Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why Do People Watch the Oscars?

In the past few days, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made some headlines by announcing that they've changed the Best Picture process for their annual Oscar awards.

Rather than having five nominees for best picture of the year, they'll now have ten. Apparently that's how they used to do it way back when, and now they're bringing it back.

Why? From what I've read, industry experts suggest that the Academy wants more people to watch the Oscars telecast and that this change is designed to encourage more people to watch.

I'm trying to figure out why that must be true.

A popular argument, and one made below in an excerpt from the NY Times, is that more nominees will then include more popular films that your everyday Joe Sixpack and Hockey Mom will know and love, and THEN they'll watch the ceremonies.

Last year, the academy threw the sticks into the air by hiring the veteran producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon to re-imagine the broadcast and was rewarded with incrementally better ratings. But when those producers were debriefed, they suggested that the problem was not the presentation of the race but the number of horses.

“The Dark Knight” and “Wall-E,” two movies that thrilled critics and audiences alike, did not have the muscle to make their way into the rarefied confines of the final five. It didn’t help matters that “Slumdog Millionaire,” a smallish film that most Americans had not seen or really heard much about to begin with, went out front to stay.

I have two concerns about this theory and the change in general.

- Let's assume that the Academy's assumption is true, and that more people will watch the Oscars when a popular movie is nominated for best picture. I would suggest that this past year was an anomaly in terms of popular movies that also happened to be of significant quality. Yeah, the Dark Knight and Wall-E were really good movies, I enjoyed them both, and wouldn't have minded if they got nominated for best picture (although let's not forget I would have also given the 1985 best picture honors to Death Wish 3, so I'm clearly not the best judge).

However, if the Academy's motivation for expanding the best picture nominees is that popular films will get nominated and therefore attract a bigger audience, I think that's a decision based on an insignificant sample of last year. I went back and looked at the top 10 grossing films from each of the last five years to see how many "high-quality" films were in the bunch. If I really wanted to make it data-driven, I would've gotten their rotten tomatoes scores too, but I figured my opinions alone would be good enough.

Here is a list of the top 10 grossing movies from each of the last five years, you tell me how many you think would be reasonably considered for a best picture nomination:

The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Kung Fu Panda
Madagascar 2
Quantum of Solace
Dr. Suess' Horton Hears a Who

Spiderman 3
Shrek 3
Pirates of the Caribbean 3
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I Am Legend
The Bourne Ultimatum
National Treasure 2
Alvin and the Chipmunks

Pirates of the Caribbean 2
Night at the Museum
X-Men 3
The Da Vinci Code
Superman Returns
Happy Feet
Ice Age 2
Casino Royale
The Pursuit of Happyness

Star Wars 3
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
War of the Worlds
King Kong
Wedding Crashers
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Batman Begins
Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Shrek 2
Spiderman 2
The Passion of the Christ
Meet the Fockers
The Incredibles
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Day After Tomorrow
The Bourne Supremacy
National Treasure
The Polar Express

OK, now you've seen that list. Notice anything other than the crazy number of sequels? How about the fact that, apart from Dark Knight and Wall-E, I would argue NONE of these movies would EVER come close to a best picture nomination, even if the field were extended to 1,000 movies and ended up including most of the hardcore pornography industry. I really liked the Incredibles a lot, I think that would be my most likely (unless you dug the Passion of the Christ, which I obviously never saw)

The point is, even if you expand the field of best picture nominees to 10 from 5, you aren't going to all of a sudden get a bunch of popular titles in there, unless the academy starts nominating things like Wedding Crashers and the Day After Tomorrow, which I doubt.

So that's a reason this thing doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But if you'll remember the beginning of my diatribe, I said I had TWO concerns about the change.

- I honestly don't think a majority of Americans CARE about who wins at the Oscars

I know that might be heresy to the academy, but let's look at their strategic goal. They want as many people as possible to watch the Oscars. Right now, we know that the Oscars attracts a wide swath of people (I think it's still the most watched program for the week whenever it's on). Anyone who really cares about the Oscar winners, like my friend Paul who's memorized the entire list of historical winners and has actually SEEN each one, will obviously be watching the Oscars already.

The move to include more nominees, if it is designed to attract more casual fans, assumes that they actively CARE who wins. But if they do care, I would argue they'd already be watching!

So, since I already said a wide swatch watch, why are these casual people watching?

Some watch as an excuse to party, some watch as an excuse to gamble, and some watch so they can trash celebrity fashion choices, but I would argue the primary benefit to watching the Oscars (because they are NOT objectively entertaining) is based on network effects.

The Oscars do NOT make for compelling television. There are a TON of awards, the scripted banter is always terrible, and the speeches are essentially people reading from scribbled lists of people they need to be sure and thank.

Oh, and if that doesn't excite you, it also goes on for FOUR HOURS!

So why would you watch? Because you think everyone else you know is watching and you want to be able to talk about it with them and laugh about how boring/long/unexciting is was!

The shared experience of watching a program many other people watch makes for much easier conversation during the next week for anyone regardless of whether they want to make small talk with office mates or if they're trying to bang their Starbucks barista.

In my view, that's why people watch, because it creates shared knowledge that enables more conversation and relationship building.

Based on that assumption, the academy doesn't NEED to expand the field of nominees to get more people to watch, it needs to make sure the ceremony is filled with things people WILL talk about. Such changes would increase the number of conversations dedicated to the Oscars, raising the relational benefits derived from watching, and imposing a higher cost on those who choose not to watch (in the form of being left out)

Incidentally, one could argue that the nominee expansion announcement has some of this effect, in that some people are talking about it, but I think that's small potatoes.

So I think we need to increase the network effects of watching, which can be accomplished by increasing the number of discussions about Oscar events, which is something the academy can actively cultivate through a number of initiatives.

First, I would BAN all written acceptance speeches.

Why? Well, for one, that's offensive to me on a personal level. These are professional filmmakers/actors who obviously have dreamed of winning an Oscar since they got off the bus in Hollywood. You're telling me they haven't thought about EXACTLY what they'd say up there? Nonsense. Further, some of the moments I remember from watching Oscar ceremonies, you know, the ones I would talk about, were unscripted.

Like this one, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnCMqr1QRQw

See...makes for much better television than some jerk reading a cocktail napkin for 75 seconds.

Second, I would take the gloves off with regard to making fun of Hollywood. I've read many accounts that the academy has little/no regard for those that would poke fun at the movie industry under the argument that Oscar night is too prestigious or whatever. I would counter that this is the industry that just gave us Transformers 2, relax a little bit and have a gosh darned sense of humor. Get some funny people up there, and while I'm not talking about Artie Lange or someone who'll go completely batsh*t crazy, at least let someone point out how absurd all of the pomp and circumstance really is

Lastly, make things a little more spontaneous and a little less like Operation Overlord. I'd prefer to watch something where I didn't know exactly what was going to happen. Take some chances or something. Stop scripting everything, throw out some free booze to the celebs, turn on the mics and give us something organic.

It could end up being hilarious, or hilariously awkward, but I'm sure everyone would be talking about it the next day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


And as an addendum to my previous addendum...

A couple of hours ago (maybe 20-30 minutes after my last post), the second broker called me to tell me the landlord accepted another application instead of mine.


I hate searching for apartments...

I really hate apartment brokers...

And at this point I'm really getting off on the wrong foot with New York. What is it about this place that fills it with complete jackasses?

Apartment Brokers in Manhattan

Thanks to some recent developments, I wanted to update my blog on another lesson from the Manhattan real estate world.

Brokers will most definitely screw you over at every opportunity if it means more money for themselves.

I know that seems fairly obvious, but I hadn't actually been screwed over by a broker until the other day. As my experience might serve as a good example to Manhattan novices, I thought it could be valuable. Of course, experienced Manhattan real estate seekers will dismiss this as standard operating procedure, but they also won't troll the internet for advice either.

Anyway, after my four day journey through the streets and avenues of Manahattan, I had finally decided on a one bedroom apartment in Gramercy Park. The building was decent, the rent bordering on criminally indecent, but with the knowledge that I could technically afford it, I was ready to take the plunge.

I called up the broker and made him an offer for the apartment, at a reasonably large discount to the landlord's asking price. I got a counter-offer from the broker, which was a non-trivial reduction from listing price, and content with the offer, accepted it for a July 15th start date.

We had agreed to terms, and I began the process of gathering and sending him the requisite supporting information (which is particularly bizarre in NYC, but that's a different issue).

That was last Friday-Saturday-Sunday. I was relieved that I found a decent apartment and wouldn't have to fly back for a second expedition.

Of course, late Tuesday night I get an email from the broker in which he said they actually approved a different application and he'd let me know if any other 1B apartments come on the market.

Obviously, this wasn't the best news I got that day.

I was more than a little pissed, as we had negotiated back and forth over a couple days, and as I had already FedEx'd him certified checks for a large amount of money.

My guess is he found a new prospective tenant who was a) willing to pay listing price, b) willing to move in July 1st, or c) a smoking hot chick.

Regardless, it left me slightly screwed over.

So, as a soon to be New Yorker, I did what anyone in my position would do.

I immediately screwed someone ELSE over.

The next morning I sent an email to another broker who had showed me another one bedroom place I liked. The rent was the same as the first place, it was only a block away from the first place, so it was fairly comparable. I asked if anyone had rented it or whether it was still available.

The broker replied that someone else had in fact put in an application, but it was for the end of August, and if I wanted it for the beginning of the month (which is ideal for me), that I could have it.

It took me about 2 seconds to stab that unwitting prospective tenant in their now-homeless back...welcome to Manhattan I guess.

(Caveat: I still don't know that I've gotten this place, so I could be tempting fate by even mentioning it. But that hasn't really stopped me before, so meh)

I realized that I just willingly aided and abetted (which is worse than just aiding!) a broker in the act of screwing someone over. As such, I feel conflicted.

This must happen all the time, and it seems fairly ridiculous that it has to.

It got me thinking of what my ideal real estate marketplace would look like...

I started by eliminating all apartment brokers (don't worry, in my world, I didn't have them all killed or anything. I imagined they all went on to doing what they were second best at, which is usually either a) selling knives door-to-door, b) gym membership consulting, or c) abject prostitution.

The real problem we as apartment seekers suffer from is a lack of perfect information. We don't know what apartments in the area are available, we don't know which ones will become available, and we don't know who else is looking at them with any real interest.

This information deficiency is the only reason brokers have any power at all. They can tell us the apartment has seen a lot of interest. They can say that there are offers on the table at the current listing price. They can tell us that much like Jon Voight's LeBaron, the apartment has a built-in celebrity quotient.

And we all don't know any better, so we have to take everything they say with some level of skepticism.

If only there was a way to know more of this information without having to trust a broker whose only incentive is to get you to sign a lease ASAP.

Craigslist is certainly a step in the right direction, and PadMapper furthers that along in overlaying location information.

StreetEasy.com, which I found during my search and became an invaluable resource, may be the closest we can get to real estate Utopia (of course I'd argue real estate Utopia would be a world where every apartment included a full service gym, a washer/dryer in unit, central air, and enough internet capacity to satisfy a South Korean middle school)

StreetEasy tracks sales and rental listings in the New York area, and has a lot of great information including historical listings, length of time on the market, and price adjustments. I think it's a great website, and anyone looking to move to Manhattan should use it.

One underrated metric the site has is the ability to save listings to look at them later. How is that a metric? Well, each listing tells you (in small font), how many users have saved that listing. I'm sure I'm not alone, but I figured that the better the apartment, the more saves it'll have from other users. I know it's not exactly like a public auction (which as any economist would tell you is probably the preferred way to allocate the good in question...though I'd need to check with a real one for the answer), but at least this gives some directional information as to market interest.

The one problem with the site, is that the information is supplied by, you guessed it, brokers.

So it's not exactly Utopian, but I think it's another step in the right direction.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Apartment Hunting in Manhattan: Lessons Learned

So my efforts to detail my adventure apartment hunting in Manhattan got off to a rocky start when I completely ignored the actual apartment hunting. Let's fix that.

I started off in Greenwich Village, where I had set up two appointments with different brokers. I had packed light for the trip, with only my backpack stuffed with changes of clothes, a notebook, my camera, a tape measure, an umbrella, and my giant brick of a laptop.

At this point, it's worth mentioning that I really really could have used a fancy iPhone or netbook. I needed the computer in the event that I wanted to find new apartment listings and/or set up appointments on the fly. Unfortunately, that meant lugging this Inspiron 2200 and its charger along for the ride.

Anyway, I met my first broker at 1:30, and to say I was cautious was something of an understatement. From everything I've read and heard, brokers are the enemy. In the crazy world of Manhattan real estate, these people actually charge YOU to rent an apartment from them (of course, the economic collapse has greatly reduced such practices). These people earn a living based on asymmetric information and keeping the market from being transparent. That's a cynical view I suppose, brokers could provide some value if you really do not know you're way around a neighborhood, and apartment owners have high opportunity costs of showing and leasing their own properties. But still, they're motivated more by short term incentives of having you sign a lease ASAP than painstakingly searching until you find the perfect place.

Of course, it seems the perfect place doesn't exist (at least I didn't see it)

But I met with the broker, and we went off to look at places. He was the first of many brokers I would see over three days. Here's how my schedule went:

Tuesday: Visited 9 apartments, used two brokers
Wednesday: Visited 9 apartments, used 3 brokers
Thursday: Visited 2 apartments, used one broker

So I was kind of busy.

The following are lessons that I learned during my trip:

- So some apartments in Manhattan are actually duplex layouts. There's a living area on the entry level and then its up some stairs to another floor that usually contains a sleeping area. On paper, a great idea to use space. Of course, it seemed like all the sleeping areas I saw were designed for midgets. And not just short midgets, but short AND skinny midgets. The Kate Moss of midgets would do well, and that's about it. Obese midgets would need to take out a wall with their mini-sledgehammers. It's not like I'm even a really tall guy, and I had problems standing up in those things.

- In Manhattan they have these things called walkups. Essentially it means you pay a crap load of money for a really old building that's so old it has no elevator. It's really not that bad a deal, unless you need to go to work, the grocery store, any department or big box store, a bar, a date, any kind of convention, a job interview, the airport, or anywhere you need to look presentable. So apart from that, it works. I visited a couple walk-ups, and actually would've been ok with them. I did look at a 7th floor walk-up (the stairs weren't bad in my view), of course, my girlfriend, family and friends swore they would never visit me if I got it. Even with that incentive, I feel like if I took it you'd probably end up reading about the consultant who got hammered and took a rather nasty fall.

- Brokers are most definitely professionals. A broker and I were in one apartment, with me asking questions, taking notes and pictures, etc., and him answering them. Perfectly normal interaction when the broker's cell phone rings. The broker answers, asks what's wrong, and clearly hears bad news. The broker then asks if hey should come home, and I'm just hoping everything's alright. The gets off the phone and tells me that a relative of his just found out they have cancer. Wow. I tell him that we certainly don't need to keep looking at apartments and he should probably go home. He declines, and moves right into a description of the central air. The awkwardness gods would approve.

- Many brokers will tell you about the super that lives in the building and helps maintain the apartments. It's certainly nice to hear, but based on one visit, you might want to actually meet the super before judging it as a positive. We (a broker and I) went to one building and were greeted by the super, who must've been approximately 128 years old. He also couldn't hear, which was awesome when the broker would ask him questions and he would have absolutely no idea. The broker, who couldn't bring up the fact that super was clearly deaf, pretended like nothing was out of the ordinary. I actually wanted to ask the super about the building, you know, like how many units were in the building, who's the cable provider, and what was it like when they invented electric lighting?

- If you need to live in Manhattan, you really should start by earning at least a million dollars. Otherwise it probably doesn't make sense.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Manhattan Apartment Search: We Got a Plane

I'm here in Manhattan, fresh off three days of hardcore apartment searching...I've spent a lot of time, walked a lot of blocks, toured a lot of buildings. I've found a place I kind of like, which is good, it's also more than I'd like to pay, which is bad.

The whole trip has been, well, a trip. So I thought it was certainly blog-worthy, especially given that I have a lot of time before my flight back to Chicago tonight. I'm breaking it up into multiple parts for ease of reading (and no, they aren't titled anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although they definitely could be.)

Actually, this first entry has absolutely NOTHING to do with apartment hunting, this is only about my trip to Manhattan for my first appointment in Greenwich Village.


My journey started early on Monday morning. With a 9am flight out of Midway airport, I took a couple trains and got there somewhere around 8am. I had booked a Delta flight to LaGuardia for a decent price, and actually got to select an aisle seat for no extra fee, so that was a big win.

Of course, I arrive at the gate and take my seat...and notice a good number of people sitting around. As we all wait, a Delta rep announces that anyone who was scheduled for the 7am flight to LaGuardia should wait by the gate, because they have another plane for them.

That raised my eyebrow a little bit. Another plane? I thought. That probably means they're taking MY plane!

I payed more attention to the rep as she made more announcements. This time, she said they would board the 7am passengers on this plane, and that they would squeeze as many 9am passengers on to it as they could.

As soon as I heard that, I booked it for the gate, where I made it 5th in line amongst the 9am passengers.

It turned out there were over 30 extra seats for 9am passengers, so I was in the clear. But what of my aisle seat? The rep informed us we'd all have to switch to general seating and that we should just take what we can find.


So I get on the plane, hoping for an aisle seat, and start to walk down the aisle. Most aisle seats near the front of the plane seem occupied, but I do see one aisle seat open in the 4th row. I approach it cautiously, wondering what the heck is wrong with it because obviously people are avoiding it. Upon closer inspection, it seems fine, I don't think there are any bodily fluids on it.

Then I realize that the seat is way bigger than normal. And there are bottles of water sitting on the armrest, which is similarly gigantic.

Wait a minute, this is a first class seat!!!

Why didn't anyone else take it? Maybe they were afraid of being shooed away by the real first class passengers. Maybe they were confused. Maybe I shouldn't take it either.

But as the Latin proverb tells us, fortes fortuna adiuvat! (I knew the proverb, but had to look up the latin)

Yoink! I said to myself as I threw my bag under the seat and comfortably set myself down.

I started to worry that someone would call me on the fact that I didn't pay for the seat, and readied my defense with the whole 'Sorry, General Seating' spiel.

But no one called me on it, and in first class I remained.

It was my first first class experience, a first^2 class experience that may have ruined air travel for me forever. I felt like a 10 year old kid finding a $20 bill. Or more appropriately, a 10 year old kid who finds a $20 bill and spends it all right in front of his 10 year old friends that don't have $20.

Would I like a hot towel??? You bet your ass I would!

The flight attendant treated me with respect, you know, like I was an actual human being. I could stretch my legs. They served a complete nutritious breakfast (just like in the cereal commercials!). It was wonderful.

So I have to thank Delta's partner airline, who's malfunctioning 7am flight allowed me to slip into first class for absolutely nothing.

I got into LaGuardia with relative ease (although my girlfriend, not knowing I switched planes, continued to fret over what the hell was going on)

Once we deplaned (which was easy thanks to being in the front and avoiding the average coach air travelers, who becomes incapacitated when instructed to get the hell off the plane and stumble about the cabin like deranged homeless people...but that's an opinion for another time) I walked quickly to try and catch the bus that I thought would take me to Grand Central, where I could catch a train and still make my 1:30 appointment on time.

I wandered outside towards the area marked public transportation, and I waited. The signs said the M60 bus would take me to Manhattan, so that sounded good. Of course, there were no machines to get a MetroCard, and the sign was quite clear that you needed to pay the $2 with either exact change (no paper money) or a MetroCard.

I didn't have any change, but I did have my old MetroCard from the last time I was out here in December. Of course, I had no idea how much money was still on it. Knowing me, it could've been $0.10

As the bus pulled up, I realized I had no time to get change and figured I'd chance the embarrassment at not having enough money on the MetroCard.

Turned out I had over $4, phew, I was allowed to ride the bus. Of course, no one told me that the bus in fact did NOT go to Grand Central. It went through Queens, and it did go onto Manhattan...

It just went straight through Harlem.

After a brief and uneventful stop at 125th street, I boarded the express 4 train to Union Square and hopped right across the platform for the 6 down to Bleecker St. Who says I can't get around New York?

I made the whole trip from LaGuardia in less than an hour, at a cost of approximately $4, and was on time for my 1:30 appointment.

Now I just needed to start looking at apartments!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What to do this Summer?

Graduation is this weekend, and while I'm really really not excited about rejoining the real world, I am excited for my family to finally make their way out to Chicago.

The parents and two of the brothers should have a good time, eat some deep dish, catch a game at Wrigley, and hopefully not get rained on down in Hyde Park come Sunday.

But other than that, I don't have a ton going on right now and probably won't until September when I start my new full-time career as a management consultant (or if you prefer, PowerPoint jockey, or as I prefer, strategy god)

That got me thinking, how the hell will I spend my summer???

I've got all kinds of time, and thanks to a certain game show, still have some kind of money...with that as the premise, let's see what a Vegas bookmaker would make of my summer...

Find a Great New Apartment
Theory: Well, I'm starting a new job in New York, and that only becomes possible when I have a place to leave (no really, it's actually stipulated in my offer letter that I have a place to live within X miles of my home office). I've started my search, and can't imagine what people did before the Internet, I'm guessing it had something to do with talking to real live people. Anyway, I'm flying there next week and have set up several appointments to look at places in a city that's actually MORE expensive than Chicago.
Pros: Well, it's kind of mandatory unless I want to live at the airport terminal (considering my career choice, maybe that's not a bad idea)
Cons: Hmm...I don't like spending money...that's a con
Odds: 1,000 to 1 (Note: that's the odds of finding an AMAZING apartment...the odds of finding an apartment I'm just settling for is actually 1 to 1,000,000)

Take a Crazy Vacation
Theory: The hallmark of any business school summer, blowing lots of dough to go someplace exotic before you end up with three kids and can never have fun again. Run with the bulls, train for muay thai fighting, climb a glacier or something
Pros: Certainly a unique opportunity, plus I'm not working so I wouldn't have to bring a razor. Macroeconomic collapse has left the tourism industry desperate for money (hello Iceland!). There might also be willing and able companions
Cons: Would require some diligence and money, foreign language skills are also generally recommended. Also , kidney theft.
Odds: 25 to 1 (Although it should be noted that my awesome girlfriend has swung us some sick deals to take a trip to San Fran and Sonoma in August, so really that should count)

Get Back Into Online Poker
Theory: I used to play a lot of poker online, you know, back when it was really cool to sit at your computer for hours in a sitting. I could very very easily reinstall some software and light it up again. Suggested handle: PkrStud69
Pros: Simple to set up, requiring minimal upfront investment. Good way to keep quick math skills fresh (in the event my new employer isn't sure I'm qualified and hits me with a surprise final final round interview). Then there's the profit
Cons: Well, there certainly is a reason why I stopped. I think the whole 'negativity dominance' principle in psychology explains why I took bad losses much worse than I took nice wins...that and a number of furniture punching incidents
Odds: 50 to 1

Learn a New Language
Theory: Look people, this whole U.S. economy is going down for the count. It's only a matter of time before we're loading up the ships to head off for greener economic pastures (Hello again Iceland!). So, with that, another language is probably a worthwhile investment. Plus this Rosetta Stone thing Michael Phelps keeps talking about sounds REALLY easy. I think they show you pictures or something.
Pros: Increases my own personal globalness, also allows me to travel somewhere that speaks whatever language I learn (unless its Latin...unless they speak that in Latvia)
Cons: I just spent two years in class, is that how I should spend my summer? Plus I would have to actually CHOOSE a language to study, which would essentially require picking a culture over others, and the part of me that's NY Times-liberal is not quite sure that's not racist.
Odds: 30 to 1

Hire a Personal Trainer and try to get Jacked
Theory: With nothing to do during the day, it may be a great time to spend it all working out. Combine that with a shady online pharmacy based in Mexico, and we might have the world's first 5'8" 296 pound consultant HULK
Pros: Imagine THAT in a client meeting...

Client: I don't really agree with your recommendations



Cons: That'll take a lot of money, and having spent a couple years in New Jersey gyms, I know it's not quite all it's cracked up to be.

Odds: 250 to 1

Write a Complete Novel
Theory: If I don't do it now, I probably never will. That is of course, assuming my business career pans out...if it doesn't I'll have all kinds of time. But let's say it does, should I really deprive the world of my amazing literary voice (let's face it, the world NEEDS a "pair of odd couple robots hilariously solving crimes novel," or a novelization of Death Wish 3)
Pros: Fame and glory, and possibly riches
Cons: Might require me to become self-important, grow a beard, and start hanging out in hipstery type places drinking something I've never even heard of yet.
Odds: 75 to 1

Get Married
Odds: A bazillion to 1!
Ha...figured I'd throw that in to make sure my girlfriend DOES in fact read this

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On the Weakness of Cohorting

It's official, my last two finals are turned in, and with the assumption that they're both good enough to pass, I'm officially done business school.

Putting the emotions aside for a minute (because I still don't know 1. how I feel and 2. how I'm supposed to feel), all of a sudden it's a huge amount of stuff off my plate.

I just went through my blackberry and deleted all the school-related emails left in my inbox and I'm down to just 11 emails! (spoke too soon, now it's 12, but still)

I sat around this afternoon and wondered what to do with my time...I still have a number of unread books (and a $30 credit to amazon that should get me a couple more). Of course, I could be spending time trying to find an apartment in Manhattan, but I'd really like to procrastinate I little more on that arguably important to-do.

One of the things I did want to do is look over the classes I took during my time at UChicago. One of the major differences between UChicago and other programs is that here you're allowed to go completely nuts with your own class schedule. Lots of business schools put you into groups, cohorts, or mini-cults of around 60 people, and you spend your entire first year with them in a regimented program schedule.

I'm sure that's nice if you never took a business class before, or if you really want to get to know 60 people really really well, but it always seemed crazy to me. What if they're all losers who sit around and do things like analyze their schedule in excel (oh, wait)

I thought about that again as I looked over my class lists and wondered, how many different people did I have the opportunity to take a class with during my first year, as opposed to a fixed number of 60???

10 minutes of data collection later and I had my answer.

In my two years at UChicago, I have taken at least one class with 733 different people! If we assume roughly equal distribution over both years, that means I had class with 367 different people in my first year as opposed to 60.

You could argue that I didn't form very deep bonds with most of the people in my classes, and you'd probably be right, but I would argue that more opportunities to meet more different people really gives you the chance to find those you ultimately click with.

Sure, the bigger number of classmates also exposed me to a larger number of ignorant and/or self-centered people...but I guess that's a big part of the real world too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

All's Not Quite So Well...

And so it came to pass that the ambitious MBA student...who entered the halls with eyes wide with wonder, a mind with a thirst for knowledge, and a pocket yearning for a fat stack of benjamins...sat for his last day in class.

It was an odd experience, particularly since I have no recollection of my last undergraduate class (and since blogging wasn't really a thing back then).

The day actually started with a meeting in the admissions office. As an admissions volunteer, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Chicago Booth's Dean of Admissions to review MY application.

It was the unique chance to find out exactly how the hell I got into business school in the first place, so I was eager to hear exactly what it was that did the job. Turns out there wasn't a specific answer.

"It was a slam dunk" were the first words out of her mouth, which I thought was kind of nice.

We had a specific grading system that each evaluator uses in assessing applications, and I graded out very highly across the board (which means I managed to fool them pretty well).

I also thought my letters of recommendation said some interesting things. If you had asked me what I learned at business school, one of the first things I would've told you was a greater ability to see a larger strategic picture. All that case work and interviewing and consulting experience...yeah...that's something I think I built.

Turns out my recommenders thought that was already my major strength...which seemed a little weird.

We continued to talk about how my experience was and how I could stay involved going forward...it was a pretty good conversation (which is usually the case when someone tells you you're actually a little talented)

The rest of the day went along quickly. I know a lot of classmates really can't wait to be done school, and in some sense I see their point. Two years in a crucible with the same people all over the place can make a person pretty nuts. But while I'm sure there are things I'll be glad to have out of my life (super expensive cafeteria food, the METRA), I think you'd be crazy to want to leave business school.

Class three days a week (four max), a casual dress code, an excuse to drink absolutely anytime, and unparalleled learning opportunities? Why would you want to graduate?

If I don't turn in my last take home final tomorrow...I wonder if I can make it a three year program.