Archive for November, 2009

Batshit Crazy

There are four weeks left of term and some people have lost their minds. Some are inventing their own version of two-campus P5 that I’ve heard called “Fontainepour” (or “Singableau”), others are finding a lifetime of McNuggets a viable proposition. I’m trying to balance the sentimentality of the impending departure (the last of the Monday dinners, the parties with Black Eyed Peas on constant repeat, the foggy mornings in the forest) with the urge to get the f*ck out of Dodge. And all the while, trying not embarrass myself too much at parties. [To the sweaty aggressive Israeli P2: check your pockets for any of my personal items and pls leave in pigeonhole. Facebook stalking revealed that you listed ‘The DaVinci Code’ and Vivaldi as favorites, so um… it’s not going to work out. It’s not me, it’s you.]

As of today, I have ten days left in France. Having also gone somewhat batshit crazy, I decided that I couldn’t finish INSEAD without doing the Singapore thing. So I’m in the process of packing and taking stock of the year that is almost done. Of course, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees while I’m still thick in the trees. My talent manager says that we won’t truly understand the impact of this year until it’s over. So, you’ll have to wait for me to make my final assessments a few months out over a glass of Txakoli while I watch the surf from a beachside cafe in rainy, beautiful Pays Vasco.

Just last night I was going through my coursepacks – deciding what to keep, what to scan, what to throw away. With La Poste’s 10EUR/kilo rate, I have to part with the 3 ft tall stack of course notes, readings, cases. After college, I held on to the 20+ ‘Bibles’ – bound books of all the course notes, homeworks, exams. I lugged the 15 kilos of them from apartment to apartment, and in the 6 years since undergrad looked at one of the Bibles once, to review Navier-Stokes when doing some fluid flow calculations at work. Eventually I ditched them in the basement of the house I shared with the Troll.

At INSEAD, you have to continuously make tradeoffs between studying, your social life, sleep, keeping in touch with family and friends from home, and blogging. During this massive house-cleaning, I got into a low panic over the fact that most of the trading off I’ve been doing recently has been in favor of the part-time job (which, to be fair, has been a great learning experience) and social life, at the expense of sleep and academic learning. This means that I have piles and piles of seemingly interesting supplemental reading – on leadership, corporate governance, making of strategy, whathaveyou – that I haven’t had time to read. I’m deluding myself thinking that I’ll read them one day if I scan them in.

Post INSEAD I’m joining a small start-up to help them set strategic direction for their product development. [It’s exactly what I wanted to be doing, so I feel incredibly lucky that things have worked out my way] Yet, sitting in on Value Creation in Corporate Restructuring (and shamelessly drooling over Kevin Kaiser) is making me feel like I don’t know squat. I’ve resorted to listening closely to comments people making during the class, and mentally placing people into one of several buckets: “would never hire”, “should consider hiring”, “will ask to be on the board in 15 years” .

[I’m bored. So, to be continued.]


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Grad Trip Prediction Market


Per MDMS leave me a comment with your own predictions for our grad trip!

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[Mama, Papa, I know you’re going to read this. And then you’re going to wish you hadn’t. Up to you]

Good news! I have another dating disaster story to add to my already colorful and highly amusing repertoire of drama and intrigue – the retellings of which frequently derailed attempts at productivity of many a study group. Take for example one uber-kinky John I asked out on a date by taking a picture of my stuffed panda holding a note inviting him to see Rach4 at the Symphony. It was the world’s most adorable start to a relationship that would end when he finally decided to tell me that he was married. I was shocked briefly, but soon found a third half-Asian named Jon (to replace the half-Asian that John was replacing), and was relieved not to listen to his condescending soliloquies on post-modernism any longer. There was many a JDate disaster story: a guy with a pronounced limp who insisted on playing a rather comical game of tennis as a first date (as if to prove that, like Pinnocchio, he was a real boy), a guy who took me to see Dar Williams in concert the week after his mother died, and another whose mother killed herself a few months prior. There was Difficult Dan who was an amazing gourmet cook, and a talented pianist and cellist, and completely OCD and unbearable. There was also Gosha who got dumped for obnoxiously peeking into my fridge the first time he came to my house. And Caleb who failed to get a third date when he took a 5 minute phone call between the entree and the plat. And many a story too vulgar to tell. And then there’s the story of Jon the Pervert that’s a party favorite, but casts me in a rather psychotic light.

Jon the Pervert (not half-Asian for variety) was a classmate in grad school. I had a suspicion that Jon was a complete asshole, as evidenced by the fact that his “friends” didn’t seem to like him very much, and the fact that all of my friends couldn’t stand him. But he was very good looking, and our parents happened to live two towns over. So I talked myself into falling for him. As I probably mentioned previously, Jon the Pervert spent about 6 months destroying my self-esteem in a particularly manipulative, awful way, and then dumped me two weeks before graduation.

He then promptly got back together with an ex-girlfriend who was a Russki me-lookalike named Sasha and much more in touch with her lesbian side. The reason I know this is because I hacked Jon’s yahoo account.

Six months later, and a while after I stopped speaking to Jon and stopped reading his e-mail, I was bored and decided to check in. Just to make sure that he was still unhappy, I suppose. What I found in his inbox, among love letters to his girlfriend, was a response to an online ad to a girl who promised to ‘Fuck the smartest man on Craigslist’. Jon decided to throw his hat into the game, writing her from another account called craigslistcas@yahoo.com and cc’ing his regular account for whatever strange reason. Craigslist Casanova’s account happened to have the exact same lame password as his other account, and what I found was a treasure trove of years’ worth of e-mails to that tune.

Eventually I beat Jon at his own twisted game, inflicting a wealth of highly-satisfying emotional damage along the way. Last time I ran into Jon, 3 years hence, he was a shell of his former self. Actually, he was fine and getting married to a girl that one of my friends described as “not particularly bright, but very nice”.

In comparison, the latest turn of events is kind of plain vanilla: low on both drama and amusement, and highly unmemorable. What sucks is that I didn’t expect to be treated this way by someone I considered a friend – someone I was there for when he needed me. Perhaps I should choose my friends more carefully.

In the comforting words of my absentee talent manager, “Princesa, you did not come to Europe to eat McNuggets.”

Perhaps I’ll try something a little more gourmet next.

The good news is that my friends are always eager to help. Here, for example, is a chat excerpt from my upstairs neighbor:

“What style do you like next?
an East Coast intellectual?
a French alcoholic?
a constipated Swiss?
a sloppy Brit?
an Aussie with an indecipherable accent?
something of the Asian persuasion again?
Tomorrow at Le Shaker, we can hold auditions.”

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Maybe we mistakenly think we want “happiness,” which we tend to picture in very vague, soft-focus terms, when what we really crave is the harder-edged intensity of experience. -Tim Kreider, Averted Vision, New York Times

This blog has become too public. When Akis comes into GSM lecture screaming, “Haaaay, I heard you have a blog. Is it about me?” or Carl messages me to say, “I may have drunkenly mentioned your blog to 4-5 people last weekend. Sorry…” you have to admit that most of the school knows who’s being way too revealing on the internet. So along with the anonymity, I’ve lost the desire to share creatively-but-thinly-disguised details of my private life. So, GP, you were right: I guess wasn’t writing for attention.

But I’ll try to keep it alive for a few more weeks. Eventually, I’ll be glad I did, right?


“When you graduate in a couple of weeks,” said the GSM prof matter-of-factly, “you will…”

I failed to hear the rest of that phrase because I was too stunned. Right, in some four weeks we’ll be done with classes. We will have our last-chance sloppy-seconds hookup-with-everyone-you’ve-failed-to-hook-up-with-by-now orgy on the beach somewhere (I think it might be somewhere in Sri Lanka, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?) and then we’ll be called MBAs. And I’ll go back to the country where most people outside of consulting have never heard of INSEAD, and possibly to a state where my undergraduate connections will carry more weight than my INSEAD ones.

So, I feel like I should be able to summarize some key takeaways. Make some grand, far-reaching conclusions about the year that has almost passed. Perhaps, reflect philosophically about what I’ve learned and the opportunities before me. Or, I should reflect on the ways I’ve changed (err… regressed). But I’ll leave that to my guest blogger (who also does a poor job of disguising himself).

But really, it hurts my head to think about it. Instead, I just want to run away. I’m done with the hard-edged intensity of experience, with the French inability to think creatively, with the out-of-reach Korean food, and the punk ass kids who steal dirty sneakers from people’s cars.

I’m also done with the costume parties and the merciless gossip and the small talk that rarely transcends the quotidian or the sexual innuendo. And I’m done with letting the men here disrespect me.

I’ll admit that I’m withdrawing from relationships and the bonding to eventually make it easier on myself to leave. I’m not better than anyone here; I’m just not good at faking enthusiasm.

It’s 3AM and I’m just in a piss-poor mood. In another three weeks, I’ll write a more chipper post.

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Train to Munich

[this story is a bit anachronistic, but still good]

I don’t know why I thought taking the train to Munich for Oktoberfest was going to be boring. I brought some readings on Telecom ecosystems, a book I’ve been dog-earing one page at a time since August, and figured I’d read for four hours, then get a good 8 hours of sleep. I used to love taking trains as a child in the mother country; I loved falling asleep to the lulling beating of the wheels on the tracks. Since then, the trains have gotten smoother, and the rhythmic sound has virtually gone away. I was disappointed to find this out the last time I took an overnight train (Granada to Madrid in 2001). Regardless, I was excited for a good night’s sleep and some me-time.

Needless to say, I must have been delusional. The Oktoberfest train is sold out. The chick on the bunk next to me has 2″ long fake eyelashes, and 2″ long nails. Her name is Believe. She doesn’t seem like a typical Octoberfest goer, but maybe business is better in Munich over the weekend.

So, I’m talking to some guys from California and some French dudes. And we’re all drinking Pastis. Or rather, I’m holding my Pastis as far away from my nose as possible, lest the smell makes me throw up. The Cali kids have just graduated from college and are doing some poorly-coordinated trip around the world. As we talk, I realize that they think that I’m still in college, and one of the 21-year-olds might be hitting on me. I feel the need to set the record straight.

Me: “I’m older than I look”

Him: “Oh, how old are you?”

Me: “I’m 30”

I don’t know what possesses me to lie about my age (especially in the wrong direction).

Him: “Damn! Well… um… young at heart! Cheers!”

We clink our plastic cups.

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[the views in this post do not reflect the views of MBA/MRS. In fact, she had to look up who Tyler Durden was]

“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off. ” – Tyler Durden

P5 makes me think of that quote. At INSEAD you are told you are the “Leader of Tomorrow”, a “Global Leader” who can make a difference. While this is all admirable as the countdown begins to unemployment for many, you finally realise you really are just like every schmoe in the world, out in the world hustling to make a buck.

Okay, an overeducated, probably far wealthier schmoe, but you’re still hustling to make a buck.

You start to see why there is that statistic that 50% of all INSEAD graduates or something start their own business 2-3 years out. When you are told to go forth and conquer, and end up conquering naught but a middle level management position, I think most people assess their goals in life.

But then P5 shouldn’t just be about a job should it? It should also be about the memories, and making the most of people you will probably never see again except at reunions. So as always there is the partying, and the partying, and oh yes, the partying.

But you do find people of heart here, actually, you can find heart anywhere you go. It’s always there, lurking beneath whatever barriers that people have put up to deny it, and I hope YOU truly believe that. Because if you do not, well then, no one has heart on this planet then, do they?

No, while MBAMrs has taken a hiatus, we can pick up the slack. And we can tell you, yes Singapore IS more inclusive than Fonty, for what reasons we know not. Perhaps it is the city, perhaps it is living in communal housing that still responds to accountability. No, the meek, the poor, the tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, even they are included here.

That is not to say this is a paradise, far from it. I mean for one, there are no baguettes. Or cheese. Of any description.

Look, I will end here. Because the best thing to say at the end of P5 is nothing. And you know why? Because either 1) you have already said it or 2) because well, everyone knows what you are going to say anyway.

And really, to be in that situation, is not a bad state of affairs at all.

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