.org content creation season. And on the social front, calls and emails and web-based searches shored up plans for a June wedding/reunion gathering in Connecticut.
Extra thoughts today about being busy. Turns out I really like it. My jam-packed outlook calendar means that my life has purpose, however contrived it may be. I really like the organizations I'm involved with and believe in their objectives which makes uploading trek websites less of a drudgery and more of a funnery. Being in school isn't always totally awesome but it is generally pretty awesome, so one looks around and thinks busy is a lifestyle choice that bridges school with life. At Webb I remember evenings without specific entertainment being a daunting task ("Where is everybody? What's going on in the pub?") but with a backlog of things to do, in a rational blend of critical and not, there's literally never a dull moment. If I feel like kicking back in the evenings I can, but because I enjoy both activities I consciously self-select. Alternately if I have a spare minute and feel ambitious there's always something to work on that adds value to some entity, be it a person, project, or organization - and when I stand back to look at the situation I think that both sides will be better for it.
You can tell how visits went by the post-visit communications. From P&W, an unmarked tube of drawings and relative email silence. I expect that they expect we're here in Ann Arbor sitting quietly around some desks in the nerdery with our calculators. From Knoll, a great email about summer fun in the Lehigh Valley and some product brochures highlighting the company. I expect that they expect we're here in Ann Arbor wrapping up a tough semester and getting ready for an awesome summer.
It turns out that I'll be living less than five miles from the country's top velodrome in a cycling-crazy region, so I am decidedly stoked about that. (Plus there is an ice cream stand at the top of a huge hill south of town.) All in all I think living in the Lehigh Valley will be something of a return to roots, not that A2 isn't, but a chance to live a 'normal' life and take fuller advantage of the sporting goods that I enjoy using so much. Hiking and biking seem like they will be great options, as do evenings in the towns scattered among the valleys. I'm as much looking forward to finding a grassy spot to listen to the city band in Allentown as I am to getting on the bus to zip north to New York or south to Philadelphia.
A quickie post from Quakertown PA about the day that was. I got up in Michigan, got some stuff accomplished at home and then set off for DTW where I got some more stuff done before jumping on a shuttle down to Philadelphia. There I rendezvoused with Ryan and picked up a rental car for the journey north to Knoll.
Knoll is in an unassuming building right along a river in rural, agricultural Pennsylvania. Inside the buildings, though, are some awesome pieces of furniture and very enthusiastic TMI project sponsors. They shuttled us to a drug test and two apartment visits, the latter of which was very successful. Knoll has offered to cover rent in full if Ryan and I share a two bedroom/two bath corporate apartment, so we are going to do that at 'Brookfield' in Macungie - about 15 minutes from work and apparently just silly with cycling activity. I think after a day of getting a feel for life outside of work Ryan and I are excited about the prospects for a pretty fun summer; after tomorrow we will have come full circle and have the complete picture of the summer at work.
A weekend off in between two trips with an electronic rundown of the events of the past few days. The trip to P&W wound down with a pretty good meeting of the directors, managers, and team members of MAP.012 to set the direction of the team's work over the next few weeks.
On the way home, though, a little hiccup at security set me off before a raucus flight back to Detroit. At the security checkpoint in BDL a nice Homeland Security guy took my Leatherman Micra... yip, the one Robin gave me when I graduated from Webb. I shouldn't have had it with me, but the only reason security in Hartford had a chance to take it is that security in Detroit didn't bat an eye at the 7/8-inch blade. Where are our priorities? I can bring a brick onto the plane but not a handy tool the length of the last knuckle on my thumb. I can bring said death appliance onto an eastbound flight but not a westbound one over the exact same route? Had DTW security said anything about it I could have saved the day, but instead they waived me through and left me to face the scrutiny of another seemingly uncoordinated security service.
Friday night was back in Michigan, with a giant stir fry and some Rooster sauce and National Treasure to help unwind after a long week. Then, on a rainy Saturday, we went on a tri-county search for a contemporary coffee table to match Jenelle's cool new sofa. We hunted high and low at Bright Ideas, Store House, Art Van, and Gorman's contemporary without finding anything minimal enough, rectangular enough, and reasonable enough. But, it was pretty fun to compare ideas and see where we agreed and where we didn't: minimal is in, elephant-head chrome benches are out. Sunday was lazy/school-catch-up. I'm not complaining but man do I ever get the emails when I'm not around Ross to deal with them on a minute-ly basis. I spent a few hours today just getting back to zero; tomorrow it is back on the road so I'm sure my inbox will slide back down that slippery slope.
Today was the last full-length day of our MAP site visit: 14 hours of meetings, tours, dinner, and team reconnoitering. It has been a successful week in terms of data gathering, successful in terms of team unity, but stressful throughout. We're in the strange position of having a broader footprint than all but a few of the people we've spoken with, so our recommendations are sure to crush some toes.
This week has partly been about activism, which isn't something that I'm exposed to on a regular basis. I'm finding that in order to make a point under this framework it is usually necessary to raise your voice and swear. To me this is an indication of the fragile nature of such points... if you can't speak normally and convey the importance of your ideas without having to become argumentative with your 'target'. In my opinion pursuing a position so tenuous that you have to use debate tactics to further it erodes your accountability in an everlasting death spiral.
Today will always be a day remembered not for P&W interviews, a great panini at Pazzo's in Glastonbury, or the outburst of political and social rhetoric at dinner, but for my first EX in business school. Intro to Corporation Law, or LHC 517, grades came out today and can be chalked up in the 'good news' column. Apparently the exam went well and I carried the momentum from our group assignment into the final marks with an excellent. Hooray!
Lots to think about as dinner conversation turned to climate change and social impact, but I'm an optimist and I highly doubt that a nation of engineers and tinkerers will stand idly by as petroleum prices rise to double and then triple digits. Cars will run on the moisture in the air before engineers will pay $179.999 for 18 miles of automotive travel. And what of the socio-economic hierarchy in the United States? Will we move towards a lower average SES driven from the service industries? I found this dubious; we may shift towards the service sector but manufacturing will be the foundation of these. Who does service service if nobody is lower than them on the food chain? I find it unrealistic that an importer would be the lowest member of the pyramid.
I'm not really sure how long it will take for being a contractor/consultant on the client's site to get old, but it hasn't yet. We're being treated very well and are starting to get traction on the issues at hand: boilers, steam, and chillers are rising to the top while heat load and cogen plant operations are sinking. Tonight was Hartford BBQ favorite Black Eyed Sally's, where I actually had a very good chicken pot pie in lieu of a rack of heavy heavy ribs. Then it was back to the Fairfield Inn for a very productive team meeting, a call home, and some late night MAP work.
posted at 11:11 PM - comments
Monday, March 20, 2006
First day onsite at Pratt & Whitney today, with meetings and danish for all. We got a sense of what is going on from lots of people who know and began to get a sense for the facility and the amount of low-hanging fruit and how low it hangs. We also had lunch and dinner covered by a big company, logged in from our private conference room to the corporate intranet, and got a behind-the-scenes tour of upcoming products in the waste-heat recovery and micropower fields at the United Technologies' Research Center. I've grown to enjoy the small-company comraderie and the small-company productivity that make up my comfort zone, but the benefits and resources of a large company have some things going for them.
posted at 10:25 PM - comments
Logging on tonight from the Fairfield Inn in East Hartford, CT. After a pretty great Sunday in Michigan, I jumped on a plane and flew east. My MAP team is ready for a seriously exhausting, meeting-filled, meta-consulting week onsite at Pratt & Whitney.
Here's my wierd human observation of the day: for some reason it is really gratifying to see people you know at the airport. I don't know if it is self-validation or what, but even if I can only identify them as "that professor we had at MLP" there's some kind of excitement that stems from a sighting of a familiar face.
It wasn't a Saturday that started off that well, getting up on a sunny day off and trucking down to Ross for a TMI module. Value stream mapping proved to be pretty useful but I just can't get into spending five hours in a windowless room on the weekend.
We planned on going to Madras Marsala and then a Briarwood Dollar movie, but walking from the garage to Madras we swung by the Michigan Theater and asked - just in passing - if there had been any returned tickets for the Ben Folds concert that sold out in 40 minutes when tickets went on sale last month. As it turned out there were a couple of tickets, seven rows back and dead center, available for the show. Ben was in the midst of "You to Thank" when we walked in and didn't let up until the lights went up after an encore two hours later. Sara spelled without an 'h' was getting bored, on a Peavey amp in 1984.....
Time for the reinforcin o' the stereotypes! I was riding the Commuter South bus this morning and passed some suspender-wearing, plastic hat-topped revelers on East U who were clearly well into the festivities despite the hour: 9 AM.
I was riding the bus to school, but also to the ticket office where I picked up hockey tickets for tonight and was astounded by the line for NIT tickets. Apparently there are quite a few people who are a) not embarrassed to be in the NIT, b) not working at 9:05 on a Friday morning, and c) not ashamed to line up on St. Patrick's Day to buy tickets for a contest in which they'll cheer wildly for Michigan to beat the ever-living snot out of Notre Dame in basketball.
Due to our sponsor's apparent Irish heritage there is no conference call today and the morning MAP meeting was gleefully, blissfully, productively short. That has left time for 'data mining' as I call it and a little of this and that online besides.
Yesterday after MAP call I went to Hale for the launch of the new iMpact, which is our online realm here at Ross. The new iMpact is a collaboration with iTunes and is pretty neat, but I'm scared at how excited people are to go virtual at school. A U-M computing services survey focused on the idea of technology replacing attendance went out this week, too. Tech is great if it takes a subordinate, supporting role: I want crisp overheads, inline videos, interactive websites, and central repositories for information. Tech is a ripoff if it replaces the classroom experience; any university can take tens of thousands of dollars and turn it into a stellar website, but I want to get a decent website, stellar professors, and lasting peer relationships from my thousands of frosties.
Today is the 950th post to BrownCow - a milestone is approaching, but given the non-milestonic nature of '950' I thought today might best be served with an average post. Life-details aren't really all that interesting at this precise moment, so maybe this would be a good chance for closure on the Dubai Port World thing.
It was announced this week that in the days and hours before the deal died, DPW offered to purchase and operate container scanners at their own expense for each of the ports involved. This would have made these facilities the safest in the world, according to our current ridiculous metrics. This also confirms what I've feared: that racism really was at the heart of the darkness. Safety concerns, however misguided, were allayed by the company and downplayed by political leadership. Economic issues were never really discussed. That doesn't leave much other than straight up "we don't like" you. We passed up free stuff and spat in the face of those who offered it. Dispicable.
MAP is a busy, busy time. We're still spinning away with lots of meetings, but data is starting to trickle and pour into my inbox at a rate way beyond what I can manage. The engineer in me loves being buried in data but it is also a signal of the significance of the task ahead.
Summer internship developments are also coming fast and furious. More upsides to report: I've gotten my offer from Knoll and it seems to be very much in order. I multiplied by 12 and kinda grinned; b-school pays off in internships, too. A recent packet of information from them describes more of the Allentown/Bethlehem area where I expect Ryan and I will live and that sounds pretty cool. Knoll pays all housing expenses if we get a double, so I think we're going to take that option. It's been awhile since I've had a roommate but it sounds fun and saves a heap of cash. I'm getting stoked about the idea of a summer - a new rear cassette for both bikes and perhaps a bike rack are on the 'hey my tax return doesn't boost the economy if I stuff it away in savings' docket.
Socially life is good, too. Monday night Jenelle and Caroline and I sat around Dominick's until they closed down... a jar of sangria kept us talking and it seemed very familiar and normal, which isn't something that you get too often in this dynamic an environment. Friday night Dave and Jenelle and I are going into Big D to watch UM-MSU in the CCHA playoffs at the Joe. I love these little gatherings and am looking forward to MBA2 more than I was MBA1 for that reason.
Sunny spring Sundays, like fall Saturdays, are a quintessential college experience. It got to 71 in AA yesterday, and town was hopping with Shamrock Run festivities and the early opening of all of those sidewalk dining areas that make this a great city. From Fleetwood Diner on Ashley Street we could hear a bagpipe processional leading runners to the starting line for their 5k while we ate hippie hash under the awning in short sleeves. At Webb (and State, come to find out) Sunday afternoons were time for a walk around campus with an apple and leisurely outlook on life; yesterday we played frisbee in Van Buren park and walked along the bluff overlooking Belleville Lake while the storm clouds that would put the Midwest in the news this morning rolled in.
Other parts of the weekend were good too. Friday night's UHS dance party was a trip - kids are different than they used to be but still exactly the same. Chaperoning a young high school dance made me feel old but also recalled a time chock full of teenage akwardness and angst. Afterwards, a round or two at Woodward Avenue Brewery before heading home... french fries on 8 Mile and a voicemail clearing the next day. I was raised never to celebrate someone's malaise but also not to lie, so I'm defaulting to the second of those because I was fine with not having to get up on Saturday morning for a TMI module. Instead we shopped for a couch and enjoyed the last Yost game of the year in a very short, very lazy kind of day.
Mixing genres is supposedly bad, but I'm going to give it a whirl today. Michigan is raising the minimum wage, pending likely legislative approval, from $5.15 an hour to $7.40 in July 2008. I think it astonishing that this basic sustainer of life has remained flat since I was in high school; the implications of a minimum wage job are so broad and debilitating that I can't comprehend resistance, yet that is what the bill is getting. Imagine bringing in (pretax) just over $200 per 40 hours. This is not life-sustaining, let along family sustaining. Opponents argue that the additional $2.25 an hour won't make much difference and, more loudly, that the increase will be passed through to consumers. My answer is: of course. No, it hardly helps... $90 per 40 hours isn't enough to make things alright, but that is almost 50% more than where we are now and that is significant improvement. Yes, the difference will get passed through to consumers. My response is this: if you are living so close to your margin that you can't afford an extra dollar an hour for lawn service, you are living outside your means. If it is hard for a 'median' family to make ends meet when minimum wage goes up a dollar or two, try to internalize the hardship for a family surviving on minimum wage if it doesn't.
Cue the Costanza voice and forehead vein. "I'm still raging! That makes me so mad!"
Fallout from the DPWorld deal is going to start soon. OPEC doesn't meet until June 1 but I wouldn't plan on that preventing gas prices from creeping upwards. Emirates is looking into buying long range twin engine, twin aisle airliners and I think Airbus is probably having a bottle of champagne over the US Senate's actions. Dubai needs developers and contractors to roll out their ambitious real estate projects, but I bet Bechtel's bid will get squeezed out now.
Global businesses based in America are going to feel the sting as investments and customers head elsewhere. I'm having a flashback to a letter to the editor at the Daily Press wondering what 'those Arabs' are trying to pull... well we sure showed them. "They're bee boppin' and skattin' and I'm losing it!" Time to taste our own medicine; vigilante-imposed economic "sanctions" aren't very effective when the entity you are sanctioning has what you want or need but doesn't need or want what you have.
posted at 6:05 PM - comments
Well we've really done it now. I stepped out this morning into the rain, pulled the journal from its new protective baggy and my heart sank: the Dubai Port World deal really is dead.
I'm proud to be an American, really I am, but this pretty much repulses me. We just observed Martin Luther King, Jr Day - maybe 'observed' is too strong and 'celebrated' is more like it - and now we're saying that Arabic people are less worthy than British people. For a country that apparently believes in equality and has struggled with racism incredibly recently this is a huge step backwards. In my mind a judgment of this magnitude falls somewhere between our tolerance of slavery and our handling of the Native Americans we terrorized out of the west.
As I've stated before, you don't fight terror by singling out terrorists, you fight terrorism by making it irrelevant. Blocking this deal effectively paints all Middle Eastern Muslim nations as terrorists, creating a death spiral away from the ultimate goal. The goal is Dubai, a bright spot in the world, a place where government and business have combined to create something really good and a city state that commands respect. I think that is what the nations where terrorists live actually need: the respect of the world, which leads to the self respect to stand up and say no. Dubai has done that and we have smacked them in the face in an outpouring of ignorance, fear, and unfounded hatred. Ugly America has raised its voice and I'm embarrassed for what we've said.
posted at 9:12 AM - comments
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Thursday of a long week is winding down. Today was notable for two high-profile meetings in the Assistant Deans' conference room under the BenTre glass sculptures: one to talk about MAP scoping and the other to move forward with the Art On View website. In between I had Indian food from the cart down the street, worked my fingers to the bone typing and madly posting team documents to our team CTools site for review by faculty and team members.
Last night was Section 3 v Section 4 laser tag. I discovered that laser tag really isn't my thing; after a few rounds it gets kinda dull. You can only blast megabases and run around a finite maze so many times before you kinda want to just go outside.
MAP is settling down, but I am starting to wonder if this steadily increasing pace continues until, like, commencement. Today we pounded out a Team Charter, I dealt MTrek solutions hither and yon, and there were coaching meetings all around. It is amazing to me that we are now three long days into this project and still have essentially not even looked at the actual content that will be our bread and butter until April 27th.
posted at 4:33 PM - comments
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Forty nine! Forty nine. I got 49 emails today in the space of just over four hours, which colors my life busy. Then in the evening I got 22 more and am just not going to be able to crawl back atop the pile until the weekend; MAP, TMI, MTrek, S3, class registration and ticket ordering for the fall is all going off at the same time and clogging my inbox.
Today we met for the first time with Robert Blanda from Pratt & Whitney to talk about the project that will fill up my life in the coming six weeks: improving the energy and cost efficiency of the power plant that supplies P&W's East Hartford factory. It is going to be a ton of work, but also it is shaping up to be very rewarding from both a corporate social responsibility standpoint and a business perspective. I know that I've been indoctrinated into MBA culture because I really am thinking about opportunities in terms of bullet points.
As everybody (myself included) knew would happen, I'm getting stoked about the summer ahead. There are real advantages to working on a project that dovetails so strongly with my MEng coursework and research from last year, real positives to being on the east coast and relatively close to home, and real benefits to working for a relatively small company. No word about employee discount furniture just yet, but that would be considered a perquisite if this were full time employment.
It took all afternoon but I finally got my TMI summer project assignment: Knoll Inc. This represents my fourth - last - choice company and would have been blocked had I only done four interviews, so it's somewhat of a tough pill to swallow at the moment. The dicey part is that I was picked for this project because I was their number one choice; had I tanked the interview it might have boosted my chances with another company. Somebody told us early on not to game the system and I didn't, but now I'd like to game that person right upside the head. Career trajectory is emotional stuff.
There is an upside and that is, so far, my teammate. Ryan Purcell is a TMI Engineer and he was Knoll's first choice among engineers. After tonight's project kickoff I think we are both feeling reassured that the process of being a team will be much smoother than some of the others.
I'm off to Douglas J for a haircut and to space out and contemplate the events of the day.
In terms of days that may require big posts 6 March 2006 is epic. It towers over other mere days with Spring Break recap, MAP kickoff, and TMI Summer Project kickoff all fusing themselves into one Monday Mega Post.
First order of business is the Spring Break Recap. For some unknown reason I feel it is important to have titles for trips, and this year's trip will be known in my head as "The Cowboys." I left DTW on Sunday last, landed in Denver, and rendezvoused with the other cowboys - Gram, Nick, and Anthony. We met up with Anthony's friend Joe, who drove us down to his house in Centennial, CO. That evening we met Joe's family and had pizza and started to get acclimated to the altitude. Monday morning we loaded into the van and day-skiied Vail, which is enormous. They have more bowls than many mountains have lifts... there really is no comparison. That night we stayed in Denver, stopping at Red Rocks on the way home. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent at Winter Park tearing up Parsenn Bowl, glades, bumps, and cruisers all over the mountain. We even hiked around the backside to Vasquez Cirque for a drop into one of WP's chutes: The Cowboys. Despite the ski-out from hell it was a great run and a defining moment of the trip.
Friday we took our 'of' day (from "4 of 5 day" passes) and drove over Berthoud Pass to Breckenridge. Breck is a huge, huge resort, but we worked our way from Peak 10 to Peak 7 and back over the course of a sunny high-speed-quad day. The snow was just about perfect for huge arcing turns at huge velocity and we lived at the limit for the whole afternoon.
Saturday was our last on the slopes, so we bumped our way through Winter Park's famous Mary Jane section and then packed up and came home.
Back on the ground in Michigan on Sunday afternoon, I showed off the collected media of our exploits, we made some awesome beef stroganoff, and I crashed early despite the time zone difference.
This morning I took my tired and sore limbs to Hale Auditorium for the kickoff of MAP. I'm not sure what the value of this morning's meeting was other than to provide a kickoff point, but now I'm in a holding pattern for the real start of MAP: MAP06P&W's first faculty advisor meeting. We are totally unsure of what to expect but with Pratt & Whitney liasons on campus tomorrow the time for uncertainty has passed.