Michigan has these radio spots imploring people to get outside and take in the fall colors. I don't know if they work or not, but it makes me want to jump in the car. Having grown up with colors each autumn and then experienced life without them for two years, I think everybody who lives in the fall color region should be required to take a perfectly sunny fall day and be happy to live in the north. Tim Allen lends his voice to highlight 'The Greatest Show on Earth' - let's get up, get out, and explore.
posted at 7:29 AM - comments
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Our design review last night went quickly and, I guess, perfectly well. The judges told us that they liked our modular framework but not a lot else.
Today I had supply chain and bargaining and influence, which flew by, and now there is a CNBC focus group at school that I'm heading towards. There always seems to be an opportunity here to do something new and different; I've never been in a focus group before and it sounds fun. Plus, there's an honorarium. Why it is called that I'm not sure, but honorary or not, grad students have to eat.
Other random musings for today include the incredible success of Detroit sports teams this year. They're not home yet, but the Tigers made the playoffs since the first time since baseballs were made of leather, the Shock won the WNBA, and the Pistons and Redwings were contenders. Then, of course, there are the Lions. I think absolutes and extremes really make people nuts, and there is no bigger extreme than the difference between the resurrected Tigers and the still-nightmarishly awfully terrible Lions. Somewhere here there is a lesson about moderation and managed expectation that an entire region has to learn.
OK. Long day. I hit the art+design woodshop this morning to make ellipsoid holes in the PVC tower of my kitchen/chef tool. Then I hussled down to Ross for a meeting for OMS620, wherein we decided to go ahead with our idea of a sports-industry supply chain project that may include helping the Palace of Auburn Hills improve their pre- and post-event traffic situations.
In the afternoon, my team and I met with and then portrayed John Tyson. You know, Tyson chicken. It was really interesting to speak with a guy who's family is worth a billion dollars and who is running a $26b company almost by themselves. Let me be perfectly clear: this gentleman knows protein. He's serious about business and being from Arkansas, but he knows the meat industry and if you ask him a question, you are in his wheelhouse and he'll pummel you, not that he isn't a very kind and genuine guy. All in all Mr. Tyson was much, much more likeable and professional than either Mssrs. Skinner or Lutz.
Now the IPD team is headed up to the Dude to present our mockups. I'm upset about the quality of my foam-core circle now that I've seen what a laser cutter could have done, but I guess I'm going to have to stand in and pitch my product.
An amazing array of bloggiture relating to past statements and forward-looking thoughts:
I've commented in the past about the historical slant of blogs. For example, I posted (with Jenelle's help) about our epic Saturday near the end of a pretty darn good Sunday. We watched "Mona Lisa Smile" and had BLT's and I got a good amount of work done besides, but that didn't get mentioned until it is a matter of record, ie today. This continues to be a frustration for me as I strive to be more of a prophet and less of a reporter. OK, that didn't come out quite right...
"Mona Lisa Smile" made me think about blogs as art, largely due to Ms. Watson's questions about the consumer art of the fifties. How will history view the most-closely recorded generation thus far in human times? Will critics look back after a century and note some great social injustices intrinsic to the new formats we've developed? Are we laughably trivializing anyone? My sense is that those being trivialized will not appear in this generations' media as they did in the last. Access is a lifeboat today - if you can get to the web your story will survive.
It wouldn't be random posting day without a real topic veer, so here goes: killer instinct. Just a few months ago I lamented Michigan's lack of ferocity, disinterest in the knock-out blow, apathy towards clear and absolute victory. Well, Ron English has it and has cc'ed and fwd'ed everybody. Now it is like a disease! We were down at the Big House on Saturday, watching the second half of the game, and all of a sudden it was like "hey, this defensive unit doesn't give up first downs...ever." Tackles for losses, sacks, big hits, hurried throws, and general what-have-you cause six straight three-and-outs for Wisconsin - six straight possessions ending in 'the claw' after just three plays. Youuuu suuuuuuuck! Youuuuu suuuuuuu-uuuuck!
I got a Webb News in the mail this weekend and got a chance to read it today. While I'm sure Webb is still very much the place I went to school, it seems to have a bit of added spice with a retired Coast Guard Admiral as President. There are subtle undertones of struggle in his voice, and I empathize with the small school's capital campaign hoping for less than 10% of what Ross is spending on a new building. That being said, I feel like RAdm. Olsen's views on fundraising/philanthropy (depending on which side of the table you're on) are in line with my own and he is a good ambassador for the Institute during this period.
Yesterday we achieved the oft fantasized but rarely realized nirvana of attending two Top-25 football games in a single day. There aren't too many places where this is possible and scheduling eliminates most of the possibilities anyway, but the stars aligned and we saw Michigan v Wisconsin at the Big House in Ann Arbor at noon and Michigan State v Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium at eight. Here's the photojournalistic rundown:
Every football day starts in 409B with tickets, appropriate headgear, and a celebratory adult beverage.
No marathon football day would be complete without a tailgate or three, and corporate sponsored events are the best kind. We kicked off with a PRTM recruiting function under a tent way in the back of the Golf & Outing Club. Zingerman's was there with burgers and brownies and bloody marys.
Every game day includes a zillion traditions. At Michigan the band, the stadium itself, and especially the wave are central to the experience.
We were part of the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in America - 111,058 on hand for the 196th straight game over 100,000 at Michigan Stadium.... the Big House.
After standing amongst 20,000 students for three hours we were pretty hungry. Luckily, Target was in town for the mother of all tailgates. Everybody got a beach bag with a long sleeve shirt and pilsner glasses, there were bins of snack food, and Zingerman's was back on the scene with gourmet sandwiches for the hungry fan. We stayed long enough not to miss any swag, but hit the highway to get to East Lansing.
Our Sandy & Mark Spartan Gameday Experience® included parking at Jennison Fieldhouse, which finds itself in the shadow of Spartan Stadium these days. You can see the stadium from the expressway into town, lending an air of excitement to the day.
One of the most amazing parts of seeing four great football teams is seeing four great marching bands, with State's foremost among them. The blazing brass sound and 80,158 chants of "Go State!" fill the stadium, which sings "On the banks of the Red Cedar..." as the block S marches past.
Michigan bested Wisconsin but State couldn't hang on against Notre Dame, though we enjoyed all of it and were happy to spend a fall day on our favorite campuses.
Special thanks to title and presenting sponsors Sandy & Mark for enabling the second half of our day of football!
posted at 7:07 PM - comments
Friday, September 22, 2006
More recruiting last evening meant another tough rotation of great food and cool transportation, this time in the form of the newest members of the Saturn brand. In between kibbitzing about GM's Strategic Initiatives group there was time to drive Saturn's Sky roadster, Vue Green Line hybrid, and the brand-new Aura sedan. Sky is a totally competent little car that feels solid and stiff, with a pleasing exhaust note and comfortable interior. I'm pretty mehh about the Vue and hybrids in general (So if you live in a city and drive ~10k miles per year that makes sense, but who does that?) but I am anything but mehh about the Aura. This is a sharp, tight car with a great interior, 255 hp in the uplevel XR trim, and legitimately attractive styling. It rolls on 18" wheels and has two sunroof options. I think Saturn has discovered what Dad and I have long suspected: people would like to buy a cheap(ish) car and add a few thousand in options to make it nicer than the base level of the next model up. Here, why buy a base CTS when you can get an Aura with more stuff for $9k less? My suspicion, though I've not driven either, is that Camry and Accord are very similar and at $25k for the XR I'm sure Saturn is right in the hunt.
That's all I've got; it's Habitat build day and I'm off to Ypsilanti to put some labor into a house.
My thoughts on the debate over cars...
People get too emotional and show too much confirmation bias to have a factual, intelligent discussion about cars. Following Fighter Bob Lutz's remarks yesterday, the class got into it about the turn-around at GM. The class almost immediately lost all foundation in reality and spiraled into the media circus of 'domestics suck.' It seemed that everyone knew their new Toyota Camry was better than the Impala but didn't know why. When pressed, none had any experience with the Buick Lucerne Mr. Lutz is so proud of, yet all snickered at the possibility of purchasing one. Nobody would admit to having been in the new Impala - which I drove and is excellent - but many were proud to share their high-quality experience with German cars. When you talk cars, people who don't know anything about them are suddenly auto buffs, manufacturing experts, and vehicle dynamicists. Why don't you consider an Impala? 'It's front wheel drive.' Why is that a problem? 'I want rear wheel drive.' Why? 'I don't know. I just do.' Perfect. You may be part of the crisis of public perception we just spoke about.
After class I went to Textron's presentation and was wowed by the spread and the chance to see one of UMHS's Bell 430's pull in and land on Pad #2. These little birds cover all of the mitten and most of Ohio, meaning if you are burned in Petoskey they come get you and have you in ER in Ann Arbor in just over 100 minutes... amazing, but the thing that gets you first and foremost is that these are small machines. I asked about bariatrics in the helicopter, and the response was "we have up to 500 lb capacity for patients but only a 58" belt." They are starting to have to leave flight nurses on the ground at accidents because their passengers are taking up too much of the useful load.
There's a different helicopter circling Ross, which can only mean that we're going to be on the news again for the big announcement yesterday. There's a buzz around the halls but no real difference on campus apart from the Dean's office sponsoring and serving an ice cream social this afternoon.
That teen angst underground cult movie hit "Empire Records" had Rex Manning Day. We have Bob Lutz Day. It's tough to read into things like the Vice-Chairman of the world's largest manufacturing company coming to campus for recruiting, but Fighter Bob will be here within the hour. Whether you like cars, manufacturing, GM, men, fighters, or anything else, you have to admit that this guy has a cool job - the global gatekeeper for new cars. If Fighter Bob wants gullwing doors on the new Cadillac, by golly, it will be time to find a bumpcap. If Fighter Bob says there will be a Camaro convertible, by golly, get out your Coppertone 'cuz the top is coming down. Maybe that is more clout than one person ought to have but I think it will be interesting to hear his speil.
Cranes are swinging back and forth outside the library's fourth-floor windows, signaling progress on a terra cotta edifice which will spring from the enormously large hole along Hill & Tappan. It's a cold fall day, much too soon, and I'm almost wishing I had a fleece for the trip home. Actually, I'm not really going home so much as going to another recruiting event for the semi-shameless reason of really, really wanting to see the Michigan Health System Survival Flight helicopters.
After a long day I got an email from Adrian with good news:
Ross is No. 1 Again!
The Wall Street Journal released its annual rankings today and for the second time in three years, Stephen M Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan took top honors. As I've said before, these ranking constitute nothing much on a daily basis for me, but as the job search moves to the forefront there is a certain reinforcement of my position when I can say "well, you know, Ross is the number one business school" in the year that I graduated.
posted at 10:19 PM - comments
Human beings have this thing where repeating a behavior causes you to get better at it. Not sure what it is called. Anyway, I don't have it. I have repeated the heck out of the behavior called 'school' and don't seem to be getting better at it. Oh I can crank out a case write-up in decreasing amounts of time and act like an academic with the best of them, but I have stopped feeling like 'man, I am getting smart' the way I did Fall A last year or MEng year. I sat this morning for four hours working on an ops case that really I knew the answer to, but I could not recall how to manipulate standard deviations to make the numbers reflect this. Somewhere, in my past, I have a deep-rooted and serious math malaise which causes me to hemorrhage number knowledge at an alarming rate.
Last night I had to go to art school for wood shop. For real! It's kinda fun getting down and dirty making a spoon from a block of wood, but that's not my point. My point is that designers - real black-shirt every day designers - can talk for hours about virtually nothing. There has to be a better way to teach than spending 15 minutes on the efficacy of the handle. I worked with a designer who didn't wear black shirts and he'd just go into his office for an hour and come back with the world's coolest proverbial spoon... why can't all design just be silent and amazing?
College football - University of Michigan college football - is an underlying tone on this blog that reaches a crescendo in the fall, as the Wolverines make their nearly annual run for the Big Ten title. This weekend, two months from any determination of that prize, all of Ann Arbor and the oft-referenced Wolverine nation are at a crescendo after varsity's pounding of Notre Dame. It's one of those things where the goals and aspirations of a team are solidified and announced in one emphatic afternoon. Folks at home were happy to see it and I'm eager to hear the Big House when the team takes the field for Wisconsin on Saturday.
We weren't totally focused on the game Saturday, but in Kalamazoo for NSRA's Street Rod Nationals North, a car show featuring some 2,800+ highly customized rides from 1949 and early. Ghost flames, mag wheels, tribal paint, and big chrome engines were everywhere as we wandered. It was quite a spectacle - no two cars alike and nobody would have it any other way.
After K-zoo and dinner at Damon's we returned to A2 for a little post-day celebration. Our fun was doubled with the news that Caroline & Brad were engaged Friday and their joining us at b-dubs for a few hours' revelry.
Just as soon as it started, my commitment to TMI seems to be over. After an arduous day of presenting and networking I found myself sitting in the Grande Ballroom at the Four Points by Sheraton knowing that Team Knoll wouldn't get their name called. The competitor in me finds this unfair. I've lost contests before - plenty - but rarely have I competed with no real chance to win; a caustic taste is in my mouth about this that will fade over time but for now has fouled my Friday.
TMI counters this emotion by releasing last year's recruiting numbers. (With a fairly blatant math/typographical error... sigh, par for the course.) No matter how bitter I may be, there was a big, big, big jump in the numbers this year over last and that made me fell less bitter and more excited. Despite not winning Spotlight! (I refuse to say we lost) I think that school, and TMI in particular, may have been a good decision.
After Spotlight! Ryan and I took the Knoll guys up to the stadium so they could experience the enormity of the hole in the ground, then we said goodbye and were on our separate ways. I headed home to 409B, reading, some tunes, and frisbee and a swim.
TMI began to wind down today as TMI II's brace for the fury of Spotlight! tomorrow. In the span of about eight hours Ryan and I will present twice, eat lunch with Knoll people who are in town, and network like crazy. All of this really kicked off today, when I networked like crazy with Brunswick and then met up with the Davids from Knoll, who arrived just in time to take us out for a great Italian meal on Main Street. Now I need 40 winks and to have the presentation go as well in the morning as it did this morning, when our last dry run went incredibly smoothly.
posted at 11:23 PM - comments
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The first visitor to the CEO parade: James Skinner of McDonald's. This course is essentially a throw-away except for the 45 minutes of executive insight. That being said, I didn't leave the room with that favorable an opinion of Mr. Skinner. While I'm sure that he's a decent manager and a competent leader, there weren't shades of genius shimmering through his speech or an overwhelming sense of command or likeability at any point during his talk.
It also rained this afternoon... again. It has rained three of five days I've been at Ross for class, which isn't bad in and of itself, but walking home through pouring rain leaves me soggy and irritable. These effects are magnified if, rather than going home, I have three hours of IPD to sit through as is the case this evening.
Finally, an update re: my consulting call this morning. Oh! consulting has the appeal and glamour and career promise, but the trade-off in lifestyle terms may be steep. Balancing income and free time is a nearly impossible calculation, but valuing both is an important part of life and neglecting either is a major (and now possible) pitfall.
This is a post about upscale grocers. Ann Arbor is lousy with fancy, gourmet, deluxe grocery stores and I can't get enough of it. Yesterday evening I made a soup/goulash thing and had some italian bread from Hiller's Market, which has carpet in the produce section. I also frequent Busch's for their fine fruit, vegetables, and meats. Nearby is the ubiquitous Whole Foods and their broad array of organic this and imported that. At current levels of consumption (low) and gourmet interest (high) I think that stepping up from Kroger or Meijer is actually a sustainable behavior; better bread and tastier corn come at such a small incremental price when shopping for one or two that I think these stores are onto something. I'm sure that Ann Arbor's premium grocery market is enormous, with a vast majority of less than single-family households and a very high SES, these stores are here to stay. It's fascinating to the business analyst in me and satisfying to the gourmet in me. Stop by next time you're in town!
posted at 4:55 PM - comments
Monday, September 11, 2006
A massively, mysteriously busy day today. Oh sure, lunch with Javid and mad work on our Spotlight! deck and MTrek receipt formatting and HFH stuff doesn't sound like much but I bet I've sent 20 emails today and gotten twice that, including one very random, very unexpected, very promising career inquiry. The life of an MBA, I suppose, when you are sitting around taping receipts to paper and then you hear the "deeeehhaaaahhhh" of new mail and a guy from a prestigious consultancy wants to set up a 'call' to talk about 'opportunities' with 'you.' More on Wednesday...
On a more somber, less frivolous note, it is 11 September 2006. Five years. Coverage of this is everywhere; everyone wants to comment on the events, reactions, and sadness of that day. I want to comment on the sadness of the interval. We are now five long years removed and yet have hardly moved forward. Our thinking has not changed since that incredibly bizarre afternoon, despite the definition and clarity that half a decade and trillions of dollars have given us. Is the world safer? Not markedly so. Have our perceptions changed? Apparently only for the negative... Javid told me on the way to lunch that he feels uncomfortable being Persian in America. Shame on us for rising to action but not rising above the hatred displayed that terrible clear, still, autumn day. This is the real tragedy to me, not that an atrocity was committed against us, but that we've done little more than volley back.
Yesterday's varsity tackle football contest was memorable for two reasons. First, it marked the only time in the history of Michigan Stadium that a game has been delayed due to inclement weather (60 wet minutes) and the lowest announced attendance (108k) of my time at Michigan. Afterwards we enjoyed a great bbq beef UMBSA tailgate and headed home.
Today Jenelle tagged along for a Norbert reunion at No Thai; but first we stopped at the art museum's temporary exhibit space on South U to see a cool display of strobing art. With a great meal to start the day, I moved into MO611 team work while Jenelle parked on Wyly two and cranked out school stuff. It's cold and windy outside, like a fall day in the upper Midwest, so I'm not sure what the evening holds other than frustration that summer is virtually over.
My first 'free' Friday of Fall A, and it is shaping up to be a very busy one, as usual. From TMI Spotlight presentation to case write-ups to MTrek finance stuff, there is a list as long as my arm of things to do.
Maybe one already exists, but I think writing a wedding how-to from the lucky couples' perspective would be dynamite. There's no guide for malcontent vendors, no strategy for dealing with monopolist disc jockeys who hold every card, no insight about the demarcation between approaching the big day as a business proposition or as an emotional wishing well into which you toss all your coins. The businesses we're dealing with range from professional to mildly professional; it astonishes us that they can survive at what I would call substandard service levels, but with virtually no threat of lost future revenue, what incentive does a caterer have to expedite your quote or offer the slightest discount? It has been an education thus far - just under four months - and I anticipate that by July I'll have plenty of fodder for a fine pamphlet.
I know a couple of things beyond shadow of doubt. First, sudden unexpected rain is a pain that leaves my feet cold and backpack wet. Next, btb is not much good after sitting under a heat lamp since 10AM.
The first session of MO611 - the CEO parade - left me feeling burned as my team was selected to advocate Tyson Foods. I'm sure this will be an interesting endeavour but I have no (NOOOO) interest in working in the protein business, so the networking aspect is lost for me. In other news, mornings are a cinch this term: nary an academic obligation. I worked on a lot of peripheral things with little consequence... calibrating yourself for an MBA semester takes way more effort than it ought to, so I applied myself to that task. Now I'm in IPD bewildered by this year's product class, but ready to tackle the Integrated Product Development process. Shortly I'll be at home, laundering clothes and reading about ChemBright.
First day of classes in MBAtown. Last day of not classes at UHSville. Early start to the day, late afternoons stretch into evenings, time goes by with concern for no man. I had OMS 620 (Advanced Supply Chain Management) and MO 512 (Bargaining and Influence Skills) and like the later significantly more than the former. Supply chain is all well and good, but it lacks the true feeling of making something from nothing that can be achieved through skilled negotiations. In between all of that I ate microwaved lunch on Kresge 4 and felt as though I hadn't been gone a minute; now I'm off to do the MBA car shuffle and then try to save the fall's HFH build project. Anybody got $20k for a bunch of b-schoolers who fell short?
posted at 4:50 PM - comments
Sunday, September 03, 2006
There was a game yesterday with a tailgate afterwards. That is all I have to say about that.
Today we visited the Michigan State Fair. This fair - at the corner of Woodward and 8 Mile in Detroit - should not be confused with the UP State Fair in Escanaba. It is, in fact, smaller and less impressive than its counterpart to the north. No tractors, no 4-H barn, and no discernible midway really made the lower peninsula version of the State Fair a bit of a letdown. To compensate Jenelle and I went to Royal Oak for some window shopping and to scout out the travel section and Barnes & Noble for honeymoon ideas.
I don't usually buy albums but I'm finding that any artist whose appearance on Prairie Home Companion warrants three songs from Mr. Keillor usually warrants picking up the CD. Jerree Small is the perfect example, tonight we extended that to include Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris' "All the Road Running."
Today was really the return to MBA life, with the endless introductions, explanations, and feigned interest hitherto required. It was genuinely great to see Caroline & Brad, Steve & wifey (Allison), Irena, and Rachel F. again, but apart from that I don't have truly aligned interests with section mates.
The evening also included the MTrek Final Event picnic. It was fun to get everybody together again and see a few Norberters, including Norbert himself, and I suppose to gain some closure on the whole experience. Attendance was decimated by section events and Friday-of-Labor Day Weekend travels, but it was still a good event and a fitting way to essentially wrap up my duties for that organization.
Football time. Let's do it up... how about some overachieving, now? This is the year - ten and two and a New Year's day bowl at the least. It is on like donkey kong. One hundred and ninety four consecutive 100k+ attendance games at the Big House as of tomorrow afternoon.