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Tag: personal

Taken

My good friend and Bench Press partner-in-crime Anthony pointed me to this trailer which casts the perfect voice for what must be the most awesome over-the-phone threat of all time:

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A Dilbert Tradition

My good friend, college roommate, and Bench Press partner-in-crime Eric never lets me down. Despite 3 years of rooming with me, basically letting me live in his room to use his old broken Mac to write my thesis and do my problem sets because my laptop broke down, he still found it in his heart to make it a tradition every year to gift me Dilbert: 2009 Day-to-Day Calendar come Christmas time. So, while I can’t say it was a surprise, I was very happy to come home and find this waiting for me:

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There’s no better way of coping with work stress than to remind yourself that, hey, at least my life isn’t like Dilbert’s… Oh. On second thought…

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2008 in blog

imageJust as with last year, wanted to reflect on the highlights of my life from the past year – as told through my blog!

Happy new year, everybody!

(Image source)

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The first lady of Star Trek

I just discovered, with much sadness, that Majel Roddenberry, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, the actress who played the ever-memorable Lwaxana Troi, and the voice of all the various incarnations of Star Trek’s “computers” has just passed away.

I just spent the past couple of minutes browsing her Wikipedia page, and found some amusing anecdotes:

image She first appeared in Star Trek’s initial pilot, “The Cage”, as the USS Enterprise’s unnamed first officer. Barrett was romantically involved with Roddenberry, and the idea of having an otherwise unknown woman in a leading role because she was the producer’s girlfriend is said to have infuriated NBC executives who insisted that Roddenberry give the role to a man. In Star Trek Memories, William Shatner noted that women viewers felt she was “pushy” and “annoying” and thought that “Number One shouldn’t be trying so hard to fit in with the men.” Barrett often joked that Roddenberry, given the choice between keeping Mr. Spock (whom the network also hated) or the woman character, “kept the Vulcan and married the woman, ’cause he didn’t think Leonard [Nimoy] would have it the other way around.”

I don’t know what Gene Roddenberry was thinking, but Star Trek would always cast her in the role of women who fell in love with men who could/would never return their affection: first as a woman who fell in love with the non-emotional Spock [on the left] and later as the outrageous mother of Deanna Troi [on the right] who chased Captain Picard and Odo:

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That Mrs. Roddenberry will reprise her role as “the computer” in the new Star Trek movie has just made it a lot more meaningful for me.

RIP.

(Image Credit) (Image Credit) (Image Credit)

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Sovereign Wealth Matters

My friend Serena, who you may know as one of the co-founders of My Mom is a Fob and My Dad is a Fob, is currently trying to find a way out of Thailand, something which protests at Bangkok’s two airports has made much more difficult. I wish Serena and her family the best of luck and a safe trip back.

imageWhile a lot of press attention is dedicated to the direct why’s of the protests (demands that the current Prime Minister step down because of his ties to a previously deposed Prime Minister, his brother), less attention is paid to the role that Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings played in the whole ordeal.

The Former Prime Minister made the mistake of selling his large 50% stake in Thai telecommunications company Shin corporation to Temasek, despite:

  • being accused of insider trading only a short while before
  • violating a law banning turning over majority control of telecommunications companies by foreign companies
  • making the sale without paying any capital gains taxes

The result of these accusations were widespread riots, the Prime Minister dissolving Parliament, and, eventually, him being removed by a military coup.

image And so, what have we learned here? Sovereign Wealth Funds are not just mere curiosities whereby oil-rich (Dubai, Mubadala, Norway, etc.) and Asian countries (China, Singapore) buy up HUGE stakes in companies (some of the research I did on these funds back in January put their total global size at about ~$3 trillion). They have serious political consequences, as the world is only beginning to discover:

Yes, we’re in the midst of a global recession right now, but think – what better time for a sovereign wealth fund to buy up companies then when the prices are low and when governments are least likely to raise a fuss about someone willing to inject capital into their struggling businesses?

(Image Source) (Image Source)

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Corruption

When the Kenyan president was asked to comment on his country being judged the most corrupt country in the world as judged by the ease and frequency at which bribery happened, the Kenyan president noted: “Actually, we were ranked second. We simply bribed the judges to make us first”

A joke I heard from work (am fairly sure none of it is true).

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Standing offer

My friend Anthony and I are taking a stand. We were miffed when Motorola didn’t even consider our offer of $1 for Motorola’s handset division (seriously, why give it to Qualcomm’s ex-COO?). We were annoyed when our offer of $2 for Lehman Brothers was ignored (and now look where they are).

So, we’re going to draw a line in the sand right here. Right now.

Anthony and I will offer $100 (that’s 50 times what we were going to offer for Lehman – and they probably weren’t even worth that) to run the next failing bank or company division.

Do we have much management experience? No. Hardcore MBA with financial experience or brilliant technical expertise? Not really.

But, come on. Experts ran Fannie/Freddie, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, AIG, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, Motorola’s handset division, Pfizer’s heart medication group, … the list goes on and on. And look where they all are now!

It’s time for some new blood.

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Apparently, I made the wrong career choice

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In all fairness:

  • Not all bankers went to public schools, nor did all consultants go to private schools; Actually, in general, there’s a fairly good chance they both went to private schools
  • I wish I could get home by 7:15 everyday…
  • My Blackberry isn’t 4 years old (my firm subsidizes 1 purchase every 2 years)
  • I really doubt that bankers “create value”; find it, maybe, but “create” is a stretch
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Hamlet in the 21st Century

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Hat tip to Christine for finding this, but it brings back memories of a video I made back in senior year of high school. Imagine how the story of Hamlet would have played out had there been Facebook at the time:

HAMLET (FACEBOOK NEWS FEED EDITION).

BY SARAH SCHMELLING

– – – –

Horatio thinks he saw a ghost.

Hamlet thinks it’s annoying when your uncle marries your mother right after your dad dies.

The king thinks Hamlet’s annoying.

Laertes thinks Ophelia can do better.

Hamlet’s father is now a zombie.

– – – –

The king poked the queen.

The queen poked the king back.

Hamlet and the queen are no longer friends.

Marcellus is pretty sure something’s rotten around here.

Hamlet became a fan of daggers.

– – – –

Polonius says Hamlet’s crazy … crazy in love!

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet are now friends.

Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.

Hamlet thinks Ophelia might be happier in a convent.

Ophelia removed “moody princes” from her interests.

Hamlet posted an event: A Play That’s Totally Fictional and In No Way About My Family

The king commented on Hamlet’s play: “What is wrong with you?”

Polonius thinks this curtain looks like a good thing to hide behind.

Polonius is no longer online.

– – – –

Hamlet added England to the Places I’ve Been application.

The queen is worried about Ophelia.

Ophelia loves flowers. Flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers. Oh, look, a river.

Ophelia joined the group Maidens Who Don’t Float.

Laertes wonders what the hell happened while he was gone.

– – – –

The king sent Hamlet a goblet of wine.

The queen likes wine!

The king likes … oh crap.

The queen, the king, Laertes, and Hamlet are now zombies.

Horatio says well that was tragic.

Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, says yes, tragic. We’ll take it from here.

Denmark is now Norwegian.

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A Comic-con Adventure

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Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the San Diego Comic-Con. Make no mistake, though, although the word “comic” shows up in the name of the event, the SDCC covers a lot more than just comics. If anything, I was amazed at the diversity I saw:

  • Gender: I had been under the impression that over 75% of Comic-Con goers would be guys. Instead, much to my dismay, the gender balance was fairly even — I did not notice there being especially more girls or more guys!
  • Appearance: Before going to the Con, I had braced myself for a mass of stereotypical comic book nerds — either extremely overweight or extremely scrawny, lacking in social skills, and possibly dressed up in cosplay gear. The Con shattered that conception — while yes, there were certainly people who could stand to lose some weight (or gain some muscle), and there was certainly no shortage of “cosplayers” (people who dress up as characters), I was astonished at the sheer of diversity of types of people there. You had people who were clearly big nerds, but right next to them (and oftentimes waiting for the same event) were people who looked like jocks, and people who looked “normal.”
  • Subject matter: The Comic-Con isn’t just about comics. There was coverage of television shows (e.g. Smallville, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes), new movies (e.g. Watchmen), video games (e.g. Spore), and even fantasy/sci-fi novels (e.g. I got a book signed by famed sci-fi writer Connie Willis). Stars ranging from Sarah Silverman to Kristin Kreuk to Ludacris to Keanu Reeves were also in attendance. It’s no wonder that the San Diego Comic-Con no longer bills itself merely as the largest comic book convention, but as a pop culture convention.

In any event, what I took away from the Con:

  • Maxis’s Spore looks like it will be one hell of a game, but with its sophistication and graphics, I wonder if I’ll need some sort of Cray imagesupercomputer to play it. The concept is that you start out controlling single-celled organisms, and gradually you evolve them to the point where they become space-faring civilizations. Will Wright, the genius behind this game and games like Sim City and the Sims, was there giving an amazing demo and explaining his vision of the computer game as an art form. It was very cool!
  • Grant Morrison, one of the greatest comic book writers of all time, is a  imagecrazy Scot. Picture a bald guy, dressed in an oddly colored suit, known for writing fairly strange comic books, in a very thick Scottish accent explaining how he views Desaad, the Dark God of Torture, as a guy with an obsession with pornography. And that’s what DC’s Final Crisis panel was like.
  • Connie Willis has not only won practically every sci-fi award there is to win, but is a woman with incredible charm and sass. That was a very pleasant surprise, and made the waiting in line for an hour to get her to autograph a book for my girlfriend all the more worthwhile.
  • Bill Willingham, writer of my favorite ongoing comicimage series Fables, is just  as funny in real life as he is in his comic works. He apparently started out wanting to be an artist and submitted a sample of his artwork with a quick storyline attached. When he was hired, he asked, “What do you want me to draw?” To which the editorial team replied, “Umm.. the story that you pitched!” Shocked, but not wanting to pass up the opportunity, Willingham proceeded to give up his art pencils for his writing pencils. Oh, and I got his autograph!
  • The Watchmen movie looks more and more promising. I attended not only  the movie panel, but also a panel highlighting Dave Gibbons, the artist and co-creator of the series, and I have to say I’m very excited. I am still worried how they intend to move what was probably the greatest graphic novel of all time to screen, but if the trailer and the extra preview clips that I saw are any indication, they are trying to recreate the classic as best they can. As it should be.
  • Joss Whedon is a genius. But, his new show, The Dollhouse, does seem to be slightly derivative of the Pretender. Oh well, I won’t hold a grudge if it’s any good.

And of course, no post on Comic-con can end without pictures of cosplayers!

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Sailor Moon & Friends … fighting evil by moonlight?

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Nightwing & Huntress! (DC Comics)

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Mr. Fantastic and Spiderman (Marvel) discuss how to save the world!

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I sense the Dark Side within you…

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A Sim!?

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Superman and Wonder Woman!

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Why I’d make an awesome VC

 

 

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If I ever find myself on the Venture Capital side of things, I intend to go into the first meeting wearing one of these babies – to lighten the mood, as well as show them who they’re dealing with.

And, if at any point I’ve decided that the guy who’s pitching to me can’t tell that his product absolutely sucks, I’ll switch to this baby:

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Image (and shirt) credits: http://www.vcwear.com/

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Straight from the Horse’s Mouth…

My good friend Shang explains consulting:

Sometimes I sit around trying to figure out how to explain consulting to my friends. Sure, it’s about providing strategic advice to various clients in all industries. When it comes down to it, consulting is a client-oriented service, and one that works with tight deadlines and intellectually demanding work. It’s not intellectual in that I’m inventing a new computer or a new vaccine or writing a new scientific postulate, but it’s intellectual in that one day, I could be ramping up to become expert in calculating the costs to a shoe store, and the next day, I’m talking heart disease with cardiologists, all with an aim at understanding the business that it can support.

This is why consulting is such an unpredictable lifestyle. Luckily for me I’m not on traveling cases, but some weeks – like the last 2, I’d never have to buy groceries because I order in dinner all the time, and I also never see my roommates because I cab home around bedtime. Some weeks I get to go home (almost) like a regular workperson at 6:30 ~ 7:00 PM. On average, especially during fall / winter when caseload was heavier, I worked until around 10 or 11 PM every day. Sometimes I want to play all weekend because I haven’t been able to do so all week, but then I run the potential of exhausting myself as well, and I sometimes take hermit weekends to sleep in and clean my apartment.

Coming away from 10 months of doing so I think I’m doing a much better job at managing my time. I’m able to estimate how long I can finish a piece of analysis and I also know when to push back on a consultant / manager when a piece of work is just going to take too much time and add little value to the slide pack.

I still wish I had more time to get in touch with friends. I’m really bad about phone calls, I’m even worse at running 9 – 5 PM errands such as dry cleaning and postal mail, but I’m using Gchat more on light work days. I still send out an absurd number of emails each week. And yeah, I still pursue photography – not as a career, but as something that keeps me sane

In addition to having an unpredictable lifestyle, the work itself is very unpredictable. One day, I’ll be using an Excel model to forecast the future of the PC industry, the next day I’ll be at Safeway trying to figure out women’s shampoo, and the day after that I’ll be cold-calling analysts to try to tease out what sorts of competitive moves my client needs to worry about.

I’ll say one thing about it, “Management consulting is never boring.”

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Discovery Channel Love

xkcd is one of my favorite webcomics, and is frequently featured in my Google Reader share list. It’s an extremely nerdy comic, and as such, is oftentimes incomprehensible to the layperson who does not necessarily get the computer science or physics or math jokes.

So, when I didn’t understand one of xkcd’s latest comics (below), I simply chalked it up to my not having understood some bizarre cultural or geek reference.

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Lo and behold, I spot this little gem of a Discovery Channel ad on YouTube:

 

 

And then it all made sense!

Honestly, though, it’s a very cute and (I think) effective ad!

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Pay as you Go Performance Review

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Earlier this week, I received my first full performance review. In consulting firms this is a bit more challenging to do as each consultant has probably worked with several teams and each in very different contexts and circumstances.

To deal with this variability, at my firm, each individual is assigned a “consensus reviewer” — someone who compiles feedback and review comments from every team that the individual in question has worked with.

This is then synthesized into a “consensus review” which compiles feedback (both positive and negative) as well as the perspective of the reviewee into a performance review which management then uses to decide on promotions and compensation.

Long story short, the review went well. My reviewer identified a number of my strengths (e.g. analytical skills, “idea ownership”) and weaknesses (e.g. slide presentation, tendency to “boil the ocean“), but noted that I was on a good upward trajectory.

While this was heartening to hear (I have at least a few more months of employment!), I must confess that I find the process of performance reviews to be unnecessarily tedious. Not only do they suck up time, they artificially create periods of extra stress for management as well as the rank and file who, every review cycle, feel the crushing weight of being scrutinized and compared.

What would be much more effective (and should be where the bulk of the work is done) is a “pay-as-you-go performance review“, one where management and staff understand that feedback is not something to be saved for an artificial deadline, but given freely and whenever necessary — both positive and negative. This way, management is not scratching their heads trying to come up with something to talk about from four months ago every review cycle. From a performance perspective, this also helps as it fosters a more open culture where feedback on a regular basis is not only desired but expected, and problems are corrected as they arise, rather than referred to vaguely several months later.

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The Vasa Ship

imageI have recently been embroiled in a long and involved exercise involving a very complicated set of analyses to look at where the profits are in the broader technology industry — something which my manager and two partners have jokingly referred to as a Vasa ship.

When I stared blankly back at them, they chuckled before “kindly” explaining what it meant.

There was a time (a long long time ago) when Sweden was a great military power (no, I’m not joking). The King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, wanted to create a flagship for his fleet — something enormous and powerful — not only to wave the Swedish flag but to also help bolster Sweden’s Navy which found itself frequently involved in wars with the other great powers of the time. To do this, he commissioned the construction of a ship — the Vasa — which was supposed to be the best and largest of its kind.

Of course, ships take time to build, and before the ship was completed, the King had became aware that the original Vasa design was already outdated by the newest models from England and France. To “keep up with the neighbors”, the King then demanded that his shipbuilders build something even greater — larger sails, better guns, etc. The shipbuilders did the best they could — given that they had already built a reasonable piece of the ship — and remade the ship — bigger and badder.

And of course, like all big engineering projects, this cycle of revision occurred again. And again. And again. Until, the ship became some bizarre, monstrous hybrid of what it was originally designed to do and all the myriad features and designs that the king had wanted in addition — becoming something it was never ever intended to be.

And, of course, on its maiden voyage — the Vasa sank to the bottom of the ocean, sending its architect to prison.

*gulp*

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