Archive for February, 2009

An oldie but a goodie, and seems strangely appropriate.  

I failed at my best efforts not to get sucked into the studying frenzy.  I go through fits and starts of studying my ass off and sleeping in until 10.  Today is a sleeping in until 10 day.  It’s a beautiful day in Fontainblows – the town is so much more charming when the sun is out.  Most days the sky feels like it’s only 10 feet above your head and the weight of the world bears down on you.  Or it could be that 50lb backpack.  (I’m talking about you.  Not me.)  In the rare occasions that the sun comes streaming in during lecture, the professor inevitably closes the blinds so we can better see the fascinating journal entries…

Dr. Visibility of powerpoint

        Cr. Enjoyment of my day

Really looking forward to this term being over so I can get back to doing what I really want to be doing.  Which is cooking, and eating, and drinking Jurançon.   

Come to think of it, this studying frenzy is a perfect example of prisoner’s dilemma.  Let’s see if I can make Nikos proud by not misrepresenting game theory like they did when explaining the “Go Ugly Early” strategy of picking up chicks at the bar in A Beautiful Mind.  Right.  The prisoner’s dilemma is such that everyone is studying because everyone else is studying.  The resulting outcome is that everyone is worse off than we would be if we didn’t spend this time cramming, but rather focused on networking, job searching, maximizing pleasure.  Since everyone else is studying and we’re graded on a Z-curve (3 standard dev’s below the mean fails, and 2 standard dev’s above the mean gets on the Dean’s List), it means that by studying, everyone collectively brings up the mean.  I suppose it’s too late to stop the pissing match, but maybe we can collude better for next term. 

I’m gonna go back to studying now.  But at least I admit that I’m studying because I’m super competitive.  The rest of you A-types should just admit the same.


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People!  I’m not letting you drag me into the end-of-term stress fest everyone is taking part in!  10% of us are going to make the dean’s list.

Let’s face it: you’re not going to make the dean’s list.  The guy next to me who takes notes in three different colors (what are you, pre-med??!) will make the dean’s list.  The girl in the front row who asks advanced accounting questions will make the dean’s list.  The guy who has a PhD in robotics is going to make the dean’s list, despite having been to every party, dinner, bar outing because he’s WAY smarter than all of us.

On the slip side, you’re not going to fail.  I’ve heard it takes punching someone in the face AND completely blanking during two exams.  Try not to punch anyone during the next week and a half and you won’t need to sit in the back of P1 classes in May.

Take this test to figure out if you’re going to make the cut.  This is a highly scientific test I’ve devised instead of studying FMV.  Take 3% points from your chances of  making the dean’s list for every yes.   If you still think you’re going to make the cut, go study.  If not, I suggest you come salsa dancing at the Aussie bar instead.

1) Are you writing a blog instead of studying for UDJ?

2) Did you go to Le Shaker more than 5 times during the term?

3) Have you gone to any UDJ tutorials?

4) Have you been late to LPG?

5) Did you free ride on the last finance case?

6) Do you not know what a derivative is?

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On being close

I got a great hug today from one of my group mates.  Totally unexpected, but really great.  

It got me thinking about how much I miss being physically close to people.  My friend Anna gives the best hugs in the world.  It’s one of those perfect hugs that lasts forever – you don’t want to, yet you’re always the first to let go.  My friends and I are quite touchy-feeley.  We hug often, walk arm in arm in the streets, hang out in a big pile of intertwined limbs on someone’s couch.  It’s nice.   

I must say that the air kisses are just not doing it for me.  I’d like more hugs.

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My buddy over at Pas-de-Soucis is onto something.  

Some days I have this strange feeling that I’m attending a US business school that’s been plucked from somewhere on the east coast and plopped in the middle of the forest in France.  Like that sister college to Harvard (you know, the one you’ve never heard of.  one that doesn’t have enough of an endowment to feel like a 5-star hotel that is HBS.)  Well, sort of like the east coast but way less liberal and self-aware.  Okay, maybe Georgia then.  Or North Carolina.

All of our cases are written by HBS press.  Most of our readings come from the Harvard Business Review.  We speak English all day – which, I must say impresses me a great deal.  The fact that our Croatian and Bulgarian and Chinese classmates speak English fluently – some having not lived outside of their home country – is frankly super impressive.  I still don’t know more than 25 words in French.  But I make do with convincing noises and my eye-rolling and exasperated exhaling are very French.  Trust me.  And I must be looking like I belong because on the last trip to Paris I got asked for directions twice.  I thought about pointing randomly, but then fessed up that je ne parle pas français.   

During class we discuss the WACC of an American airplane manufacturing firm, the culture change initiative at a Michigan sausage stuffing company (quote dude in class: “all this touchy-feely BS is just so midwestern American hokey”), or look at creative accounting practices of Tyco and WorldCom.  We’re taught by 3 professors on loan from schools in the US: Berkeley, Duke, PennState.  Every now and again we’ll discuss the IFRS standard, or the parallel trade of prescriptions drugs between the UK and Greece.  But those examples are few and far in between.

I’m not complaining.  I miss home, and I don’t think INSEAD should reinvent the wheel when it comes to business education – it was founded by Harvard profs who wanted to bring the cashcow that is bschool to Europe.  Something like that anyways.  

I suppose that the very basic materials we’re covering in P1 are not conducive to deep discussions that bring out those cultural differences that make INSEAD what it is.  Ask me again in P2, okay?

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Is it just me or is anyone else having a bit of an issue deciding whom to acknowledge in the hallowed INSEAD halls?
For example, say you speak to someone for 5 minutes at a party and (as per usual) forget their name, do they deserve a gentlemanly/womanly nod the next day? Or a smile? Or a full on STOP AND HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH ME.  Or do you just pretend it never happened and you never actually did overshare/declare your undying love/upchuck next to them.  Because what if you do the nod and don’t receive and ackowledgement in return? That, dear readers, is the ultimate faux pas.
Or even worse, say you’ve seen someone so many times and in that particular moment you pass them for the 457th time you just can’t be arsed to say hello.  I mean really, is anyone’s life the worse off for not having greeted each other with gayness and abandon?  Have you committed the mortal sin of not saying hello to every single person you meet? Will your name forever be dragged through the mud as being the “anti social” one that never says hello?
These are interesting questions.
A more interesting experiment is to say hello to people you have never even met, and see what happens.  I’ve tried it, and I guarantee you most acknowledge back thinking that you did meet but it was dark/drunk and live in fear of the anti social tar.
Try it, it’s worth hours of laughs.

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p1020655The LPG assignment is nigh, but instead of writing the actual assignment, I’m writing about writing it.  Go figure.  I have no anti-procrastination commitment devices.  

For the last two months, I’ve been doing group assignments and in-class exercises in a group of 5 classmates, supposedly selected for our diversity.  Which is why we are some mix of these not mutually exclusive categories: 2 chicks/3 dudes/2 consultants/2 europeans/1 former european/1 American/1 SE Asian/1 banker/>=4 Type As/1 INFJ/2 ESTJs/1 INFP/1 ISTJ.  There.  Now you can all figure out who’s writing this blog.  Oh wait, you already did and then confronted me about it at the bar in front of a bunch of people.  And then it was awkward because you had no idea that I was hoping to stay anonymous.  Well, I’ll let it slide because then you proceeded to tell me that you liked the blog… So we’re cool.  

The whole essay thing is proving to be a little too therapeutic, which makes me suspect that I’m doing it wrong.  I’ve got 2465 words, and a very vague idea about the underlying dynamics of our group.  It all sounds like stuff I’d say in therapy session with my shrink.  And then she’d inevitably point out how I made myself sound like the innocent bystander to whom things just happen.  So, damnit, Nancy, fine….you’re right.  I’ll take some responsibility for my need to usurp the power by distracting the group with a YouTube video.  Or my need to have everyone around me think of me as smart, and not let anyone onto the fact that I might be fun… because I’m worried that I’m really not that fun.  Right.  [End internal dialogue with shrink.]

It’s been interesting to end up in this group that doesn’t have a formal structure.  At work, there’s usually a pre-determined hierarchy which you then have to work within (or… umm…subvert if your PM is a retarded monkey).  Now we find ourselves in this group of people who are all approximately the same age, but come from very different backgrounds and have different work styles, motivations/motivators, expectations of the year at INSEAD, and personal styles.

My group has not (yet?) had an open conflict, but neither are we much of a happy family.  While I had a very strong initial reaction to one of my group members, I eventually realized that I was reacting to the not-so-flattering things about myself (impatience with people, intolerance of imperfection, a well-repressed impostor syndrome) – things that I have been trying to work on with varying degrees of success – that this person reflected right back at me.   

Also, coming from a non-traditional background, my group crowned me the ‘out-of-the-box’ thinker.  Though according to today’s LPG case, the self-fulfilling prophecy might just make me creative regardless of whether or not the damn 9-dots puzzle gets me every time.  (Btw, actually calling someone who thinks differently from you an out-of-the-box thinker is just so cliché.  Or so 1970 consultant-speak.)  It’s interesting just how relative the perception of creativity is and how little credit people give their own creativity.     

Right.  I’ve wasted enough time now.  Back to writing the paper.  Perhaps I’ll post the paper on here once I’m done.  

Yeah, right.

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Twingo Dreams

omg omg omg! this ad is the cutest.  Thank you to my lovely upstairs neighbor for this one!  

So, I’ve gotten absolutely obsessed with Twingos.  I see one every 10 feet on Rue de Saint Honoré and I just want to cuddle them.  Or eat them.  I’m not sure which one. 

They’re like the way more adorable French version of the VW Bug.  If the bugs were colored like JellyBelly Jelly Beans, the Twingos are colored like more subtle macarons.  

the boy points out that the obsession with Twingos is simply my building up a justification for buying one when I can probably do without a car.  He might be right, but shhh… don’t tell him.  

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