Confessions of a Sheltered Mind

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Recap: Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Happy Birthday To Me, Now Let's Sleep In A Tree

Yikes! I turned 29 today! How did THAT happen? Wasn't I just 25 like...four years ago? I have to say, there's some real pros and cons to having a birthday at the end of the summer. The weather is usually great. Well, there are the pros. But the cons are, unfortunately, best summed up in one phrase: there is no one, I mean NO ONE, around on August 27th. Think about it. Where are you, usually, on August 27th? It's right before Labor Day, so everyone is away somewhere. I mean, it's my own birthday, and I'M usually away. And, of course, this year is no exception...

Today was Day One of the Infamous Learning Team Retreat. That's right. 800 Wharton students (well, 400 at least. The other 400 left yesterday and are coming back today) crammed into buses at 5:45 AM and headed off to the Catskills for two days of bonding with..drumroll...our learning team. The four or five other students who will be sharing academic quarters with you for the next nine months. I guess the philosophy is that if all five or six of you emerge from the woods alive, you'll be able to handle just about anything else that Wharton can throw your way.

I can't help it. I'm an individualist. In short, I didn't take the bus. I'm heading down to NYC for our last night in our apartment tomorrow night, and it just didn't make sense to take a bus home from the Catskills (about an hour away from NYC) on a 4 hour bus ride back to Philadelphia, to then get in a car and drive two hours to NYC. So, I drove. It was a great drive too. Have you ever driven on those highways that are just trees all around you, and it's one of those two lane deals whre you have to cross over the dotted yellow median to pass the slowpokes that only drive 5 mph over the spped limit? I love those roads. This trip was one giant one of those roads. It definitely wakes you up in the a.m.!

So I get to the camp. Now, they made it sound like we would be really roughing it. Hey, I've been to sleepaway camp. I was ready. This was defnitiely not the low end of sleepaways. The wood in the cabins looked new. The toilets worked. The sinks werea ll brushed stainless steel and had large, uncracked mirrors. It looks more like a Home Depot showroom than what I remember a sleep-away cabin was supposed to look like. Each member of my cohort (the illustrious Cohort J) had to wear the same dark green T-shirt with a giant J on the corner. I guess we could have had it worse. Cohort H had to wear safety orange. I kid you not. Of course, the T-shirts were specifically given out so that the largest cohort members got the smallest shirts, and vice versa.

After some brief introductions (wherein Anjani Jain, the dean of the MBA program, informed us by a quite fortuitous slip of the tounge that Wharton would be a great place to expand our SEXUAL (um, social) network. After he let that one go, we were pretty much laughing too loud to listen to anything else so we were sent to finally meet our learning team members.

[A brief note -- In the interest of privacy of my colleagues, I will not mention my Cohort or learning team members by name unless they do something really, really funny. Sorry Dave.]

Each learning team is required to have a minimum of one woman, one international and one 'alternative' career type (this is anyone who was not a banker or consultant before coming to Wharton. Trust me, we're the minority.) Well, we have the most Wonderbread learning team that I've ever seen. Our international member is from Canada. I, the corporate lawyer who spent 2 1/2 years representing investment banks, was the alternative career guy. What diversity! I'm so glad I took that seminar yesterday, or I don't know if I'd be able to handle it....

OK, we played lots of team building games, like building water balloon catapults (that quickly devolved into a water balloon war --- objectives accomplished), canoe races, and other stuff of the ilk. It's nice to get away from the classroom, and all in all I think the learning team retreat is a pretty good idea. More tomorrow.

Recap: Tuesday, August 26, 2003

You're Different Than Me In So Many Ways -- Let's Celebrate!

OK. I consider myself to be a regular proponent of diversity. I mean, I love diversity. I enjoy meeting people from other cultures, other countries, people who are, in general, different form me. I mean, how many caucasian Jewish German-ancestry types can you know before, you know, you need to join a commune or something. A really uptight, guilt-ridden commune.

So I went, in good faith, to our diversity training session. I have to admit I had my doubts. After all, how many people are actually going to admit that no, I don't happen to like you because you're, you know, you're just....weird. Not many. And certainly not many at a diversity training session. But things got a lot better when we were identifying groups that were often the subject of discrimination and someone said "nerds". Maybe this was my kind of crowd after all.

But 4 hours is too long to sit for...well... just about anything short of a transatlantic flight, and at least you usually get free booze on those. I lost interest after about 90 minutes. I mean, we're so ridiculously diverse at Wharton. Something like 40% of the students came from outside the US to go to school here. We're also all adults, most of us in the working world for 6 years or more. If we still can't get past basic social sterotypes, I don't think there's much hope that a 4-hour seminar is going to make us the light. Come on now, we've all been through this before. We are the most socially sensitized generation in the history of humankind. I even had trouble typing "caucasian Jewish German ancestry" in the first paragrpah of this entry, and that's me! Never mind the uptight joke...I agonized and felt guilty about that one for hours... then I felt guilty about being so I go again....
Recap: Monday, August 25, 2003

Six People Failed -- You Might Too!

Final day of Pre-Term classes! Final week of living without furniture! Life is exciting! I attended my last pre-term Statistics class today, wondering if I actually know anything more than I did before the first pre-term Statistics class. Well, soon I'll be going through the trial by fire that is the real deal -- Statistics 621 --> Business Analysis Using Regression. Speaking of regression, I felt a pang of sadness as I had to turn in the combination for my tiny grade school sized locker today. I understand that in three weeks or so, I'll have the opportunity to join a lottery for another one.

Academic Overview today. In a nutshell, don't mess around with the auction system. It counts now, and you don't want to get burned. (Because I do not qualify to waive out of ANYTHING, I'm not taking any electives now so i can safely ignore the auction until next semester.)

We learned something very important in MAGIC today. First-Degree Price Discimination. Very important. FDPD is basically a theoretical construct by which we charge each customer the exact highest amount that they are individually willing to pay. Why is this important? It is the ultimate goal of all of economics -- screwing the customer to the highest degree possible. The goal standard of screwdom, as it were, is FDPD.

Finally, Convocation! (Why is Convocation one month after classes start?) Convocation was quite an experience, and particularly memorable for two reasons. First, we were all wearing suits and there was a guy in shorts under his robe on the stage(!), and second, the Dean of the MBA Program, Anjani Jain, told us flat out that 6 students were kicked out last year for unsatisfactory academic performance. I keep reminding myself that this is less than 1% of the student body, but it's hard...

Recap: Friday, August 22, 2003

Please Meet Your Doctor, Your Doctor, Your Doctor, Your....

Went for our next appointment with our...doctors. I think I mentioned this before, but there's no harm in mentioning it again. Pennsylvania is a weird state. It's got strange names for everything (subs are hoagies, Route 476 is the Blue Route, the Blue Line is the 'El' (even though it is not elevated...)), it;s got the strangest liquor laws in the country, and it has a really big problem with medical malpractice cases. Pennsylvania juries have obviously taken the position of "well, it's not our money -- so, how much?" when delivering giant multi-million dollar verdicts to plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases. As a result, the insurance for doctors in Pennsylvania is among the highest in the nation. This greatly affects practices such as OB/GYN, which have high insurance rates already. As a result, young doctors cannot afford to practice. At all. In order for them to work and paid off their medical school loans, they need to group together with older, more established (read: richer) doctors. This resulted in finding not a doctor, but a community of doctors when we moved here. Any of the doctors could be the lucky one to deliver our child. Of course, this means we need to continuously schedule appointments with different doctors every time we go. Well, it won't be much longer now...

I ran out of my trading simulation today to get in the car to race to Syracuse, NY to go to my brother's engagement party. I managed to make it in 4 1/2 hours. Considering the traffic, this was an epic feat and a true indication that I am finally getting used to driving again. Now, can I get home on Sunday in the dark....?

Monday, September 15, 2003
Recap: Thursday, August 21, 2003

Cost Analysis: $90 Million in Technology Or A Good $50 Set Of Speakers

Very quiet day today. Magic in the morning, little to talk about there (well, that's not exactly true, but I won't bore you not Econ types), and a big fat break in the afternoon from 12 noon to 5 pm. This was the first itme I've had in a long time to catch up on my life pursuits. You know, things like...laundry.

In the evening, however, it was back to school to watch a DVD screening of the Wharton Follies show from last year. For those who don't know, Wharon Follies is the musical comedy production that Wharton puts on every year to poke fun at itself -- and everyone else. It's a lot of fun (most B-schools have them, and even BC Law had something very similar), and its usually a showcase for the artistic talents of your classmates. Of course, screening a DVD is not always a showcase for the technical talents of your classmates, as it took about 30 minutes or so to figure out how to turn on the sound in one of the most high-tech classrooms in the country. Ah, technology. But the show was fun, and it looks like a hoot to do. We'll see whether this is something I consider, however....

No, we haven't had the baby yet. Just a bunch of things getting in the way of blogging. Let's try to get you caught up.

Recap: Wednesday, August 20, 2003

High Culture vs. Low Culture -- The Winner Is Obvious

I am totally lost in Statistics! It's like a foreign language to me. (Actually, it's a lot more like a foreign language class than a math class -- but I'll get to that another day.)

OK -- this whole trading simulation thing (read Monday's blog) is a little more complicated once everyone is over the learning curve. Last Monday I was kicking the class' butt, but it seems that people have figured out the system, because I'm not nearly as proficient as I was at it today! First of all, on more than one occassion the trading market was dead solid wrong. It just assumed the wrong price! I mean, I've never heard of a market selling a stock for an unreasonable price, have you? No? I didn't think so.

After classes today we had a social event at the Philadelphia Museum. This is fun, but I didn't stay long because I had...a poker game. That's right, I'm plugged into the real haven for the competitive B-school spirit... I will not dilvulge any information about my fellow players or their playing habits, as I am sure that there are plenty of interested sharks out there that would just love to know that Dave always telegraphs a bluff mind.

Thursday, September 04, 2003
Recap: Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Come Save The Business World...One Country At A Time

Got to Magic (that's MAnaGerIal eConomics, for those not in the know -- shame on you) on time today. I think it was the first time, but I can't remember enough Magic classes to know for sure. I learned something new today, indifference is a vital part of modern economics. That's right, deep down I knew that my laziness was actually fueling the economic engine of this great nation....what? Not that kind of indifference? Oh...never mind.

After class, about 300 packed into a room that seated 70 to hear about the Global Consulting Practicum, an opportunity for Wharton students to consult for an international company looking to involve themselves in a large-scale project or business development. This year, the projects are in India, South America, and Israel. Well, not exactly Israel see, because Wharton has decided that Israel isn't really safe, so they're sending the consultants for the Israeli projects to....Turkey? Or Cyprus? Ah...I suppose that safety is relative and really in the eye of the beholder...

Later in the evening, the best and brightest that this nation has to offer got together to.....perform stand-up comedy. The Wharton Comedy show was actually a blast, and some of my classmates are actually quite talented. Even the famous Alex Brown got on stage to do a few bits, showing off that he's not all business when it comes to Wharton admissions. My favorite line of his was when he described how he and Rose Martinelli, the admissions director, really work together. "I'd just like to apologize in advance for the five or six total idiots that you meet in your class. Rose let them in."

Sunday, August 31, 2003
Recap: Monday, August 18, 2003

Capitalization of the Errors of Others = Get Rich Quick

I roused myself at 6:30 am again to get up early to go to a new class that started today, Classics of East Asia. While the professor seemed nice enough, I knew about 30 minutes into the class that this wasn't an 8 am kind of thing. I figure that I probably won't be heading to the remainder of the classes, as they are all at 8 am, and I'm...ok with that. I've got enough to do.

Statistics today was pretty much about how your sampling method can totally screw up the randomness of your sample. My favorite example? If you need to catch goats for an sampling study and you go out to the fields to catch them, you will likely end up with the slowest goats.

The afternoon was made up of two electives. The first, which is part of a three-part series, was a trading simulation. This was a pretty cool thing. Basically, in a nutshell, you are given a stock (call it Wharton) that pays out a dividend based upon how well it does during a given year (for simplification, the stock has three potential outcomes -- bad, OK, and good.) How much it pays out in the second year is based on how wll it did inthe first year as well as the second year, so if in the first year it would pay out 0, 50 or 100, in the second year it might again pay out 0, 50 or 100, if it was "ok" in the first year. However, if it was "good" in the first year it might pay out 50, 100 or 150, and if it was "bad" in the first year it might pay out 0, 25 or 50. Thus, it is hard to price the stock before the first 'year' is up. Each person is given two pieces of true information in the form of "the stock will not be X in the Y year." So, you might find out that the stock will not be OK in the first year, and will not be bad in the second year. You don't know which of the other two options will take place, but you are aware that some people in the class do. Each of you is in front of a computer, and begins trading the stock in a 300 second "year". To trade the stock, you may put in buy or sell orders at the prevailing market price, or may be a "market maker" by recording a bid or ask for an amount of stock at a desired price. Ostensibly, the theory goes that the market, given that all of the useful information is out there somewhere, will eventually find its way to the correct market price. However, I found that I was most successful when I was preying off other classmates' uncertainty about the game process. When the market price had a choice between 50 and 100, for example, and the price had trended to about 60, I figured that the price had to be 50, so I began selling at 60. Even when the price dropped below 60, however, there were still people who weren't looking at their screens very carefully buying at 60. So I continued to sell at 60. In this manner, I did pretty well in comparison to the class. I had a great time with this stuff, and they turned it into a bit of a competition, giving out Cross pens and t-shirts and the like to the top scorers. Go competitive spirit!

The final elective of the day was Intermediate Excel. I figured that Excel and I had to become friends one of these days, and it seemed logical that I ought to get to know it a little better. The professor was, shall we say, a little too enthused to be teaching a spreadsheet program for the fourth time in a row that day (I guess he would have to be), but I did learn how to make those pivot tables that my wife does so well but that I can never get to work. More Excel instruction is going to be needed, however, to get through this first year. Well, as they say in law, learn to love it, 'cause it ain't goin' nowhere!
Recap: Sunday, August 17, 2003

The Changing Table Racketteers

Baby furniture, I am sorry, is crap. You heard me. Utter, undeniable crap. Marilyn and I went to Delaware this afternoon (a 25-minute drive and you're in a tax-free wonderland) to look at baby furniture. The trip to Babies 'R Us was, to say the least. less than phenomenal. It was, however, an enlightening experience. I learned that, in exchange for some shoddy baby furniture that looks like it was glued together, I could enlighten my wallet by a grand or more. I have decided that baby furniture, much like hotel rooms in Italy, is one of those specialized goods that seems to escape the common economic model of "you get what you pay for". After spending a solid couple of hours staring at this fine example of sweatshop labor foreign craftsmanship, we decided that we would be willing to spend some extra dollars to find a place with more solid furniture.

Thus ends another week of the Wharton experience. Tune in for more...
Recap: Saturday, August 16, 2003

Surburban Nightlife

We spent the evening at a party at a firend of mine who lives around the block. It is so funny how one's social life changes as one goes through different stages of life. My Saturday night social calendar looked somethinglike this:

Single -- Swing Dancing Until 4:00 am.
Single and Dating -- Dates every weekend until 1:00 am or so.
Engaged -- Dinner and Dancing until midnight or so.
Married -- Movie or Quiet Evening Out until 11:00 or so, sometimes dinner.

I imagine the next stage, 'with child' results in Evenings At Home -- Asleep by 10:00 (not including regular awakenings every 3 hours), but I have no empirical evidence as to this as of right now. But spending an evening 'out', even if Marilyn got tired and had to be home by 11:00, was still nice, considering that suburban nightlife is somewhat 'limited'.
Recap: Friday, August 15, 2003

The Cure For Packratting

I got the call in the middle of Statistics class. "Hi honey. I'm on a train headed for Philadelphia. Come pick me up at the station in...say...20 minutes." At that point I was glad that she was getting out of the black hole that had once been New York, even if it meant a quick and not entirely unnoticed exit from Stat 603. I turned out that being eight months pregnant does, on occasion, have its advantages. When the ticket operator at Penn Station caught a glimpse of my wife trying to figure out which trains were heading to Philadelphia and when, she discreetly told her "There's an Acela Express downstairs that's leaving in 2 minutes. They're not really checking tickets right now, so why don't you head on down there and try to catch it?" Before she knw it, Marilyn was headed out of the darkness and into the light.

So, one returned wife and two missed classes later, I managed to get back to school to make my Economics class. After learning a bit about pricing stategies, I headed over to the big auditorium for a seminar on Alumni networking....which was packed. And I mean packed. This is the largest room in the entire school, and every seat and nearly every inch of floorspace was taken. Once again, I was defeated by the infamous 'career' seminar rule, stating that any seminar that is relating to helping one find a job is bound to be oversubscribed by at least 200%. So, instead of learning how every Wharton grad out there has a job availability in hand and is just dying to hear from every one of us, I waited for my wife to join me at the first Wharton event that she has attended since Welcome Weekend -- the Graduate Division Barbeque. I finally had the opportunity the show off my wife and show that I wasn't making her up just to get attention. This event, like all events at Wharton, had corporate sponsorship, this time by Booz Allen & Hamilton. Of course, every corporate sponsored event has goodies attached to it, and this time Booz Allen had provided us with big red foam beer cozies. Marilyn saw me eyeing the cozies for one second and said "Don't even think about it." You see, we had spent the first few months of our marriage picking through and throwing away every useless trinket that I had accumulated over the years and never used. Marriage, it turns out, is the ultimate cure for packratting. And even though those beer cozies looked cool, she was -- of course -- right (how does that always seem to happen?) in that I woudl likely never look at the thing again after I had brought it home. Sigh.

Thursday, August 21, 2003
Recap: Thursday, August 14, 2003

How Many New Yorkers Does It Take To Screw In A Light Bulb?

None. Most of the city looks better in the dark.

This, of course, is not true. But my wife learned it first hand today when the biggest blackout in history hit a big chunk o' the US and Canada. What caused it? We're not sure. Originally, the news reports were that the original power failure came from the Niagara-Mohawk power plant in upstate New York. This is the plant that services Syracuse, and I could only think "Wow. Finally Syracuse has contributed something to our nation's history other than the dentist's chair. (Though it appears to be just as painful.) We're working on getting my 32-week pregnant wife (who climbed down 9 flights of stairs in the dark, walked almost a mile to get home in the heat, and then climbed UP 17 flights of stairs, in the dark, without air conditioning in order to get home today. She's a trooper (she's also a little nutty -- otherwise she would never have married me.)

Today was a pretty ordinary day on the classes front. A full load kept me in school straight from 8 until 5, including a one hour lunch-seminar on networking (can you guess whether this one was crowded or not?). When i got home, i heard about the blackout, so I figured I would wait until the power came back on before I headed out for the evening. Well, it never went back on, so I ended up staying home. I did manage to clean up the apartment a little but, so all was not lost, at least. Of course, now we need to figure out how to get Marilyn over here without using trains, planes or traffic lights. I'm thinking about investing in a horse and buggy, and I'm sure for those people stuck in New York right now it's beginning to feel like the late 1800s.... let's just hope that they don't start instituting child labor and opening up sweatshops in the meat packing district... (not counting sweatshops that managed to survive history, like law firms.) more thing. I passed the math test! I did pretty well, actually. Go partial credit! There's nothing like putting something down on paper that happens to be true but doesn't happen to be the correct answer and still get credit for knowing this only slightly useful fact! I love school!
Recap: Wednesday, August 13, 2003

I'm Supposed To Be A What When I Grow Up???

So last night I actually took a career self-assessment test. Now, I know that I'm still working on my quantitative skills, but obviously the test thought that I was definitely an 'artsy' type. According to the test, I am (currently) best suited for positions in the fields of:

Advertising Account Management
Public Relations and Communications
Marketing and Marketing Management
Internet Business Development

None of which (except for a general interest in entrepreneurship) have I ever considered before. It makes me wonder what the heck I was doing as a lawyer for the last 4 years. Maybe if law school had given us the opportunity to take these tests way back then....

So, after my second seminar with Gilead Sherr and more enlightening insight on the Israeli/Palestinian negotiation process, I went to another Career seminar (again at bursting seams capacity) to hear from the founders of this particular career test. Basically, he was very impressive in how he manged to focus on the foibles of the job market and the recruitment process (which he characterized in two words -- Mutual Deception). Things like "I always wonder why B-school students are so interested in keeping their options open. You guys out there who are married -- any of you still dating?" He's right, of course. He also characterized my life pretty succinctly: "A lot of unhappy people are workign in their roommates' dream job". It's true. When everyone around me at law school was dying to get on the law review, get a summer associateship at a big top tier firm, and get a full time offer from there, it made me think that it was what I wanted to do. Then I did all those things, and I was pretty unhappy. Better to let your roommate chase after his own dreams instead of you doing it for him.

A new class started today - Business History. This class is like a live A&E Biolgraphy, without commercials during which you could use the bathroom. The professor lectures non-stop (I hardly even saw him breathe) for 2 hours, but he manages to make the history of American Business pretty interesting. I think I'll keep going to this one, especially since I know I'll never be able to take effective notes at his pace of lecturing so I can just sit back and relax.

I learned something useful in the real world oday! I can't believe it! And to think, it only took 3 weeks! (I'm only half-joking. It took about 6 months in law school.) Today, I learned by the absolute, undeniable proof of dice rolling (and I'm convinced that's how the market prices securities anyway), that redistributing your investments on a regular basis can turn losing investments into profit-making winners and totally minimizer any eventual losses. Of course, there's the sticky problem of brokerage fees, but if you mainly trade in mutual funds like me, you could really take advantage of this knowledge.

First night at home in a long while. It feels good to get more than 5 hours of sleep. I think I could get used to this....
Recap: Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Take Me Out To The Ballgame, So I Can Meet the GM.....

We're starting to settle into a routine now. Classes are no longer a novelty for us old working stiffs. Now, we're expected to actually be LEARNING things. Accounting today, where I learned that a 500-year old Venetian system of debits and credits is the foundation for every accounting method (and every accounting scandal) that we see today. Go Venice! No wonder your archipelago is sinking into the Mediterranean.

Then it was on to another career management seminar. Once again, every seat in the room was filled and even wall space was at capacity. People were actually sitting on the floor between rows. You would think that, especially in today's economic environment, Wharton would realize that putting the word "Career" in front of a seminar might actually pique some interest. This one was about the technological prowess of the career management department, and, to be honest, it is pretty impressive. In a one-stop shopping experience, I can take several career assessment self-tests, become depressed, and schedule counseling to get me through the fact that the career I am most qualified for is Advanced Coffee Gophering. Who says technology is useless?

There is some benefit to going to a well-known school like Wharton, as it attracts some pretty impressive personalities as guest speakers. Today was the first in a three-part series on Negotiating Through Crisis taught by Gilead Sherr, the chief negotiator for the Israeli government during the failed Camp David Summit and the later Taba summit. He was very insightful, down to earth, and, like many negotiators I have met, a realist's realist. I won't go into the political side of the lecture, but needless to say I learned quite a bit about the finer points on the art of real face-to-face negotiation that Getting To Yes doesn't quite cover.

In the evening, a bunch of us (who had intelligently bid a strong number of points in the course auction for the event) headed to Veterans Stadium to see a Phillies game. Well, the game itself wasn't very impressive (The Phillies lost 6-3 against the Brewers), but we were treated to a very nice meal (sponsored, of course, by a company -- in this case Medtronic), and were addressed for about 20 minutes by the general manager for the Phillies, Ed Wade. I was impressed that these book-wormy Wharton students asked very pertinent questions about baseball while still tying it into the business of running the team, and not even one person begged for a job! Times must be improving.

Monday, August 18, 2003
More recaps....I'm make each one a separate entry this time.

Recap: Monday, August 11, 2003

Chance For Precipitation: F'(x) of Log (1.5)

For those who haven't watched the weather recently, it's been a little wet. And by a little wet, I mean 17 straight days of rain little wet, not that friendly mist little wet that helps you put off washing the car. Not that this is a big deal, but I'm still getting used to driving in this city, and I've needed to get used to driving without a rear-view mirror, because the constant rain and humility has meant that the back window (on which there is no wiper) fogs up incessantly. Well, they say that business school makes you less risk-averse, so maybe this will start bothering me less as time goes on.

Arrgh! Calculus exam! Well, I started another fine trend by arriving at the exam 15 minutes late. The only seats left were at the front of the room, which I guess was a good thing, because I would be first out the fire doors if the class began to spontaneously combust behind me. (This event would have been, by the way, a decent possibility, considering how hard people were pressing with their fancy mechanical pencils on the test books). It wasn't as bad as I pictured it would be, but freaking out about relatively meaningless tests of our limited knowledge is the unique privilege of a student, so I thought I'd take advantage of it as much as I could.

Of course, there's nothing to bring you down from a stressful calculus test as statistics class, so, of course, that's where I headed. Now, officially, there are no "assignments" during this pre-term period before classes start. The only thing that is "required" is the math exam that I just finished. Nonetheless, it seems that the pre-term professors missed the memo, because not only does every class that I'm in have assignments, it has separate required textbooks! Today, on that subject, was a statistics "quiz". Now, by what deity's wisdom that Statistics department decided to put a quiz on the day of the absolute-must-pass-or-die math exam I'm not sure, but at least it imbued the department with the wisdom to make the quiz so easy that an eight-year-old could pass it.

Finally, this evening was the great Post-Math Exam Party, the first real "club" party of the year. Now, I'm pretty sure I've paid many thousands of dollars in tuition. I'm also pretty sure I've paid my $165 dues to the Wharton Graduate Association. I've also paid for Pub, rented a locker (yes! You must RENT your lockers at this bastion of global capitalism -- I think they do that to limit demand for a scarce resource) bought useless bulkpacks and textbooks, and paid for a gym membership that I've yet to have time to use. So why why WHY must a school organization charge a COVER for a party with no open bar, no drink specials and no live band on a MONDAY night?? I almost didn't go out of principle. And one more little rant -- to those who organized the party -- this is an international school. That means, you need to inform those students who don't normal live in the tetotalling USA that they need to bring their IDs with birthdays to a party at a club, even if they look 40. It was just sad to see such nice and naive Italians and Israelis get turned away at the door, when at home they're no doubt served once they can REACH the bar.

Friday, August 15, 2003
Ok....let's get you caught up.

Recap: Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Relearning How To Slack 101

There are very few things about school that make you really feel like a student quite like missing it. I mean, when you're working, you can't just miss a day of work (that is, unless you can come up with a nice fake cough or something), and even if you do, you're always wondering whether or not you'll find your boss or a coworker on the street or at Banana Republic later that evening and have to do the 'public hack and choke' in the middle of trying on the latest piece of cashmere to suck the life out of your wallet. But here, at school, I can not only miss a class, I can have the gall to go to the professor or his TA and tell him not only that my schedule simply cannot accomodate his class today, but can he please record the class for me! Of course, it helps to have a great excuse like having a 32 week pregnant wife to bring to the doctor, but for all the professor cares I could be water skiing. As for recording the class, at the technologically supersonic (and dialectic) Wharton school, it takes a rocket scientist to turn on the lights in the classroom but recording the class is a matter of pushing a button.

So yes, I missed my calculus review today, but I have a few days to relearn the material that I haven't studied since high school, so I'm not terribly worried. Instead, I took Marilyn to our new doctor in Philadelphia. Well, I should say doctors. In fact, there are upwards of eight potential doctors that might be delivering our child, and its very unlikely we'll have met all of them by the due date. Well, if there's ever a time to meet someone, it's when they're watching a human being emerge from you. At least you don't need to worry about how to make a memorable first impression.

After I drove Marilyn to her future office location, I returned to school in time to meet my cohort for the first time. I am in Cohort J, which I understand has already been determined to be the best cohort at Wharton (as polled by at least 72% of Cohort J). Now, I took some issue regarding this cohort 'orientation'. Here we were, meeting the 60 or so people that we would be sharing nearly all of our first-year classes with for the first time, and we were given no time to actually *meet* each other. The presentation, which took the entire hour, was basically a general orientation that could have been given tot he entire class at one time, and while the infomation was useful, what we really wanted to do was meet and greet. Well, we've waited this long to meet our classmates. I guess a couple more weeks won't hurt.

Rounding out the day was our statistics class, where we were introduced to the JMP program (or 'Jump'), which from what I could gather is basically Excel on statistics steroids. It looks easy enough when the professor was using the program during class, but when I got home I realized that, like many of these techie computer programs, the designers assumed that its users basically are perfect examples of humanity and don't make mistakes, as you're only allowed to "undo" once before that function stops working. Well, maybe I'll be lucky and get a quant jock in my learning team....

Recap: Thursday, August 7, 2003

Operating On Empty: The Fumes Principle

Today was a fast day in the Jewish calendar, which means no food and no water. No nourishment? No problem, I think, foolishly. I will get my sustenance from knowledge! The only problem with this logic is trying to retain all that tasty knowledge when the guy next to you is chowing on a greasy egg and cheese sandwich that he just bought from the Au Bon Pain (emphasis on the Pain) which you can see from your seat. Needless to say I've had one or two better days than today regarding focus. Yet I trudge along, trying to digest (ahh...digest) calculus and derivatives, balance sheets and standard deviations....

Today I learned the most important thing about a balance sheet. It is supposed to balance. That's right. You just heard it from me first. I don't know why I've never thought this before. I guess it has to do with "balancing" my checkbook, which to me was nothing more than making sure all of my checkbook entries were accurate. But no, in accounting a balance sheet actually balances! Amazing! Well, amazing until you learn that when the balance sheet does not balance, you basically but the unbalanced portion into the 'catch-all' of equity. What this basically means is that your balance sheet is basically lots of calculations = lots of but slightly less calculations - whatever's left. Having a "whatever's left" kind of takes the mystique out of the process.

Another very important item that I picked up today I learned in statistics. If your data seems to follow a normal distribution (which I guess means that it has lots of friends and is relatively well-adjusted), you can simply ignore it (which is what most people do to normal well-adjusted things anyway). Isn't school fun?

Recap: Friday, August 8, 2003

The Long Drive to Nowhere

Here we are for our last Calculus class before the big exam. The professor is very adamant that we not panic. After all, why should we panic? Just because Wharton has already put us through self-assessment math tests, 15 hours of calculus review in 5 days, four practice tests and a crude warning that those who cannot pass must continue trying until they succeed or waste away, doesn't mean that we should regard this process as important or anything.

After calculus is the first of what will be many, many seminars on career management. The good news is that 80% of graduates of the Class of 2003 are employed, as were over 95% of the Class of 2004 (for summer positions). The bad news is that they didn't get those jobs by sitting on their ass. It's too bad, actually, I was looking forward to the sitting on my ass part. Well, there's little point to paying all of this money without actually putting in some effort.

The highlight of the day was the seminar entitled "Musings About Mathematical Models and the Music Market", which, despite the alliteration, was less about mathematical models and more about Napster and file-sharing (which our professor was very much in favor of). It was refreshing to hear a academic praise the virtues of what is essentially copyright infringement. He seems like my type of guy!

I learned another valuable lesson today. Do not drive to New York City on a friday unless you've got a lot of time on your hands. I left class at 3:00, went home to pcik up some food and headed out toward NYC at about 3:30. By the time I pulled up to my building, it was 7:45 at night. That's right, it took my 4 hours and 15 minutes to drive from Philadelphia to New York, and at least 1 hour and 15 minutes was spent on the little roadway that connects the expressway to the Lincoln Tunnel. An experience that I will leave to a real commuter, which i'm glad Marilyn is not going to be.

More recaps later!


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