Friday, October 27, 2006


Probably the best thing about the Johnson School is the Parker Center, which is absolutely unique amongst all the business schools in the US. It is an exact replica of a trading floor and has it all from a moving ticker displays to Bloomberg machines and millions of dollars worth of software on each computer. It is the home of the Cayuga Fund, a long, short market neutral hedge fund, run by 18 student portfolio managers, 2 quant’s, 1 trader and 1 person responsible for investor relationship. The fund runs about $13 Million worth of investor money and is up about 11% for the year. The sad thing about the Parker Center is that most people in school don't even know it exists, which sucks since this awesome resource is going wasted. The upside to that though is that one can pretty much squat there all day till you are evicted by a financial modeling class or two. Off late it has become my home away from home, and I find myself spending a lot of time there, mostly working on assignments, studying, chatting and occasionally even researching a stock or two.

Stocks and investing strategies have consumed all my free time off late. I find it a fascinating subject that keeps me on my toes with the underlying markets moving about like the sea under the decks of a ship. After going through various portfolio management and finance courses in the first year, when I look back at my investing strategies prior to business school, I literally cringe. Every time we speak about how irrational investors behave, it almost appears as if we are talking about my investing style. Apparently there is even a term for investors like me, "Cocktail Party Chatter". Well I am determined to change all of that and emerge from school a sophisticated investor that invests with the best of them. Having said that, I am going to put my money where my mouth is and put up stocks along with my predictions as and when I am done researching them on this blog. At the end of the school year, I am going to come back and tally my profits or losses. It should prove an interesting exercise.

Speaking about picking stocks, Cornell's annual stock pitch challenge is coming up shortly. We have a bunch of top business schools going head to head trying to impress a panel of portfolio managers drawn from some of the best shops in the business. It should be an interesting exercise to watch and participate. For those of you interested in more information, look up this website.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


It is hard to focus on the education component of the program, especially after the first year. I am only glad that I am not the only one feeling blasé about this semester, most other second years I have spoken to are in the same boat. The lack of motivation is frightening, but not surprising considering how badly we were burnt in the core. The second semester would have been easier but for this one class I was registered for, in which fear and abuse were the chief educational tools. Kind of weird considering we were paying through our nose to be abused. I can't say I took away a lot from the class; abuse just doesn't work as a motivating factor for me anymore, blame it on old age. Thankfully, all that is in the past now and there are some interesting classes that I am registered for this semester.

The weather has definitely not played fair with the mercury dropping on a daily basis, rain and snow showers have made a permanent place for themselves in the weather forecast with the sun busy in the Southern Hemisphere.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Hallelujah! It's alive! I always knew my computer was some sort of sentient silicon life form, despite all refutations by science. How else can you explain the will full slow down in processing power when I needed it the most? How about the 'DATA NOT FOUND' exceptions, the 'Blue screen of Death' (some form of NDE - Near Death Experience for the computer). Finally my paranoia (or at least what others call paranoia) has been confirmed by none other than the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service (they should know, after all they are part of our government).

How did this breakthrough come about? I have been waiting patiently (no that is a lie, I have been bloody impatient) for my T43 to come home. In this day and age of instant gratification, it is unseemly to have to wait more than a week for an internet purchase. Unfortunately, with the T43 proving to be as popular with the masses, as Paris Hilton's home video, a two week wait time was mandatory. Imagine my joyous surprise when I received an email a couple of days ago, informing me that the laptop had finally shipped out. The only bit of consternation was that the laptop was shipped out of Hong Kong as compared to somewhere stateside. Don't get me wrong, I have no problems paying less for a good product, but I had assumed that Lenovo mass produces the laptops and then ships them to the US for distribution, something akin to Toyota. The way it really works is that Lenovo, directly ships out the machine from their factory to the customer.

This brings us to the ‘Live’ computer bit. As I was checking the status of the UPS shipment, I found out that the machine had made its way to Anchorage, Alaska via Osaka Japan in under 48 hours but was held up by the US customs as being a 'live entry'. :) At first I thought there was some mistake with the tracking, that UPS had confused my tracking number with that of a rancher importing a genuine 'Mad Cow' heifer.

But after 24 hours with no change in status, I had to investigate the issue further. I found the source of the confusion on the UPS FAQ site describing it as:
Live Entry: A type of U.S. Customs and Border Protection entry that typically requires a visa license from the export country, when mandated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (such as textiles). These shipments usually require a formal entry and an additional day of customs clearance.

With the confusion cleared, I am now eagerly waiting to get home to finally set my grubby fingers on the laptop.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Photo Credit: ISS Crew, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Lab, JSC, NASA.

An image from the ISS taken from an altitude of 211 nautical miles (for the geeks: 1 nautical mile is the angular distance of 1 minute of arc on the earth's surface. As this distance differs slightly due to latitude, it has been standardized to 1852 meters). Notice that there are no sudden sharp boundaries between darkness and light, this shadow transition is called as the terminator (no relation to the governator), and this diffuse light is the twilight that we experience in early mornings and evenings.

I have often wondered (especially when I am driving to ski resorts - the only times I see the sun break out) if early mornings have the same amount of light as the exact time in the evenings when the sun rays chart out the exact same angle but from the opposite side. I guess that is hard to judge, simply because with the change in angle of light, things appear totally different, plus the curvature of the earth and the natural dips and bumps destroy a sense of perspective.

Whatever! Nothing detracts from the setting or rising of the sun, regardless of what your angle of perspective.

Monday, June 13, 2005


In a classic example of playing the man rather than playing the ball, my last post about my Wharton admission feedback drew the ire of some people who alleged I was being bitter about my ding rather than me calling a spade a spade.

To put things in perspective, I felt a follow up post was called for, to answer some pertinent questions about my allegations.

1. Am I bitter about being dinged by Wharton.
A. Most emphatically no, sad yes, but bitter no! I gave it my best possible shot and while I am unhappy it failed, I blame myself for not ironing the last vestiges of doubt in the mind of the admissions committee as compared to blaming the school.

2. Did I deserve to go to Wharton?
A. This was one of the comments I received from 'anonymous', and my answer is, depends on who you talk too? Ask my mother, and she will beat you ass for even doubting, ask Alex Brown and he might have a different opinion. But if you break the question down into its more component parts, "Was I qualified enough to apply to Wharton, to even dream about going to school there"? The answer quite simply is yes. I have a GMAT score that is well within the average for Wharton, a superb extra-curricular record and the full 9 yards as far as work progression and GPA is concerned. To put an end to this discussion, even Ms. Snooty Pants admitted several times, if I might add, that a decision in my case fell into the toughest category, and that there wasn't anything she could give me in terms of feedback because there wasn't anything she felt was lacking. Which translates into some members of the admissions committee waking up on the right (or wrong - depending upon your perspective) side of the bed, the day of my decision.

3. Did I have a problem hearing that I wasn't good enough?
A. Again one of the questions left for me, which goes to show that the poster was more concerned about playing the man versus playing the ball. My post, was a simple, real simple portrayal of the conversation between me and the admission committee member. The issue I was trying to bring to light was the attitude that I was faced with right from the start. This, even before my feedback session started. So I doubt it was a situation of me having a problem hearing I wasn't good enough.

4. Was I irritated that the feedback session dint quite pin down specifics (BritChick)?
A. I wasn't in the least bit annoyed by the fallacies that came to light, the post was all about the attitude I received, which I felt was unwarranted.

5. Was I wrong to generalize and comment on the whole school on the basis of this one incident and quote a random magazine article to defend my views?
A. Obviously the whole story of my dealings with Wharton hasn't been told. This was just the last straw that broke the camel's back. The application process involved several instances that left a bad taste in my mouth, and I know for a fact that I wasn't alone in getting a taste of the underside of the beast. Those instances pretty much went undocumented mostly to ward of unwanted outing of my online persona and to prevent possible repercussions. But all those incidents, including this one I don't consider as being representative of the school as a whole but more as a reflection of the people I dealt with. But these are the people who are the face of the school and their behavior does reflect back on the school, more than anything else. This particular incident, I brought to light, mainly because it was one of the most obnoxious situations I have ever been in. If the adCom, hadn't been so rude, so mean or so condescending, I would probably have just pushed it under the carpet as usual and moved on. The article I quoted was a foot note to my post, and I had it in there as a documented proof of other unsavory behavior not as conclusive proof of my claims.

6. Are attacks like 'mine' an unwanted after effect of bending over backwards to offer feedback to dinged candidates?
A. I think that is a botched up argument. Wharton should not offer feedback until and unless it is confident of having people trained to do what is a very sensitive job. Wharton has the unique distinction of having the maximum number of re-applicants in its application pool every year. So obviously offering feedback fits in well with what the school sees as its USP. In which case, it has to be very professional about it. You can't give half assed, unprofessional feedback, and expect the applicant to feel happy because they are getting something over nothing. Remember the school needs applicants as much as the applicant needs the school and basic courtesy and manners are not something to be grateful off when received, it is expected as a right!

When you judge class in a person, it isn't by the way a person behaves to people who are doing well in life or above them in stature, rather you compare them to how they deal with the 'underlings'. I doubt that if you go and ask Thomas Caleel (the new Wharton admissions director), how he feels about the image Wharton showcases in feedbacks, he will condone such behavior. Specially when it is obvious (from the other comments), that this kind of behavior is a lot more rife than is being credited.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Just got done with my feedback session at Wharton and my first impression of the process was simply terrible. I have no idea why the school offers feedback sessions when they don't have the resources to support a task of this magnitude. The entire process from start to finish was a disaster and showcased Wharton at its worst.

It all started with me making a call to the Wharton admissions office for my scheduled feedback session about 5 mins before my session was to start. In the common man versus machine theme, I was instantly faced by this bodiless voice asking me to push some buttons. Being used to playing this game, I humored the system and was finally asked to wait, then asked to wait again and again for quite some time. After 20 mins of waiting I was finally transferred to the receptionist who then put me through to this snooty, my-shit-doesn't-smell and my-nose-is-in-the-air admissions committee member, who asked me who I was. When I told her my name, in her best 'you-are-a-worthless-bug' voice, she hit me with a "Do you know time it is? Your appointment was at x:xx", I was completely taken aback by her attitude, being on the West coast I had calculated the time difference in my head by subtracting 3 hours. Thinking it was I who screwed up, had to ask, "What is the time there?" and in the same voice she returns with a "it is x:xx + 15 mins".

I guess by now I was pissed, I had been on hold for 20 mins, after which I was faced by this stupid stuck up beyatch, who was reaming me for no fault of mine. But I was still polite and informed her that I did call on time but I was put on hold for 20 mins. Finally after much convincing on my part she relented, but only after ensuring that I knew she was a busy person and that she had another appointment waiting. She then proceeded to put me back on hold to get the 411 on the admissions front desk. I guess she finally decided that the delay was due to no fault of mine and she proceeded to screw her next appointment and commenced my session.

She led off by telling me what a competitive pool Wharton had and how everyone who got in was special. She then talked about my candidacy and expressed regret that this was one of the tougher feedback sessions she had to face because there was no outstanding reason to ding me. Apparently, the areas where I failed to convince the committee were:
1. Why MBA
2. Why Now
3. Why a MBA was necessary for me to achieve my goals.

Then she reiterated that I was a strong candidate but couldn't successfully distinguish myself from the crowd.

Having spent over 10 weeks of my life dedicated to the Wharton cause, I couldn't resist asking if there was anything the admissions committee particularly liked, and the voice came back in the 'beyatch' tone, "I have already gone through my feedback, there is nothing I have to add". OUCH!

Hundreds of hours, dollars and dreams invested to end up in this? I wasn't as hurt by the ding as I was by this callous attitude. The woman just did not give a damn; it seemed as if she was undertaking a particularly disgusting job that she just dint particularly want to take up. This attitude was so different from the usual sugar won’t melt in our mouth, do come and apply to Wharton the school with a heart that is usually found on S2S and the information forums. I guess all good will is targeted only towards people who yet have to pay up the 200$ admission fee.

I am surprised that Wharton doesn’t realize that while providing feedback is a good think, the attitude feedback is given speaks a lot about the culture of the school. People talking down to rejected candidates doesn’t showcase Wharton as classy, I would take a snooty HBS, which tells you as is right from day one over a friendly-to-start-with Wharton that kicks people when they are down between their legs. The funny thing is people have the audacity to complain about a negatively shaded article that appeared about Wharton in the rags recently.

Well it is over now and undoubtedly sad, but at least it is closure. In some ways I am glad it was such a bitter farewell, because I will never ever regret the one that got away, regardless of how close it was to hand.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


I finally pulled the trigger on a new laptop today after patiently waiting 6 odd months, for the prices to fall. I could afford the wait mainly because of the surfeit of computers in my life, with a laptop and desktop at home and a couple of computers at work. With this, I just made my most expensive MBA related purchase till date. The computer that will (hopefully) be my faithful companion and friend for the next 2 years is an IBM/Lenovo (unless you have been living under a rock you should know that IBM sold their laptop business to Lenovo) T43. I was lucky enough to get an IBM EPP discount rate on the laptop, and it reduced the price of the machine by 450 odd dollars.

The stats are as follows:
T43 2687DRU, 1.86 Ghz Sonomas processor, 512 MB RAM, 60 GB HDD, 14.1" monitor, SXGA+, 4.8 lbs and the ultra cool fingerprint reader.

For anyone doing comparison shopping on IBM thinkpads here is the little excel spread sheet I built on the models available right now on sale. Please note that these prices are the EPP prices and web prices will be a lot higher:
T43 1875DNU $1,259.25 4.7 lbs 1.73 Ghz 512 MB 60 GB Intel 2915ABG 1 year 14.1" XGA 1024x768 Fingerprint
T43 266849U $1,266.85 4.7 lbs 1.86 Ghz 512 MB 40 GB Intel 2915ABG 3 years 14.1" XGA 1024x768
T43 2687D4U $1,311.75 5.5 lbs 1.86 Ghz 512 MB 40 GB Intel 2915ABG 3 years 15.0" SXGA+ 1400x1050
T43 2687DRU $1,371.75 4.8 lbs 1.86 Ghz 512 MB 60 GB Intel 2915ABG 3 years 14.1" SXGA+ 1400x1050 Fingerprint
T43 266872U $1,889.25 4.8 lbs 2.0 Ghz 512 MB 80 GB Intel 2915ABG 3 years 14.1" SXGA+ 1400x1050 Fingerprint, Bluetooth