Dec 26, 2007
It's one week after the end of exams, and I'm just about starting to feel like a human again. Lots of sleep, good food, and conversation that doesn't have anything to do with implied volatility according to Black Scholes, Newsboy inventories, or Blue Oceans, Ponds, Swamps or any other kind of water feature. Bliss.
After all the sleep and the food came the shopping for a new computer. Yes, I finally caved and decided that my 5-year-old, 250-pound laptop with no battery and a couple keys missing courtesy of my feline friends wasn't going to make it through the end of next period. To the great chagrin of my INSEAD techy-buddies, however, I didn't buy either a Mac or a Lenovo, but a Sony. I liked the funky blue colour, so sue me. Besides the painful and time-consuming ordeal of making my entire life Vista-compatible, I'm rather pleased with it so far. And all the keys work. And I can carry it around without risking a hernia. All good things.
Tomorrow, it's back to the INSEAD-bubble, a handy gadget that, much like my new laptop, can be carried with you everywhere. This time, the INSEAD-bubble will be implanted on the ski-slopes of Italy, with one of my (sniff, former) groupmates, one of my L'Oreal team members, a cheery Ozzie and various partners. Given the magnetic and entirely irresistible nature of the bubble, it's highly likely that more of our Fonty friends will be joining us before heading off to Singapore, and a good thing it is too, because after a week withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe.
So it is in snowier climes that I will be ringing in the New Year, in true INSEAD fashion, before heading back next week for a couple days of intense mental preparation for P3, when we will welcome our classmates from Singapore (sorry about the cold, guys) as well as the new P1s, and start the second part of our epic MBA journey. Crap, is it already time to start thinking about finding a job?!
Dec 13, 2007
INSEAD also has a policy of not revealing grades, and strives to make sure no one fails (or at least very, very few people).
So far, so good.
The result, however, is that professors put every effort into crafting impossibly difficult exams, that have very little, if anything, to do with what we actually studied in class. This, they tell us, is for our own good. With these types of exams, the average grade is ridiculously low, and the standard deviation very high (since some students get abysmal results, while others - who used to be Nobel-prize-level experts in advanced statistics or option pricing models - do quite well). This way, no one fails. For example, if the mean is 50, and the standard deviation is 20, even getting a 0 means you pass (since you are only 2.5 standard deviations below the mean).
Not failing is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but the (unintended?) consequence is that a) students are affected by severe depression after exiting an exam and b) (and this one surely is unintended) there is little incentive to study what we did in class. So basically we finish a period needing happy pills and having learned quite a bit less than we should have.
Of course I'm exaggerating, but still, there's a reason why I'm writing this instead of studying POM right now...
Dec 10, 2007
So back I go to exam prep. And since it's exam prep time again, I suppose it's also wrap-up time again, where I tell give all you avid readers the skinny on classes this period. So here goes:
Corporate Financial Policy (Pascal Maenhout): Pascal is a great guy, a great teacher, has tremendous school spirit (can't believe I embarrassed myself at Cabaret in front of the Finance prof!) and all around a superstar. Finance, on the other hand, I'm less enthralled with. Especially the derivatives part (which is about half the course). As I was discussing with a fellow finance-averse student today, it's not so much "WHAT???" as "WHY????"
Managerial Accounting (Jake Cohen): Jake is an INSEAD legend. Everybody loves him, and half of Cabaret is devoted to imitating him. Personally, the guy leaves me cold. However, we did learn something in his class, and he actually got me over my visceral hatred of accounting, so that counts for something.
Process & Operations Management (Taylor Randall): I don't think anyone was expecting much from this class (except maybe the cement guy). At first blush, it seemed like it was going to be pretty boring. But hats off to Taylor, who made it entertaining and relevant, and who is now largely responsible for the whole class wanting to work for Zara. My only concern is that the class focused mostly on qualitative analysis of processes, although apparently the exam is going to be mostly quantitative. We'll see how that goes.
Strategy (Andrew Shipilov): Sure, some people dislike the more "fuzzy" elements of the curriculum, but for me this is what business is all about. The case method approach worked really well, the Blue Ocean Strategy portion of the course was entertaining, and Andrew is a very engaging professor. So two thumbs up from me on this one.
Foundations of Marketing (Xavier Dreze): I'm going to risk creating controversy here, but I liked Marketing. Yes, I know this is not the majority opinion, as most of the class expressed a clear distaste both for the subject and for the professor. Not me, though, which is a pretty good thing considering I've got "Marketing" at the top of my future careers list!
Leading Organizations (Tom d'Aunno): I don't want to be mean, but honestly, what a let-down after GP's course in P1. I think the subject is quite interesting, but something about Tom just rubs me the wrong way. He definitely tries hard, so I give him credit for that, but I just don't feel he's sincere, and he has a tendency to pick on people in a way that is not always appropriate.
There you go. All 6 courses in under 100 words. Next period, which comes after a week of exams (#§%&!) and a much-looked-forward-to long Christmas break, I'll be taking two core courses ("Macroeconomics" and "International Political Analysis") and four electives ("Corporate Entrepreneurship", "Market Driving Strategies", "Strategies for Product and Services Development" and "Mergers, Acquisitions, Alliances & Corporate Strategy"). Probably not much time then either for a personal life.
Dec 5, 2007
- I handed in the final version of my CV for publication in the INSEAD CV book (apparently this best-seller, complete with mugshots of us beautiful people, will help us land a job to pay back all those loans; not sure how many recruiters still read books, though...)
- Our top-notch L'Oreal team submitted all decisions for the first round of the game, launching what promises to be an innovative, aggressive, blue ocean strategy of our own.
- My group finished the last Finance assignment due tomorrow (moral of the assignment: shareholders are not to be trusted) and has made good headway into the Strategy assignment due Sunday (moral of that assignment: the airline industry sucks).
- After many, many rehearsals, both performances I'm involved with for Cabaret tomorrow just about pass the giggle test, and I have a mask for the ball on Saturday.
But then I remembered we have exams. Again. And they start next week. And in the midst of all that working on group assignments, honing my acting skills, figuring out what to do with my life and attempting to sleep just enough not to get deathly ill, I completely forgot to study!
At this stage, it's best I just forget about all this exam malarkey and focus on the Christmas break...
PS: A quick personal thank you to all the people (from inside and outside the bubble) who made last weekend very special.
Nov 28, 2007
In INSEAD news: I'm not going to Singapore after all. Having been finally allotted a spot at the very last possible minute, the hassle of subletting my room here and finding short-term accommodation there was just not worth it. So I'll be spending winter in Fonty, in a severally reduced campus (about half the class will be gone).
In the meantime, myself and the rest of the P2 class are struggling to stay afloat. With six subjects, and an average of two group assignments a weak, sleeping has become an unaffordable luxury, and participation in social events require advanced time management skills. I'm enjoying the greater emphasis on case studies, and the more practical learning we're getting this period as compared to last, but OMG I need a break!
A little relief has come in the form of the Barcelona rugby trip, preparations for Cabaret and (because I am a nerd) the work on the L'Oreal business simulation game. More exciting events are coming up - just in time to tear us away from exam preparations - namely the Desi week party on Friday (theme: traditional Indian wedding), a rather special weekend for me this weekend (with friends coming from all over France and England!), the Winter Ball in a couple weeks (theme: Venice carnival) and of course the Cabaret show.
And so, to future students and applicants, I repeat the words of wisdom we got from the senior class: you can sleep next year...
Nov 19, 2007
In the meantime, I will shamelessly use this little internet space of mine to advertise my wonderful, fabulous, one in a million room at Club 16, right smack in the middle of Fontainebleau and a short walk to school. If you're interested in living the jet-setting life of the Club in January/February 2008, at a very special price, please email me asap at res.ipsa.insead at gmail.com.
End of advertisement. You can now go back to your regular programming.
Nov 11, 2007
Saturday: (we start here because all good things start on a Saturday, in my book)
No class today. This is very exciting. Lots of reading to do, though... slightly less exciting. Plus there's rugby practice (and trust me, it's cold). Then there's the frantic last minute shopping for essential accessories for whatever themed party is going on. Tonight, it's the Montmelian Ball 7 Sins extravaganza. My sin of choice for the evening: greed. Goes very nicely with all the champagne. Mmmmm...
Sunday: The day of rest. Well sort of. Very little time to actually recover from last night's party before I realize I better finish the reading in case Jake Cohen (accounting superstar and my worst nightmare) decides to call on me. And you know he will.
Monday: We kick off the day with Accounting at 8.30 am before running off to Finance and an all-afternoon-long CV workshop. By this point I'm already exhausted but I have rugby practice again. (Yes, dear friends, you weren't misreading earlier, I have actually joined the women's rugby team. Laugh all you want). It's even colder now than it was on Saturday.
Tuesday: Long day of class today largely spent discussing power tools, until it's time for our section's long-awaited champagne party. As co-organiser, I naturally feel obligated to get there early and drink as much champagne as possible. According to all those surveyed, as well as the tell-tale glazed expressions the next morning, the party was a huge success.
Wednesday: L'Oreal comes to school today to present it's e-strat business game. My team is now all set and ready to shine in the glitzy world of cosmetics. We quickly come back down to earth in POM and Accounting. In the evening, my study group spends a couple hours playing with single-server queue theory before devouring a delicious meal at a local Michelin 1* restaurant (La Table Saint Juste, I recommend it).
Thursday: Heavy class schedule today, and I'm determined to go to bed early tonight. But first we have to learn about Black-Scholes and apply it stock options for our group assignment in finance. And then there's people having drinks at Aussie Bar and, well, life is short, I'll sleep next year.
Friday: Today is big scary exam results day. If you want to know how I did, well, I can't tell you. INSEAD non-disclosure policy, you understand. Things have been happily coordinated, and we end up having our exam results distributed in a 1-hr window from a single, small office during class time. Needless to say there were suddenly quite a few empty seats in what is usually a packed amphi for Taylor Randall's one-man-POM-comedy routine. And then we still have to sit through 3 hours of LO until 7pm before finally being able to run screaming through the halls on our way to the closest bar (seeking either celebration or comfort...)
And then it starts all over again...
Highlights for the upcoming week include: the INSEAD Dash on Wednesday morning (8am), two group assignments to prepare, auditions for Cabaret, more rugby practice, and a weekend trip to Barcelona with the team to play against LBS and IESE...
Nov 1, 2007
Oct 21, 2007
But I do want to give you a quick run-down on my P1 profs since only the E1/E2 profs have been mentioned by other bloggers and I think their E3/E4 counterparts deserve a little recognition (besides Nikos, the Athenian Econ legend of whom much has already been said, profs only teach two sections each.) So here goes:
Gianpiero Petriglieri (aka "GP") (LPG): This guy is awesome. Future intakes take note: no matter what your preconceived notions may be about the value of organizational behaviour classes, you are going to end up loving GP. He somehow managed to make an entire class of finance-obsessed geeks delve into their dark, touchy-feely hidden depths to the point where, by the end of the final class, half of us were actually choking up (and the other half were squirming uncomfortably). Group psycho-therapy at its best, led by genuinely nice, Burberry-wearing Italian. What more can you ask for?!
Ioana Popescu (aka "Yo-anna!") (Stats): Statistics is not funny. Nor is it an easy subject to get your head around, especially if you've never done it before. And then comes Ioana, and with a little help from inspirational music, a sense of humour, and some brilliant teaching skills, statistics actually becomes cool. Or cool-er than you thought it would be, anyway. Hats off to you, Ioana, you actually made me consider becoming "the statistician" for a brief second (but then I took the practice exam and realized my skills might be better used elsewhere...!)
Jean Dermine (aka "The Dreamer") (Finance): I came in not expecting to understand anything in this class. And indeed, at first, my expectations were verified. But then some of it actually started making sense, and now I can calculate a WACC and unlever a beta like it was second nature (well, maybe third or fourth nature, but still...) Jean has a more traditional, "gallic" professorial style than the other profs, which did not sit well with everyone at first, but I think he did a first-rate job. And his cracks about other INSEAD-profs and their obsession with EVA are the stuff of legends.
Steve Baginsky (aka "Budweiser Man") (Accounting): I like Steve, I really do. He's a nice man and he clearly tries hard. I just don't like accounting. I could fill reams of A4 double-sided paper explaining how much I don't like accounting. Sorry Steve.
But now it's time to say goodbye to these folks and move on to the next batch of profs and subjects. Coming up in P2: Corporate Financial Policy, Foundations of Marketing, Leading Organisations, Managerial Accounting (groan...), Process & Operations Management and Strategy. But first we have exams, and a four-day group trip to Morocco (Marrakech and Essaouira, about which more later) which will hopefully do wonders to relieve tensions, make everyone happy and love each other again, and provide us with some much-needed warmth.
And so, from the sub-arctic igloos of Fontainebleau, I wish you farewell, for now.
Oct 14, 2007
Bad Thing: The finance group project is insanely complicated, and we have spent hours working on it already, thereby severely cutting into our exam prep time.
Good Thing: Little old public international lawyer me has actually valued a company. Seriously. How cool is that?!
Bad Thing: I hate accounting, can't seem to put the time or energy into getting my head around it, and as a result may end up failing that class.
Good Thing: I can now definitively strike off "accountant" from my list of potential drastic career moves.
Bad Thing: I am so behind in my studying I feel I would need an entire sabbatical year (yes, another one) just to get on top of things.
Good Thing: One of the reasons I am so behind is that I was dancing the night away at the end-of-Lebanese-week "Absolut Beirut" party. Pretty good trade-off, in my book.
Bad Thing: I didn't get a spot to go to Singapore.
Good Thing: I don't have to stress and lose valuable social/study time trying to find a new place to live. And I get to go skiing while all my classmates are exploring the beaches of South East Asia. (I'm trying really hard to find the positives here...)
Bad Thing: Exams start in one week.
Good Thing: Post-exam exhilarating madness in Morocco starts in ten days.
Bad Thing: P1 is almost over.
Good Thing: P1 is almost over.
Oct 9, 2007
Instead, being a super-alpha-high-achiever (like most INSEADers), I have been staying up late scribbling illegible finance notes, going to too many parties (how could I say no to togas in Chateau Fleury?!), and lugging around some very large bags under my eyes. This week will bring much of the same. Social activities on offer include a Lebanese dinner on Wednesday, two competing parties on Thursday, a Lebanese disco on Friday and the unmissable France-England semifinal on Saturday. On the slightly more academic side, there's the LPG essay to finish writing, two statistics group projects to prepare, one group project in finance, class readings to do and exam revision to get started with. Someone catch me if I pass out. Please.
PS: Apparently we J08 bloggers are scaring future intakes and, in particular, the incoming D08 class (welcome D08 bloggers, by the way). Well, all I can say is.... be afraid, be very afraid (and be sure to practice your not-sleeping, speed-reading and multi-lingual-costume-wearing-alcohol-consuming skills before you get here). You're going to love it.
Oct 2, 2007
On Monday, we had our second quiz, designed to help us assess whether we've understood what's been going on so far, and more generally give us a first taste of exam panic (yup, those babies start in less than three weeks...) Despite counting for only 10% of our grade, the quiz kept my entire house up late Sunday night, frantically trying to understand why profit-maximizing output should be set at P=MC.
Also on this week are the "P&M Games." No, this does not involve our class stretching its collective athletic muscle to compete for laurel wreaths before our great Athenian leader. Instead, each of our study groups is matched against another group from Fonty, Singapore, or the Wharton MBA class (an example of the INSEAD/Wharton Alliance at work) as we set prices and quantities for products in an attempt to make more profit than the other guy. Every day this week, we input our decisions into the network and wait to see what the other teams come up with before moving on to the next round. While rather time-consuming (but hey, who needs sleep...) it's a fun way to apply all these nifty equations we've been learning, and also allows us to work more closely with our groups.
In a similar vein, the P&M Class Exercises also start this week. This is based on the same principle as the P&M Games, but carried out on a smaller, less high-tech level. First up, pricing pharmaceuticals when a patent is about to expire and a new generic brand wants to enter the market.
As you can see, slight Econ overload, but I actually really enjoy the subject so no complaints from me (all I can say is thank god I don't have to spend that much time doing accounting...)
Another feature of the week is frantic, generalized study group bonding. Our LPG (Leading Peoples and Groups) essay is due next week, subject: your study group, its mechanics and your role within it. This essay counts for 50% of our grade, and while it may seem "warm and fuzzy" compared to the heavy finance and stats stuff we have to do, it's slowly dawning on most of us that writing an essay like this will not actually be simple. So, groups that have until now been spending as little time as possible with each other are planning dinners, study sessions, drunken brawls, anything that will allow them to "observe" each other while surreptitiously scribbling notes in a little black book and gathering fodder for the essay. Spies are everywhere.
And with that I leave you to go meet my group for the next round of P&M Games. Shhhhh....
Sep 25, 2007
Sep 16, 2007
Sep 13, 2007
Social life at INSEAD being directly (and very much negatively) correlated to the level of difficulty of the classes, the drawn faces around campus are now the result of spending all night grappling with stats and valuation exercises rather than excessive alcohol consumption and dancing to Mika. This was not helped by the fact that we had our first Econ quiz this week. Still, we managed to get through it and the end of the week is looking decidedly cheerier.
Today was the Career Fair, meaning a free afternoon for us P1s not quite prepared to think about jobs yet. That, and the fact that the sun came out in force, resulted in the left-hand side of my face turning a rather odd shade of purply-pink. Not quite the look I was going for in preparation for the Shangri-La party tomorrow night, the theme of which is Quentin Tarantino movie characters, not bizarre suntanning accidents. Shame.
Then it's off to Paris this weekend, for a little friends-and-family time, as well as the sporting event of the century. No, not the Rugby World Cup (which I really would prefer you didn't mention), but the INSEAD all-girls running team's first competitive outing. In the name of charity and school spirit, I have accepted to humiliate myself by joining some of my sportier female colleagues for La Parisienne, a 6.5km run through scenic Paris. Embarrassing photos of us (well, me) looking like we're about to collapse will presumably follow. I can tell you're on the edge of your seats...
Until then, I must leave you to bash myself about the head with a calculator some more.
Sep 8, 2007
In entirely unrelated news, a Swiss guy tried to get out of a speeding ticket in Canada by blaming the absence of goats. Perhaps some of my gas-pedal-heavy friends should try the same in Fontainebleau.
Sep 5, 2007
The key "take-away" from the last few days (note increased use of INSEAD buzz words) is that classes are severely hampering our social schedules. There are a lot of classes. A lot of them start at 8.30 am. There is also a lot of reading, which usually doesn't get finished (if at all) before 2 am. Ergo, I am exhausted, ill, tragically behind and in desperate need of a drink.
Here's a little technical info on the actual work that goes on at INSEAD. (The following will be of interest only to future students and applicants, and my parents. The rest of you (i.e. my classmates) can stop reading now and go back to cooking up Paris and Nicole's balance sheets.)
We have five classes in this first period: Micro-economics, Statistics, Finance, Accounting and a "leadership" class. The latter is the only one with a true level playing field; for everything else, the competitive advantage goes to the finance and maths geeks among us (sadly, I am not one of them). Professors come from all over the world, and each have their own teaching styles, which adds a little extra spice.
Students are divided in 4 sections in Fonty, with each section assigned its own amphi (here's a pic of my amphi, as we slowly drifted in for our stats class). We also all have assigned seats for all our classes, where we dutifully sit behind big name cards waiting for our professors to come to us. We are further subdivided into study groups of 5 or 6 people; these are the poor souls who will bear the brunt of our frustration, desperation and occasional bursts of irrational anger over the next four months. Bless them. There's quite a bit of group work required for class, but also tons and tons of individual reading and problem sets to prepare. Basically, there's a lot to do, and very little time to do it in.
The main time sucker is, of course, our hectic social lives. This is especially true for those of us who live in large shared houses. Official house dinners, unofficial house dinners, house party planning sessions, house rules discussion sessions, house "please help me with my accounting homework" sessions, you name it. Then there's all the parties at other people's houses. And study group dinners. And bumming around the campus café with the people who's names you've managed to remember and their friend Bob.
Second main time sucker: recruiting events. Given the overlap between the two class intakes, there are recruiting events on pretty much every day of the week. So, despite the fact that we've been here a grand total of 10 days, have only just about managed to unpack half the stuff out of our suitcases, and still can't quite find our way around Fontainebleau, my house collectively has probably attended half a dozen presentations already from banks, consulting firms and top industry companies.
Given that there are only 24 hrs in the day, to say that we are suffering serious scheduling conflicts and time management crises is the understatement of the century. And there are 10 months of this to go, folks. God help us.
I should perhaps end this post with a disclaimer. Apparently - given the nature of some of my previous grumblings - my loyal and much beloved readers are under the impression that I am not enjoying myself. This could not be further from the truth. Trust me, on the rare occasions that I manage to get a nanosecond of peace and quiet conducive to solitary reflection and introspection, I am suddenly hit with the realization that I am, indeed, having fun. But if I stop to think about that too much I'll fall even further behind on the reading and be late for the next party.
Sep 2, 2007
Aug 29, 2007
So, quick update on the most recent goings-on at Planet Fonty (I actually need to glance back at my schedule print-out to even remember what I've been doing over the past few days).
1) Registration: an overly complicated procedure which involved paying lots of money to lots of people (yes, that's right, more money...). I am now signed up for the gym (the eternal optimist), paid up to be painfully tested on my third language skills (more on that later), and the proud owner of both a Bain corkscrew and a McKinsey lounge-tunes CD (who was it that said life here was surreal?)
2) After about two days fully employed filling out forms and finding Indian IT specialists to help you configure your laptop, it was finally time for the "Opening Ceremony", a rather understated affair in which we all got to assess our classmates' fashion sense. Before they ran out of champagne. How do you run out of champagne at a business school? In any event, by this stage the more networking-minded of our class had met about half the students (sorry, "participants"). The rest of us had met whoever we'd staggered into at Sunday's first Montmelian chateau party.
3) Ah, now we get to today, the most glorious of Orientation Week days, the day when yours truly finally realized she was in Way Over Her Head (yes, I am a girl, despite what some of you presumed...) First off, the aforementioned third language exam, allegedly designed to test our "basic" skills in the language of our choice. Right. The only basic skills of mine being tested were my random-guessing-I-think-there-should-be-more-Bs skills, not to mention my uncanny knack at constructing a 200-word essay using only 12 different words, at least 4 of which were French.
4) Thus feeling suitably inadequate, and cheered only by the quality of the cafeteria food, I moved on to the "INSEAD club" fair. INSEAD clubs (of which there are surprisingly few) are divided into two distinct categories. There are those for normal people, centered around sports, eating, drinking, and mild networking activities. And then there are those for the select few, or as the elusive, secret-handshake-and-royal-title-only Renaissance Club puts it, the "right kind of people." Even the normal clubs involve an application form and an interview. Welcome to biz school.
5) Finally, after an enjoyable intro presentation by Dean Fattas (and an undeniably more frightening presentation by our student government representatives), it was time to start the homework for our first introductory module tomorrow. As a result, I've found myself spending the last hour reading up on the Swedish textile industry in the 1960s. As I said, very much In Over My Head.
Will someone please remind me why I left my cushy job, and even cushier year-long sabbatical, for the epic-scale mother of all deep ends?!
That being said, there are up-sides to all this. For example, I get to leave you now to make my way downstairs for our first house dinner, where Indian, Italian, Lebanese, French, Spanish, Brazilian, Peruvian, German and English food will be frantically prepared and enjoyed over numerous glasses of wine. Well, hopefully no English food, actually...
Aug 27, 2007
Then there's school. 400 eager, smiley faces with 400 names attached to them. I'm already struggling to remember the names of my housemates. I think from now on I'm just going to call everyone Bob. If classmates wasn't overload enough, there's also endless forms to fill out, dozens of identical-looking halls to navigate in order to find lockers, the cafe, the amphis, the library, and whatever "booth" the IT-tech guys, social security salesmen and geeky blue badge providers are holed up in. The small suitcase-size pack of "reading materials" is a health and safety hazard in itself, and clearly the direct cause of native forest depletion.
So to all this I say "non." No, I will not go to another party to bond with people I'm clearly supposed to recognise but don't. No, I will not study for my third language test. No, I will not start reading through the material so I can be "on top of things" when classes start. No, I will not google search the members of my study group to see which one I can copy the financial accounting notes from.
Instead, I will do the unthinkable at INSEAD. I'm going to bed. Before 2 a.m. So sue me.
Aug 25, 2007
In other news, I've now met 5 of my housemates. That's less than a third of the total expected number, but so far so good. No raving psychopaths or heavy metal fans as far as I can tell, so we should get along. Which is a relief as we're all living in rather cramped quarters with annoyingly thin walls.
Now please excuse me while I lapse into coma.
Aug 22, 2007
Big break-through today, though. I think I finally figured out the difference between a balance sheet and an income statement. Yes, yes, I know, you're wondering how the heck I got into this school without knowing that, but give me a break, I'm a lawyer, we're idiots. (If you want I can tell you the difference between rights in rem and rights in personam, or between the lex fori and the lex loci delicti, but you'd be bored and I'd have to charge you for the privilege.) Break-through aside, that Finance book hasn't gotten any more interesting. I'm starting to regret not having done the Business Foundations course, maybe this stuff is more exciting in class (plus I feel like I've gotten excluded from the cool kids club before school has even started. Next thing you know I'll be getting picked last in gym.)
That's enough random rambling out of me for the day, must be getting back to staring blankly at some balance sheets. Before I do, though, we have a new tidbit for our regular "couldn't have happened anywhere else but Australia" segment. Woman killed by pet camel, because said camel had a bit of a crush on her. You can't make this stuff up.
Aug 17, 2007
Like this, for example: "A business proposal... will create value only if the present value of the future stream of net cash benefits the proposal is expected to generate exceeds the initial cash outlay required to carry out the proposal."
Say it with me, folks... groan.....
I am acutely aware of the irony inherent in a lawyer complaining about unnecessarily long and complex definitions designed to ensure that knowledge and power (and money) remain in the hands of the select few, trust me. That, of course, is not going to keep me from complaining.
All of this bodes well for the start of classes, which is in a little over a week. I must admit, there's a little (rather annoying) voice inside my head wondering if I've made some kind of horrible mistake. It's a good thing all of my classmates seem like nice people, and quite fond of raucous social gatherings. I think we're going to need those...
Aug 14, 2007
Aug 12, 2007
Breaker Morant: BM is a play about the court martial of an Australian soldier in South Africa during the Boer War, a sort of "A Few Good Men" for the Commonwealth. The acting was superb and the lawyer in me always enjoys a good courtroom drama, but I couldn't help feeling rather bored. Perhaps it's because I've seen so many original, quirky performances here that a traditional play just didn't seem quite right.
Failed States: With only 10 minutes rest between shows, I worried I might not be able to properly enjoy Failed States. I needn't have. A Kafka-inspired socio-political musical satire set at the time of the July 7th London bombings, this was an incredible performance. The lead (a Tom Hanks look-a-like) was amazing, the singing worthy of Broadway, and the story poignantly relevant. The overall effect was like getting slapped in the face and realizing it was just what you needed.
Stuart Goldsmith & Jimmy McGhie: On a whim, after a great catch-up dinner with a university friend, I decided to end the evening with this double-act stand-up comedy. Held in a room considerably hotter than the Nevada desert at high noon, the comedians more than made up for the discomfort by being very funny. The first was perhaps a bit funnier than the second, but that may be simply because his jokes seemed to be aimed directly at the specific market of people born precisely the same year as me. Good stuff.
On my way back to the hostel, I stopped off for a quick drink at the pub, decided to stay to listen to the live music (there is live music everywhere during the festival), and ended up busking (badly) with a Scottish and an Irish guy. But that, as they say, is a story for another day...
Out of the Blue: Wow. This show, by Oxford University's male a cappella group, managed to put me in a good mood despite the torrential rain that beat down on Edinburgh on Saturday. It really put the whole American Idol thing in perspective; here are the guys with real talent. The performance (covering pop-rock history from the Rolling Stones to Green Day, from Michael Jackson to Green Day) was flawless and funny. Their rendition of "Mustang Sally", with audience participation, was a big crowd-pleaser, and the "Fat Bottomed Girls" finale absolute genius. I am seriously considering getting these guys to come perform at a future INSEAD party.
Game?: Blatantly copying from Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", this is definitely the most experimental piece of theatre I've seen here, or anywhere, really. Decidedly odd, and not a little bit disturbing, I can see why it has gotten some good reviews. But frankly, I just don't think I "got" it. One thing I can say for sure, is that that I'll never be able to eat a marshmallow ever again.
Aeneas Faversham Returns: Needing some light humour to get me over "Game?", I popped in to see AFR, which was not so much a play as a collection of sketches. Sort of like Monty Python's Flying Circus, but set in Victorian England. While the quality was a tad uneven, a few of the sketches were dead funny and did the trick, hopefully dispelling any lingering marshmallow nightmares.
Eurobeat: After an interesting chat with my new hostel dorm-mate (who's writing a book about his adventures hitchhiking through Britain), I set of for the much-hyped Eurobeat, a spoof of the infamous Eurovision song contest. Relative to other Fringe shows, this was a Hollywood big-budget production, with hundreds of people in the audience, a real set and snazzy costumes. Everybody really got into the spirit of things, cheering their allotted country (I was Iceland), waving flags, agitating plastic clappers and voting by text for their favourite songs. It truly was just like the Eurovision, with one notable distinction: these people could actually sing.
On my last day now, and frankly I'm a bit "showed out". The sun is shining on Edinburgh today, so it's a perfect opportunity to stroll through the cobbled streets and soak up the atmosphere... and catch a couple more shows, of course.
Aug 10, 2007
Shakespeare for Breakfast: First up, Shakespeare for Breakfast, complete with free coffee and completely inedible croissant. A quirky comedy involving a selection of Shakespeare characters lost in the woods on their way to a movie premiere, it was a little like the Bard on magic mushrooms, with a liberal sprinkling of Harry Potter and Big Brother references. While I must admit I didn't quite catch every one of the jokes (heavy Scottish brogue doesn't help), it was a very funny way to start the day. The two girls who played Juliet's Nurse and Cleopatra were particularly good.
State of Matter: This was amazing. Performed by all-male 2Faced Dance company, the show ranged from ballet to break-dancing with some seriously nifty acrobatics thrown in (accompanied by a music track as eclectic as the dance styles). Being an amateur production, there was the odd timing error, but overall this production was moving, brilliantly original and just plain cool (and the audience went crazy for it). Definitely a serious contender for the little known but highly prestigious "Res Ipsa's Favourite Show" award.
Isy Suttie: The Fringe is the world capital of stand-up comedy, so I figured it was now time to see some. Turns out I didn't choose very well, and while a few of Isy's lines were smile-worthy, most of her stand-up musical routine was rather painful. In her defense, I should mention that the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it, so maybe it's just me.
Tony! The Blair Musical: My spirits were much lifted by my next choice, one of two Blair-inspired musicals at the Fringe this year. I don't know what the other one is like, but Tony! was a blast. Performed by a group of students who couldn't possibly be old enough to actually remember anything of Blair's 1997 electoral victory, the show featured some great one-liners, impressive acting (the guy playing the PM should consider a career as a Blair impersonator), very adequate singing and some inspired appearances by Diana's ghost, George Bush, and former Tory leaders singing barbershop quartet. The Res Ipsa award might be a close call...
Chris McCausland: Although a bit worn out from my show-filled day, I joined the hostel's pub crawl, which included a stop at a free stand-up comedy show. The pub crawl was rubbish, but the show was much better that the one I'd paid for in the afternoon. Self-proclaimed "only blind comedian in Britain", Chris had me in stitches, and I don't think it was just the beers.
I'm going to try for a slightly more quiet day today (only 2 or 3 shows, I think). I've spent the morning soaking up the Fringe atmosphere on the Royal Mile, where performers promote their shows with singing, a little improv comedy, and lots of gratuitous juggling. All good fun. Now if only the sun would show...
Aug 5, 2007
Aug 3, 2007
Then today I saw my room, and my house, for the first time. While not quite "ready" for human habitation (rant, rant) it's looking pretty good and I have my own balcony, so I'm pleased. But where on earth am I going to fit all my stuff??? There's a chance I may have to scale down packing plans; either the life-size Trojan horse replica or the home cinema entertainment system complete with popcorn stand and ice-cream making machine will have to go...
Aug 1, 2007
Speaking of inter-cultural mayhem, tonight I have a second opportunity to meet my future classmates. The great tell-all will be posted tomorrow.
Jul 28, 2007
What concerns me today is the pre-P1 lull that seems to have settled over all of us. Gone are the months of frantic blog activity debating the merits of the different campuses, or relating the desperate search for funding, laptops, pre-reading books and a chateau-room with a view. With only four weeks to go until D-Day, an eerie quiet has descended. There appears to be nothing left of the initial excitement but a small flurry of NV postings between those wishing to partake in poker, tennis, golf or naked sky-diving in all that free time we're going to have (strangely, no one seems to have addressed the much more important question of when and where the first of the famous INSEAD parties will be, and what on earth we'll have to wear to it.)
So it seems it's not just me who feels strangely disconnected from the hectic future that awaits us. My things aren't packed, my eagerly sought-after books have been barely glanced at, and my CV remains pitifully unprepared for the first onslaught of recruiters. Maybe it's supposed to be like this, a side-effect of the sluggish summer weather, a necessary calm before the storm. I sure would like to drum up some enthusiasm again, though, if only to get myself motivated enough to start stuffing things into boxes...
Jul 26, 2007
Eons ago, like the good little consumer that I am, I responded to the Harry Potter marketing mania by pre-ordering, online, my long-awaited copy of The Deathly Hallows. I've been a potty Potter reader since before most people who now call themselves devoted fans had ever heard of a Muggle. And this was it; the last, the most precious tome in the series, where all would finally be revealed! Thus, lulled into a false sense of security by amazon's promise that Book 7 would be waiting for me on my doorstep on the morning of its release, I handed over my credit card information, unawares of any impending doom.
It is now almost one week since the day I was meant to be tearing open my brown cardboard box and finally discovering the truth about Harry. One week! And the blasted book still hasn't arrived. And my trusted amazon customer service representative tells me to sit tight until next week, and if I still haven't received it, then maybe they'll send me a new one that will probably take another week to get here. Don't these people understand the gravity of the situation? Don't they realize that, until I can get my sweaty little paws on that book, I can't listen to the radio, watch television, read my fellow blogger's posts (thanks a lot, DTLF) or even leave my own home, for fear that some idiot will give away the ending?
OK, so I could use this forced exile from the world as an opportunity to crack open those Finance and Accounting books, but really, my distress is too great even to lift myself from my bed. Besides, Finance and Accounting aren't fun and no one does any cool magic spells in them...
Jul 24, 2007
Still, I got to spend "quality time" with loads of friends and assorted members of my extended family, and managed to catch my little cousin's wedding, so it was all worth it. But I'm happy the next trip isn't for another couple weeks and (phew!) by plane.
A couple photos for your viewing pleasure before I happily drift off to sleep, my dreams filled with speeding nuns:
The happy couple
Jul 17, 2007
And oh, what fun it was to discover that DTLF had seemingly lost his/her cool, and created a new form of INSEAD-blogger: the profanity-spewing, mud-flinging, manic-depressive and potentially homicidal MBA student, a sort of Zorro-cum-Terminator for the 21st century's upper middle classes. And why this sudden outburst from the Guru of Zen? The notorious "Career Leader", a program which professes to be able to tell you what exactly you are meant to do with your life after having spent that hefty sum on b-school.
- Enterprise Control
- Influence Through Language and Ideas
- Managing People and Relationships
- Management of New Product Development
- Marketing and Marketing Management
- Non Profit Administration
- Dictator of a Medium-Sized Country (OK, I just slipped that one in to see if you were paying attention)
You would fit best in an organizational culture characterized by an aggressive "rough and tumble" give-and-take in daily activity and by a high level of activity overall. ... People who thrive in these cultures view meetings, discussions and negotiations not as distractions from the "real" work but rather, as the work. And they have no qualms about making a little noise in order to get their ideas heard.
Because you tend to have a strong, dominant personality, you may experience difficulty listening to other people and really hearing their ideas, concerns, or objections. At times, you may come on too strong, and be unable to take a back seat during a discussion or project and mesh with other members of a team. Without intending to, you may intimidate people who are less forceful than you are.
Habitually taking up too much "air time" can pose a danger in class discussions (if you're in school or in a workplace training seminar). This tendency can also hurt you during negotiations and on-the-job meetings. Be careful that you don't get a reputation for "sucking up all the oxygen in the room." And remember that sometimes the best thing to say, especially during a negotiation, is nothing.
Above, and below, the Vienne Jazz festival, as shot in front of the local Roman temple.
And, of course, the beautiful St Tropez:
I don't have my friends' authorization to disclose pictures of them dancing, wearing bikinis, or pretending to be handy with barbecue tongs, so the above will just have to do for now.
A final note, in what seems to be a developing Australian-gag-of-the-week theme: can someone please explain the rationale behind Sydney's new "Go-Bag"? And, more importantly, if someone could show me how I'm supposed to carry my cats around in a cotton pillowcase (through a panic-crazed mob), that would be super. Thanks. In the meantime, I'm off again for a week but will be looking out for your suggestions, diagrams, youtube videos demonstrating this amazing feat.
Jul 5, 2007
So, things all started very smoothly, as we drove my miniature car towards the southern sunshine at a nice, leisurly pace, stopping at Vienne overnight (no, not Austria) for an evening of jazzy relaxation. Vienne has some surprisingly well-preserved Roman ruins, including one mightily impressive temple surrounded by cafés, where a group of young musicians had decided to set up camp on this second evening of the annual jazz festival. There were lots of other bands around town, and the evening was passed in a most pleasant fashion café-hopping from one improvised concert to another.
On the second morning of my vacation, my car got towed. Turned out we parked it in the middle of the place du marché (conveniently not actually called "Place du Marché", and remarkable only by the surprising absence of any "no parking" signs; details, details). Fortunately, small-town police in southern France are extremely friendly people, as are those responsible for towing tourists' cars, so the whole thing got sorted out amidst much merriment and back-slapping comaraderie. Sweetened by a hefty fine.
After many hours spent in heavy traffic, we made it down to the mediterranean sea-front, apparently the one and only place in Europe to actually have had sight of the sun so far this summer. And if it wasn't for the tendonitis in my knee which is preventing me from running (swimming is such a boring replacement) and the three days of mistral currently swirling above our heads, everything would be perfect. Hopefully, both the knee pains and the howling winds will have quieted down by the time my gaggle of friends descend upon the house to turn it into Party Central.
Further updates are unlikely before another week at least, my loyal readers, but I do promise you pictures once I get back to a more internet-friendly environment. So stay tuned. Please. I'll buy you a steak dinner. (OK, I won't really, but I will be super grateful).
Oh, and for those who are wondering about my pre-reading by the sea, I have managed to read six whole chapters of my microeconomics book, all of them mind-numbingly dull.
Jun 27, 2007
On a personal, slightly less historic level, I met my first group of INSEADers last night. True to statistical form, between the five of us there were four nationalities present and the girls were outnumbered 3 to 2. After a few awkward introductions, we happily debated the pro's and con's of attending the Business Foundations Course, the best way to approach the recruitment process, and where the good parties were likely to be held. I was pleased to learn that my fellow admits shared my anxiety about the level and amount of classwork waiting for us come P1 and that, like me, none of them had started the pre-reading yet. A very promising start, I think... So now I can happily run off to the beach, books in suitcase, knowing that there will be at least a few familiar faces at Orientation.
On that note, dear readers, I leave you for a couple weeks while I catch some sun. Be good.
Jun 25, 2007
Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Don't let yourself down
And don't let yourself go
Your last chance has arrived
Best, you've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now.
I take this opportunity to nominate this song as the official "Dean's List" theme tune for the J'08 class. (For those curious about the Dean's List, check out the youtube video posted by fellow blogger necromonger.)
Jun 23, 2007
There is a rather interesting study published yesterday about families, notably about the relative IQs of siblings. Apparently, first-borns have, on average, an IQ three points higher than that of their younger brothers and sisters. Something to do with the extra attention lavished on them by their parents before the rest of the brood comes along. According to the article in the NY Times, first-borns also have a tendancy to be responsible, disciplined high-achievers; whereas their siblings learn how to play the guitar, have more friends, start political and scientific revolutions and generally are way more cool.
This begs the question: how many INSEADers are first-borns?
On an entirely unrelated note, I did a little jump for joy when I looked at my spotted visitor map today. Not only are the little spots spreading faster than chickenpox on a kindergartner (don't want DTLF putting me to shame), but there is a new spot hovering above Alice Springs. Having spent some time in that "straight out of the far West, got to see it to believe it" community but a few months ago, the fact that someone there would read my blog tickles me pink. Dear Alice Springs reader, I don't know who you are, but thank you.
Jun 20, 2007
But it's back to the real world of pre-MBA life now. Pre-reading books arrived in the mail today; they are filled with bizarre mathematical equations with incomprehensible acronyms, and one of them doesn't even have any pictures. Groan. The new Harry Potter is coming out soon, though, maybe I'll read that instead (hey, you never know, quidditch could be an essential skill for INSEADers...)
Speaking of the real world, I overheard this from renowned intellect, David Hasselhoff, while zapping through the TV channels: "If our show (Baywatch) had moved there, it would have put Australia on the map."
Australians must be bummed that, because they said no to the red-suited babes, people think the big blob of land with kangaroos on it is actually New Zealand.
(and can I just say to DTLF who thought he/she was oh so clever: HA! I like my beers German, please)
Jun 15, 2007
On an INSEAD note, I still haven't received the pre-reading books I was hoping to skim through on the train, I have no idea if my first deposit to secure my spot has gone through, and am still undecided as to whether I should buy a new computer (hey, if I win the Lottery or something, I'll have to do something with that extra cash). I have, however, secured a spot on the "Vestibule" and eagerly checked out all my future classmates. Also read through some old posts discussing housing (how much easier would it have been if I'd had access to this two weeks ago), admin and social events. I'm struck by how friendly and eager to help everyone seems. Wonder if this outburst of generosity and love for their fellow man will wane somewhat after the first week of school...
Jun 13, 2007
Also checked off my 3-mile list of things to do before I run off on my pre-MBA holiday ("Holiday?", I hear my friends shout, incredulous, "but you haven't worked in a YEAR????!!!!!") is my loan application. It's official, I am in debt. A lot of it. And all it took was hours spent in traffic in the sweltering heat of my non-airconditioned car (yes, a Renault), and a casual, 30-min meeting which ended with me signing away my first-born. Ah, the joys of private post-graduate education...
Having gotten so much done, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Until my anonymous friend, "A", mentioned that I was probably one of the "older" INSEAD-ers. And so the panic rises again. Does that mean I won't get invited to any parties? What's the age cut-off between old INSEAD-ers and young INSEAD-ers anyway? Should I frantically start plucking grey hairs? Are my chances of getting a job with Bain after graduation inversely proportional to the number of wrinkles I have?