Jul 28, 2007

Four More Years... euh... Weeks

You may now breathe easy, I have finally procured a copy of Harry Potter, and finished it, and I am a much happier, saner person for it. Unlike some, I will not try to ruin the ending for you (so no need for loud Smurf-music) but I will say that I, for one, enjoyed it tremendously. But maybe I'm just easy to please.

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

Harry Lost on the Amazon

I have been a loyal amazon customer for years. I have probably bought an entire store-room full of books and DVDs from those people. In fact, amazon could probably survive as a company on my purchases alone. Which is why I am now very upset that they have perpetrated a grave injustice upon me and, frankly, ruined my week, my month, nay - my year.

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

Road Trip

I am so, soooo tired of driving. After having spent the last three weeks hurtling through Western Europe, and driven over 3000km in the last 10 days alone, I have lost all romanticized notions I may have had about "The Road Trip". There were no wide open roads cutting across the American landscape, at the wheel of a 1950s convertible Cadillac, all Thelma-and-Louise-like (with a happier ending). Road trips in my little part of the world involve being squashed inside an impossibly small car, clutching your rosary as you try to make your way in between enormous Polish trucks and German road-rage fanatics driving at break-neck speeds, passing the time by counting the IKEAs. Ultimate driving moment today was being overtaken on the right-hand side, above the legal speed limit, by a nun.

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

Le Beeg Buss C'est Moi

Barely extricated from the sauna that was my Twingo after a 14-hour trip back from vacation, and still slathered in sunscreen, I hurried to my computer to check on NV and see what my favourite bloggers had been up to in my absence. (OK, what I actually did was crack open a beer and then sleep for 24-hrs straight, cause I'm not that much of a geek, but it made the intro sound better...)

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.

Undaunted and, I must admit, somewhat looking forward to being told that my ideal career path was to become either a potato-farmer in the Midwest or a road-train driver across Australia, I hastened to take my very own Career Leader test, as instructed to by INSEAD's already greatly-maligned career services. And, lo and behold, the results were.... spot on. You have no idea how disappointed I was; finally, I thought, an opportunity to draw additional readers to my blog by jumping on the "rogue blogger who shies not from telling the truth through expletives" bandwagon. But it was not to be, for Career Leader correctly identified me as a bossy, big-mouthed, smart-ass whose ultimate career goal is to achieve Total World Domination. (I apologise in advance to my future group members).

For those of you who are actually interested, here a few choice extracts from my "Professional Report":

You have a notable interest in three core elements of business work:
- Enterprise Control
- Influence Through Language and Ideas
- Managing People and Relationships
Your most promising career paths:
- Entrepreneurship
- General Management
- 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)

Organizational Culture
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.

You would enjoy a culture that has a competitive spirit (internally as well as against industry rivals) and that encourages healthy conflict. ... People who thrive in these work environments tend to feel comfortable with conflict. They have no qualms about challenging co-workers when they think doing so will shed helpful light on a business decision -- or will give them the advantage in a negotiation or debate. Your tendency in this direction is very strong, so pay close attention to this aspect of any organization you consider working for.

And this is the best part:

Your assessment indicates that you are highly sociable, assertive, and outgoing. You like excitement, and you want to be where the action is. You're not someone people would describe as shy or easily manipulated. These qualities are great assets, but they can also cause you some trouble in your career.

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.

I can hear my friends gasping for air as they roll about on the floor in embarrassing displays of belly-aching mirth. All I can say is, sorry DTLF but, either you did the test wrong, or you really are supposed to sell double-glazing to middle-aged women in hair-curlers...

On a completely unrelated note, here are a few pics from the past two weeks:

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

Impromptu update

I just missed you guys too much, I had to scramble around for an internet connection to relieve my need for self-expression and give you a quick progress report on my vacation.

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.