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Archive for May, 2009

Clueless

So…a funny thing happened today.  Not funny-haha… Actually, not funny at all.  

I was sitting in macro, paying rapt attention to the new prof – major improvement over Andy – while at the same time having no clue what was going on.  

So I thought I’d ask a question.  But then I realized that I didn’t know what question to ask.  Beyond raising my hand and going, “um, professor. I’m so freaking lost.  Uhh…. dduuuuuh… what’s with the interest rate?”  

So I did that.  Picture me twirling a curl around my finger and biting my lip a little while asking, then blushing violently.  

Luckily Pierre-Olivier was kind enough to say that it was a good question.   

What’s more is that I also realized that it’s been quite a while since anyone had asked a question in class – one that wasn’t mean to demonstrate how clever they are and how well versed they are in international political theory.  But an honest-to-Gd-I-don’t-get-what’s-going-on kind of a question.   

In P3, you’re no longer allowed to act like you don’t know what’s going on.  Perhaps I have Pekka to thank for discouraging asking questions or attempting to understand the material.

Everyone is so cool in P3.  It’s uncool to admit understanding the material – because the only reason you’d study is because you worry about failing.  I’m onto you, people.  I know you’re clueless just like me.  Just raise your hand and admit it.  Maybe we’ll all learn something as a result.

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These are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you

These are days that you’ll remember
When May is rushing over you
With desire to be part of the miracles
You see in every hour
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you are touched
By something that will grow and bloom in you

These are days
These are the days you might fill
With laughter until you break
These days you might feel
A shaft of light
Make its way across your face
And when you do
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
See the signs and know their meaning
It’s true
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking

To you, to you

:: 5:30AM Saturday ::  Stumbling our way to the Club 16 after party – stumbling not so much for the drunkeness (note to self: a champagne hangover is much kinder and gentler than any other kind of hangover), but because stilettos and cobblestones are not a good mix – we picked up an ’04 alum who got lost on his way to the hotel.  Or rather, he decided to follow us.  The guy was drunk as a skunk, and self-reportedly “living the dream.”  Upon closer inspection, living the dream turned out to be unemployment in London.  The only minor glitch was that he was also broke because the hedge fund he worked for went belly up.  

The guy was very eager to know all about who’s hosting the coolest parties and what the hook-up scene is like.  Answer: (a) Tavers hosts lots of parties.  Some of them are cool and (b) Seriously?  Do 37 yo’s care about this stuff?  I wouldn’t know.  Or I’m being coy.  No, really.  I don’t know.

He followed us to Club 16 and proceeded to sit slouched on the couch, fading in and out, leering lustily at girls in tight dresses who still hadn’t gotten all of their dancing out of their systems by 6AM.  It makes you wonder where one goes that wrong.

It also makes me worry that once I’m done with INSEAD, I’ll be desperately trying to relive these days.  What if my 5 year scenario doesn’t pan out, and rather than come back to Fontainebleau in 2014 with my 3-yo “fertility twins”, I’ll still be trying to score some 29yo talent?  Shudder.  

I’m just now starting to appreciate why you keep hearing – in all sincerity – that this is the best year of your life.  Never again will you have this little responsibility, this many friends in one place, this level of camaraderie with people your age.  It’s extraordinary that while the world is falling apart around us, we’re chugging champagne and humping to Jay-z (yeah… classy!) at the XVI century Chateau from which Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard and went into exile in 1814.

Leaving university was so incredibly hard.  I graduated from undergrad in the middle of the post 9/11 recession (though we did just learn that 9/11 had a very small macroeconomic impact and it was the burst of the dot com bubble that had caused the brief recession).  Our senior year career fair happened the week after 9/11 and the indoor 2 story hockey rink and track and field gym used for the occasion was nearly empty.  All the booths had been set up the usual 300 consulting, engineering and finance firms that came to recruit the nation’s biggest nerds.  In the end, about 30 companies showed and most of them had no idea of the ramifications of the terrorist attacks on their recruiting plans.  I remember leaving the career fair and going to my dorm to research graduate programs.  

The grad school admission process was an ego validating experience – and one that will keep my parents always wondering ‘what if’ I had gone to Hopkins for a PhD.  Instead I chose a cop out Masters’ program with the possibility to continue for my PhD.  The entire grad school experience was the failure that I wrote about for my INSEAD admissions essay.  I realized that I hated the isolated, repetitive nature of research.  What I did instead of research was focus on going to the gym religiously (I had some killer abs in grad school…sigh…), spending lots of time doing ceramics, spending every Friday at the Symphony matinee and doing way too much JDating.  I don’t think I mentioned that last part to the adcom at INSEAD.

I have JDate to thank for meting Jon the Pervert.  To my family’s chagrin, this may have permanently turned me off from dating my own people.  The reason I call the guy Jon the Pervert is because it later turned out that Jon had been cheating on me the entire time we were together.  Namely, he was trawling for sex on Craigslist.  “I have tickets to the ballgame in Section X.  I want to take a blond with DD breasts.  Send me a picture.”  You can’t make shit like this up.  Jon eventually got what was coming to him, but that’s a much longer story, and one that doesn’t cast me in too lovely of a light.  So I can tell it to you over a beer (or 5) sometime.  Or ask my talent manager.  

Jon spent 6 months destroying my self-confidence and then unceremoniously dumped my ass a week before graduation, the day before I was packing up my apartment to move to the ‘burbs, and two weeks before I was starting my new job – compounding the anxiety I was already experiencing because I was leaving school.  Moving out of town was stupid move #1.  About two weeks into my new job I got lost on my way home and found myself driving across the bridge by the school – the one told me, “You own this town” – and bawling my eyes out when I realized that I was no longer a student.  (Yeah, I cry easily…)  

For the next four years, I lived vicariously through friends who also stayed in grad school – (didn’t “quit” as my grandma calls my failure to get a PhD) – and found every excuse I could to come back to school to attend conferences, speak on a panel, serve on a alumni fundraising committee, be an industry mentor to a senior design class.  Now at INSEAD, as a club officer, I’m often fielding calls from Alumni who want to come back to speak about their company, share a case study of their startup, install solar panels on the roof of the Plessis Mornay (in a town that gets 75 days of sun a year).  

Somehow I think I might be one of those people in a year.

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good housekeepingWhen I have a particularly stressful day, I come home and chop the shit out of some garlic or mandoline slice the hell out of some fennel. And then I feel at peace with the world. I learned the basics of cooking from my mom. She’s an amazing cook and incredibly calm and confident in the kitchen, and I try to emulate her behavior when I’m hosting a dinner party and sweating the details. At INSEAD, I don’t have the energy to be the hostess with the mostest very often (I cook regularly for my housemates, but have only hosted two dinners in the last four months, as compared to my usual biweekly rate), so maybe I shouldn’t take it so personally when one of my friends said that I “just don’t look like someone who’d know her way around a kitchen.” I console myself that another friend said, “you’re such a good cook. You’ll be married by the end of the year if word gets out.” Um… let’s hope it doesn’t.

[Mama, Papa, don’t read on, ok?]

Last night my roommate walked into the kitchen to find me sauteing some courgettes while wearing three inch stilettos and a tiny black dress. The scene was very 1950s Good Housekeeping. He took one look and busted out laughing hysterically. I was trying out an outfit for the Iberian Week party and then realized that I was hungry. Though after I finished cooking I discovered that I couldn’t actually eat a bite and still hope to breathe in the black dress. So the courgettes are still sitting in the fridge.

I did not expect to find myself single at INSEAD. When I got to campus in early January, despite the hick-ups that the boyf and I experienced in -13C-filthy-covered-in-dog-shit-everything-is-closed Paris over New Year’s (namely: his selling out and taking the train home two days earlier than planned), I was still introducing myself as happily-attached. I had decided that the polite thing to do was to bring up your partner about 3-5 minutes into a conversation with a new person in order to signal to the other party that you’re being friendly because you’re a friendly person, and not because you find the other person dreamy. That’s the protocol anyways.  It didn’t fool you, who let me borrow your jacket during the orientation week circle jerk/team bonding exercise.  You’re dreamy.

Then, as I’ve covered previously, the relationship was no more. In terms of Hall’s Model of Frictional Employment, I am currently unemployed (as contrasted to my student status at INSEAD = out of the labor force). If I spend at least 45 minutes per week entertaining the idea of my next “employment”, I will remain classified as unemployed. If, on the other hand, I become discouraged and stop looking, or go crazy and become institutionalized, I’ll be considered out of the dating equivalent of the work force. The play force? [Um…. get it?] I’ll agree with my favorite MGE professor that there are no monetary unemployment benefits to being single, but I’d argue that the intangible benefits are new-found free time, the energy to stay out dancing until 5AM, smiling more, lack of drama.

P1020927

Now, unfortunately the majority of men on this campus don’t even realize that I’m a woman. Wearing clogs and hoodies all winter probably didn’t help with that. I’m guessing I’m not even on the much-talked-about-but-never-seen spreadsheet of available women. (Makes the world spreadsheet sound kinda dirty.)

However, being unemployed without making an idiot of myself might prove difficult. Taking on a talent manager was the first step, though that might turn out to be more of a liability.

[Right in front of me] “Hey what about him? Oye, amigo, are you single?”

“No, dude, I’m married.”

[I’m off to chop some garlic, but this post is to be continued…]

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I think I’m starting to drink the INSEAD Kool-Aid. Instead of studying, the Singapore folks made lots of videos of themselves screwing off. One of those videos got posted around facebook recently. In it, all of them are dancing in various tropical locations (and the Tanoto library) – in the geeky dancing style of Matt (of where the hell is Matt youtube video fame).

The first time I saw the “Where the hell is Matt” video, I found Matt’s exuberant joy incredibly annoying. Come to think of it, it might have been the ex-boyf who initially shared the video with me – thereby discovering the source of our major conflict that would eventually drive us asunder: my inability to share in the unbridled joy of a fat dude doing an awkward dance all over the world. (I mean, let’s face it. That Matt dude is kind of a twat…)

Then the other day I found myself watching that video from Singapore and finding it absolutely adorable! Which makes me think that I’m starting to drink the cool aid.

It’s not all so hunkey dorey though. I think I may owe my new found positive outlook to the fact that I can now take ALL my negativity out on a certain professor and his unbelievably frustrating, entirely unnecessary, obnoxiously antagonizing cold calling. At the end of his lousy class, I’m left feeling completely exhausted of all negative energy. His manner is “you’re crap and I’m awesome for teaching you Solow’s growth model like I came up with it myself.”

What exactly am I learning when he calls on people in order to catch them off guard for not listening? I COULD be learning if he actually called on people who cared to participate and had an interesting insight. Instead, he gets some sick joy from calling on people and then not giving them two moments to think through the question. Are we supposed to be intimidated by his superior Berkeley intellect? Is this style of teaching going to force us to be more intellectually engaged?

“Blah blah blah blah blah blah. I said two IMPORTANT words in that sentence. What are they?”

WHAT THE F?

I took Macro with (2008 Nobel Laureate) Paul Krugman back in college. While Krugman wasn’t a terribly compelling professor, the guy was famous. We were taking the course during the Asian currency crisis – with Krugman flying back and forth to consult to the Japanese government on monetary policy. So, while I can’t say I learned the fundamentals of Macroeconomics, I found it fascinating to be in the presence of something important that was happening in our time. Paul would come back from his trips, perch himself on the edge of the desk and talk about the meetings he had just had. Professor Krugman didn’t feel the need to antagonize us or put us down, or show to us how much smarter he is than all of us. (That was pretty evident anyways). Maybe Andy’s got his own Nobel in the pipeline, but then why would he need to flex so much in front of a bunch of kids.

While it’s not constructive to be sitting there seething, the class seems to allow me to work through my daily allowance of negative emotion, and then I’m happy as a clam the rest of the time.

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-so, where are you from?

-well, it’s kind of complicated. I was born in Thailand but went to an American middle school there. Thus the American accent. And then my folks moved to Namibia and after that I went to college in Australia. But I’ve lived in London for the last six years, but I was doing consulting work in Dubai for most of that time.

-Gawd… you’re so INSEAD.

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[mbamrs] I’ve been trying my hardest to be positive lately.  It’s not in my nature exactly, but I’ve been trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.  By acting positively, I might actually become positive.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Now, my anonymous guest blogger can’t be bothered with that kind of pop psychology.  Here’s his take on the Singapore-Fonty reunion [edited for punctuation because I couldn’t help myself]:

 

[onward with the guest post]

With the sudden influx of Singapore folk it is worth noting the marked difference between “them” and “us”.  As this esteemed blogger has already noted, their suntanned skins, smiling faces and general energy levels seem far higher than ours, we morlocks of Fontainebleau.

 

For example this is how a typical conversation goes:

 

Singapore person: SO GUYS IS THIS THE BAR OF THE WEEK? WHERE ARE WE GOING NEXT WEEK? AND THE WEEK AFTER THAT? AND AFTER THAT? OMG OMG OMG I’M SO EXCITED!

 

Fonty person: There is one bar of the week.  It’s the bar of every week.  If you’re lucky and it actually gets organized.

 

Singapore person: SO WHERE DO YOU GUYS GO FOR THE WEEKENDS? I’M PLANNING TO GO TO X THIS WEEKEND AND Y THE WEEKEND AFTER AND Z THE WEEKEND AFTER THAT AND THEN DO IT ALL AGAIN!

 

Fonty person: I’m reading two case studies this weekend and going to sleep.

 

Singapore person: SO WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING THIS AFTERNOON, HUH!? LET’S ALL GO DO SOMETHING! LIKE, NOW!

 

Fonty person: I’m reading two case studies and then going to sleep.

 

See the pattern?  Whether it’s the fact we have all been slowly beaten by the Fonty winter and lack of things to do plus expense of Europe, or constant studying which we seem to do far more than the Singapore folk, I don’t know.  But surely this incessant Singapore liveliness will be crushed just as we slowly were?  Surely they can’t keep this up for another two months? 

 

How can two campuses create such totally different outlooks on life and culture?  It’s almost like you could call them two separate schools.  I mean deep down they are exactly the same us of course: approachable, friendly, and generally warm.  But in only 4 months they gained a completely different outlook on life than the majority of Fonty denizens.


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