Analytics Tracker

Friday, October 16, 2009

When I grow up, I want to be like Norm

Norm is my statistics professor. He is a somewhat large, jolly guy with a bushy moustache and glasses, and an true, deep and undeniable love for teaching young business students how to do statistical analysis.

As a teacher, Norm has his work cut out for him. Not only does he teach a subject whose fun quotient is percieved as being on par with digging your eyeballs out with a rusty spoon, he has to teach it to first year MBA students.

The mind of a first year MBA student can essentially be described like this: A;SLDKFJQPO3IJ;AFDinternshipASDKWEIJ;B!!!!!!!!! We are so totally overwhelmed with readings, more readings, networking events, info sessions, mock interviews, conferences and looking for summer internships that actual academic knowledge is pretty much the last thing on our minds.

When I opened my stats textbook for the first time I could practically feel my brain melting from the effusion of formulas, greek symbols and extra tiny print. I was pretty sure that if I had to sit through three hours of this twice a week, I would probably die.

On the first day, Norm told us formulas were lame. "Tell me more," I thought. The next week, amidst lessons on data analysis and statistical errors, he told us the story of the three red-ball sample. I'm still not sure if this story is true. Basically, when he was a young student like all of us, he had a professor who kept three jugs of white and red balls in his office. One had a ton of white balls and almost no red balls, one had an equal number of white and red balls, and one had a ton of red balls and almost no white balls. If a student wanted extra points, the professor would whip out a jar and give them a three-ball sample from the jar. If the student correctly guessed which jar the balls were from, they would gain points, and if they guessed wrong they would lose points.

Norm wandered in one day, feeling particularly confident, and asked for a three-ball sample. The professor shook the jar three times, and produced three red balls. Logically, Norm guessed the jar with the most red balls - the most statistically probable answer. When he got his paper back, he was shocked to find out he had lost 20 points - the jar was, in fact, the jar with almost no red balls. He had gotten a nearly statistically impossible sample.

Norm made every day mildly hilarious. Whether he was proclaiming the merits of general silliness, promising to wear his P-Value t-shirt (he did - it had a picture of Uncle Sam saying "What's YOUR P-Value?"), promising to also wear pants and shoes with his P-Value shirt (as if we needed that qualification), or pretending to be an outlier by whispering "Take me out! Take me out!" in a despondent tone, he made a dry subject into an entertaining three-hour class that seemed to fly by. One time, while teaching the other half of our class, his wife Carol called - Norm held up the phone so that the whole class could say hi to Carol. Norm's Stats class was itself a three red-ball sample.

On Wednesday, as he was dismissing us for the last time, he thanked us for being there, and told us what an honor it had been to teach us. As he was saying goodbye to a classroom of 50 students he'd known for 2 months at most, he actually got a little teary.

Taking class with Norm reminded me why I am getting my MBA - not because of the actual academic material I learned in his class, but because I remembered how it feels when your work is really and truly a labor of love. No matter how overwhelming everything gets, I keep trying to remember that the reason I'm here is so that I can find a job that I care about - something I look forward too when I wake up, and that every once in a while, makes me tear up a little bit. When I grow up, I want to be like Norm - just without the moustache.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dreaming things that never were

When I was little, I probably spent most of my time daydreaming. I read a lot, and consequently wrote stories a lot, most of which were set in nonexistent worlds and featured dragons, dinosaurs and wizards with great frequency. Sometimes all three together. My parents didn't seem to mind that my little invented worlds didn't really exist or even make any sense - they just let me keep dreaming.

My best friend Ellen and I would spend hours inventing our own universe full of dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures, most of which we invented. We even made a map of our imaginary world, big enough to cover almost an entire wall. My sister, my neigbors and I made hour-long movies with plots that, in retrospect, made absolutely no sense. We were Native Americans, we were Egyptian Princesses, and we were distraught pet owners searching for our cat who had been kidnapped by an invisible man.

the more I grew up, as is inevitable, the less I imagined. I missed being a kid - playing, daydreaming and inventing silliness. After my sophomore year at St. Olaf, I started teaching music at theatre e3, a music-theater program owned by my high school theater director. Spending my summers working with 70 kids, teaching music classes and hanging out with them on breaks, made me feel like a kid again.

There was the seven year old who came to camp every day in knee-high, neon pink rain boots, acted like she hated me and then inexplicably invited me to her birthday party. There were the three girls who found a stick in the grass, drew a face and hair on it, named it Petunia and proceeded to carry it around and talk to it for the next three weeks. My students were ridiculously smart, immensely talented, and they weren't afraid to flounce around onstage while wearing ridiculous costumes, singing in falsetto and holding a harp.

Meanwhile, I was trying to transition out of my own dream - I had gone to St. Olaf convinced I wanted to be an opera singer, but the further I traveled down that path, the less I really wanted it. I'd always envisioned myself having a home and a family - could I really handle a career that forced me to move every few months and plow through rejection after rejection for years before even landing a paying job? Did I really want to spend hours a day alone in a practice room? Not really.

So, while my students were dreaming wildly, I was slowly giving up on mine.

I taught for a couple more years before ending up in marketing in a corporate setting. How'd this happen? Still not entirely sure. I gave up the jeans and t-shirts of my teaching days for heels and dress pants. I gave up "sure, you can whip your shirt off and do a crazy dance, just make sure it's Ok with Eric...", for "do you think 200K units is a reasonable forecast?" Words like "realistic forecast" and "joint development agreement" became part of my everyday vocabulary. I began thinking about things in terms of the limitations of reality instead of limitless possibility - simply because, I was convinced, this was my duty as a Real Grown-Up Adult.

A couple of months ago, I was sitting with Ben in Baker's Square, eating pie and talking about how to fix Major League Baseball - the major problem being, large market teams have too much power and too much money.

"Maybe if we could get all the owners to realize that if they collaborate and don't let salaries get too high, it would be better for the sport?" Ben suggested.
"Yeah," I replied, "but that would never happen. Outright collusion is illegal, and if they tried to do it by tacit agreement that just wouldn't work. People are selfish - nobody would agree to that. Or maybe everyone would except Steinbrenner, who'd keep salaries ridiculously high and then where do you think all the good players would end up?"
"But if he realized what a good thing it was, and if we could convince him to do the right thing - "
"Never gonna happen."
"But WHAT IF, in my own personal imaginary world -?"
"Not possible."
"But what if - "

We paused. We smiled. One or both of us started giggling.

At that moment I thought, what's so wrong with ridiculous possibilities? Sure, realism is fine and it helps make decisions in the real world, but every single great achievement has started out with a dream that everyone thought was impossible.

I thought about how fortunate I was to have someone in my life who reminds me that sometimes, realism and parameters need to go out the window - silliness is OK. Dreaming is OK. Having pie for dinner, or building a fort in your living room and sleeping there when you have a perfectly good bed in the bedroom is more than OK. It makes me feel like I'm nine years old again - more like myself, or at least, the me I like the most.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Found and Lost, and Found again

There's nothing quite as fun as telling your boss, "Yeah... remember that new product powerpoint that you asked me if I had, and I was totally convinced that I had it and promised I would send it to you? ... Um I don't have it. Actually I don't think it exists."

The thing is I SWORE it existed. I would have bet anywhere from $5-$10 (I'm poor) that it was real, and that in fact I had written it, but no. Not so much.

I wondered if I had accidentally deleted it - so I searched through all my old e-mails because had I indeed finished it I DEFINITELY would have sent it to my co-worker Brad.


I wondered if perhaps it had gotten lost in the labyrinth of the common hard drive, where things are constantly mis-labeled and stored in the wrong's like if someone took my ex-boyfriend's closet (which is actually the floor of his room btw) and used that same style of organization to structure the shared folder on our network.


So today I finally discovered that I was right all along and that the powerpoint does not in fact exist.

I was informed of this by my boss who said: "Oh! I figured it out - you made a powerpoint for the OTHER new product line... "

So add that to my list of things I need to get done before August 14 when I leave my job to return to the world of academia. Score!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


We did it! After 2 days of hauling furniture up and down stairs and across the river (lugging a giant dresser up 3 flights of stairs - most fun I've ever had in my life) I'm finally moved into my new apartment.

I'll have pictures soon, but my camera is out of batteries so you'll have to wait a couple days.

That being said, I won't post pictures of ALL the rooms, because my bedroom is still a giant pile of unpacked suitcases full of my clothes and unpacked sacks full of my shoes. It's pretty disastrous. I don't let many people in there.

Last night I cooked my first dinner in my new kitchen (and I mean that quite literally - it is BRAND NEW. My landlady installed a new stove and completely re-did the cabinets and counters before I moved in), and I will now take this moment to profess my undying love for the following two things: (ahem)
1) Smitten Kitchen. This is awesome and you should make it right now.
Here's a picture of mine:

2) Wusthof. I told myself I'd never spend almost $100 on a knife. I promised and crossed my heart because my rent just went up a LOT and I'm trying to save money, but also I don't own any kitchen knives and maybe I should just buy one nice one...? (this brief foray into my stream of consciousness brought to you by my 30K salary and impending tuition) Oh boy, did I make the right decision. This baby cuts asparagus like butter.

You will notice in my photo (or maybe you didn't notice so I'm telling you now) that my plate is resting not on the kitchen table where one normally eats food, but on the coffee table. This is due to the fact that I do not yet own any dining room chairs - which leads me to another list: the list of things I don't have yet.

(I like lists)

1) Dining room chairs. I actually do have some that my mom found at a used furniture store for $25 each, but I won't actually get them until next Tuesday or Wednesday. Le sigh.
2) Cable. OMG - I haven't had cable in 3 years!!! I'm so excited I can't even tell you. Needless to say I'm mostly excited that I'll finally be able to watch baseball from the comfort of my own home. The sad thing is it's summer and none of my favorite shows are on - LOST, How I met Your Mother, One Tree Hill... or scratch that. Not OTH anymore. Why you ask? Is it because I'm in my mid-20's and watching a show whose primary audience is high schoolers? No - it's because OTH jumped the shark in a major way when the dude dropped Dan's heart on the ground and A DOG ATE IT. HONESTLY.
Can we just have a moment here?
I know it was supposed to be this big dramatic moment but it was so ridiculous that all I could do was laugh. And then turn off my computer and never watch OTH again.
....OK that's really all I have to say.
Moving on.
3) Basic cooking supplies. Ben and I were cooking breakfast on Sunday and I was pretty proud of myself because I remembed to get eggs and bacon. The following conversation quickly ensued:
B: Do you have milk, maybe we could make scrambled eggs?
Me: .... nope.
(a couple minutes later)
B: Hey can you get me some butter, the eggs are kind of sticking to the pan.
Me: .....don't have any butter.
B: Salt?
Me: nope
B: Pepper?
Me: nope.

Stocking your pantry is an interesting adventure. There are many things I use all the time (baking soda, salt, baking powder, oatmeal), but they last for so long I rarely have to replace them and therefore forget to buy them, and I usually only buy butter when I'm planning on baking which I haven't done yet.

Pics soon! :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Sorry I haven't posted these last few, at all.....
Things have been kind of crazy. We had mandatory vacation in December in lieu of layoffs which is definitely a plus, but which also meant that I had piles of work waiting for me when I got back, as did everyone else.

MBA applications proceeded to devour the rest of my time. I was in DC with Matt from 12/30 - 1/4, so I didn't have much time to do anything and when I got back I had 3 apps due right in a row. I'd almost finished the first one before I left so that was no problem, but the second two needed a lot of work and were only due a week and a half later, one day apart from each other. Obviously I wanted to put a lot of time and effort into all three of them, the result being:
a) I completely stopped going to the gym.
b) I hardly slept
c) I didn't have time to go to the store so I survived mainly off of toast, yogurt and cereal.

On the other side of the madness, 4 out of 5 apps are in! The 5th is almost done I just need to put in 1 more day of solid work on it. I see the light at the end of the tunnel finally :) I also had an interview already with the first school I applied to, and scheduled another with a different program next Wednesday.

Meeting time.......................
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