Sunday, December 28, 2008

Angeles Forest, Big Bear, and Christmas in Vegas


Ahhhh, such a great vacation! Sophi and I kicked things off by heading to the Angeles Forest to play in the snow. The views were amazing and Sophi built her first snowman. The next day we had planned to fly up to Portland, but the airports were snowed in, so we only got as far as Sacramento before being forced to turn back. Instead, we headed out to Vegas. We got an incredible deal on a room at Mandalay Bay overlooking the strip, did some outlet shopping, snacked on crepes at Paris, had dinner at Morton's, saw the Cirque du Soleil show KA, hiked in Red Rock canyon, shot a machine gun, dined on lobster tails, and gambled at the Bellagio. It was four days of non-stop fun! We drove back to LA on Christmas day, then hit Big Bear on Friday for some fresh snow. It was bitterly cold, ranging between 10 and 15 degrees, but my car handled great on the ice. The snow was thick and soft, the sun was blazing, and the skiing was exhilarating. Saturday we slept in, ran some errands, and went to a Hollywood club and today we played frisby and watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons. It's been a fantastic holiday that I won't soon forget.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Laura Bush killed a guy


In 1963, 17 year old Laura Bush ran a stop sign and collided into a car driven by her classmate, Michael Dutton Douglas. Michael Douglas was ejected from his vehicle and died of a broken neck. Weird.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My little world


and when your friends say what is it
you look like you've seen a ghost

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gay rights are civil rights


Last Tuesday, our nation took a great stride forward in the name of equality. However, in California, a coalition of religious bigots, homophobic minorities, and right wing 'values' voters institutionalized discrimination and nullified the marriages of some 18,000 families. My question is this: why do these people feel that they are entitled to cast judgment on the relationships of others?

Don't like gays in your church? Good news, you don't have to perform gay marriage ceremonies, because marriage is a legal package of rights and responsibilities and not a religious ceremony. That's the beauty of living in a democracy and not a theocracy; the separation of church and state protects both religious expression and secular equality.

As for the homophobic members of certain minority communities, it wasn't too long ago that interracial marriage was outlawed. At the time, people claimed that interracial marriage was 'unnatural' and against God's will, that it would somehow undermine 'traditional' marriage, and that interracial couples were inherently unfit parents. Now that we have elected an interracial president, perhaps it's time to reconsider marriage equality for all.

Lastly, for conservative 'values' voters, wasn't one of the core principles of Republican ideology a respect of both state's rights and individual liberty? Didn't you want to get the government off your backs and out of your private affairs? Those libertarian values are admirable, but they must extend to all citizens. Let California be California and Utah be Utah.

It is my hope that the California Supreme Court once again intervenes to preserve marriage equality. Irregardless of the narrow victory of this biased and spiteful measure, the courts have a responsibility to act as the guardians of liberty. The seminal court decisions of the civil rights era were also made against the will of a hostile majority, but it was the right thing to do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thanks America

Today, we chose optimism over despair and hope over fear. We turned our gaze towards a new horizon, towards a brighter tomorrow, towards a renewed American dream. We voted for our highest ideals and made history. Today, I am so very proud to be an American.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

MBA Advice

Here's my past MBA post, collected in one place. Please feel free to email me or comment if you have any questions about GMATs, the Oxford MBA, or anything else.

Richard

GMAT and MBA admissions

I've been corresponding with a student who asked for GMAT and MBA admissions advice. Here's my reply:

I took the GMAT in October of 2005 and applied to Oxford, Cambridge, Emory, and Northwestern by January 2006. I interviewed in February and March and was accepted to Oxford in early April. Thus, if you're just starting the GMAT, I would suggest that you shoot for the 2008/2009 school year, as it's too late to complete the GMATs and put together a well crafted application for the 2007/2008 year (I spent about 4 months on my essays and applications).

My GMAT score was 720 (96th percentile); 45 verbal (99th percentile), 44 quant (73rd percentile), and 5.5 essay (88th percentile). I used the Princeton Review book 'Cracking the GMAT'. I highly recommend this book, as it goes into great detail on the structure of the exam. This is a crucial aspect which is not covered well in most other books. I studied for two weeks, took lots of practice exams, then took the test.

If English is your second language, I would recommend improving your language skills and taking the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) prior to taking the GMAT. The TOEFL is virtually always required of non-native English speakers and the practice will greatly improve your GMAT performance.

In selecting a school, it'll be up to you to decide what fits your life best; full-time or part-time, day or evening, distance or class taught, one year or two. For me, the Oxford one-year full-time MBA fit best. I only lost one year of wages versus the standard two year US program, the reputation of the school is excellent throughout the world, and the tuition is relatively low. All in all, it was a great value for the money. Again, though, you must weigh all the factors and decide what fits best for your life.

As for admissions, keep in mind that the admissions process is the method by which schools maintain their quality (once admitted, schools will do everything in their power to ensure that a student does not fail). Three things are critical; GPA, GMAT score, and work experience. If you're weak in one of these areas, then you need to convincingly explain why in your admissions essays. My advise would be to take the GMAT and look at MBA rankings such at the Financial Times and The Economist Which MBA? to get a feel for the average GPAs and GMATs of accepted students before applying.

Good luck!

Oxford College Selection

Congratulations on your admission to the Oxford MBA! I'm sure you'll find your year here to be both challenging and immensely rewarding.

I know how stressful it can be to select a college and to make arrangements for life in Oxford, and I hope that I can be of some use in easing your transition. As for selecting a college, I understand how frustrating the apparent lack of clear information can be. Fortunately, I can provide some guidance on the most important facets of the selection criteria.

Surprisingly, there isn't a significant difference between the various college. All of them have long and prestigious histories, grand and inspiring buildings, and a wonderfully diverse student body. So, how to choose? The factors that seem to matter most to MBAs are the size of the college, location, and the accommodations they offer.

My college is Keble, one of the largest college in Oxford. We have 435 undergrads and 226 grad students. Amongst the grad students, we have 14 MBAs. Thus, our MCR tends to be fairly lively, with lots of pub crawls, movie nights, and other activities.

The college is located fairly close to the center of Oxford. The city is small enough where you can reasonably walk from one end to the other, but some colleges, such as Templeton, are far away from the city center. This map offers some good guidance: http://www.ox.ac.uk/aboutoxford/maps/colls.shtml. The business school is right next to the train station on the far left, and it's about a 15 minute walk from Keble to the business school.

As for MBA accommodation, I think Keble has a distinct advantage. MBAs are housed at Acland, a former hospital converted to graduate dorms. On the map, we're right across the street from Green College. The dorms and clean and well appointed. Each room has an ensuite bath, a bed, desk, bookshelf, and wardrobe closet. There are several large, communal kitchens and regular housekeeping service.

Realistically, most MBAs spend the majority of their time at the business school as the intensity of the MBA program often prevents MBAs from becoming deeply involved in their college life. I rowed for Keble the first term and some row throughout the year, but MBAs often run into serious time constraints, especially during Hillary term. The common refrain at Keble is that the grads see the MBAs for the first few weeks, then we disappear for the rest of the year. Thus, the choice of college is a lot less important than many admits realize.

I hope this is useful in your college decision. Once again, congratulations on your admission to the Said Business School!

LBS vs Oxford

Just got a question about how LBS stacks up against Oxford. Here's my reply:

LBS and Said both have their strengths and weaknesses. I tend to see them as two very distinct programs. LBS is a lot closer to the American model of MBAs; a two-year program with an internship in the middle. While the pace may be a bit less hectic, the value equation is changed by two years of tuition, missed wages, and living expenses. As for Oxford, it's one calendar year and very intense. There are about 20 hours of lectures per week, on top of a career search and social activities. Being in the City, LBS is likely stronger in finance while Oxford is more of a general management program (one calendar year allows less time for electives), but many MBAs still make successful career changes.

As for the Oxford brand, it's highly valued throughout the world, and particularly strong in the US. Within the UK, both Oxford and Cambridge have first rate reputations with LBS in a close third.

Naturally, Oxford is tough to get into. A business school is only as good as the students, so high admissions standards = a better program and strong alumni base. My general thoughts are that admissions are predicated upon your undergraduate performance, GMAT, and work experience. You'll need to be strong in two out of three and make a good case in your essays as to how an MBA will fit with your life.

The financial aid department can help you put together the necessary loans for international students. Focus on getting admitted, the rest will take care of itself.

One final word of advice; go to an information session and meet the MBAs. What's really unique about Said is the cooperative spirit of the class and these sessions will give you a good sense the class.

Good luck with your applications. Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

More LBS questions

Dear Richard,

I was reading your blog about your MBA and also your latest post about LBS vs Oxford, and I would like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind.

1) How do you think Oxford and LBS compare as far as recruiting? It's hard to say, since I don't have any direct knowledge of LBS's recruiting or career services. What I can say is that the Said Business School offers several recruitment paths. First, the career service offers counseling, career workshops, and mock interviews. They also compile MBA CVs for distribution to recruiters and organize several recruiting and networking events throughout the year. Second, the Oxford University career service organizes multiple events, such as consulting and banking fairs. Though these are primarily aimed at undergrads, it still offers a chance to get some face time with recruiters. Third, the MBA class organizes several clubs, called Oxford Business Networks. These include consulting, banking, non-profit, diversified industry, women in business, etc. The OBNs are student directed, but have been really effective at attracting recruiters and organizing career events. They are also a great opportunity to connect with alumni and actively contact corporations that would be less responsive to individual efforts. Lastly, events like Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford, the Oxford Media Summit, and the Private Equity Forum offer an opportunity to connect with the wider Oxford community and to network with high profile guests. At the end of the day, the more you take advantage of these opportunities, the more you will get out of the Oxford experience.

2) Would Oxford help to get a career in finance in investment banking and/or private equity and/or hedge funds? Yes, but a lot of that will depend on your background and how hard you work. If you are changing roles, industries, and geography, then the hurdles will be high, but this is true of any program.

3) How would you see Oxford compared to a MSc in Finance at LBS? I think a better comparison than the MBA would be the Oxford MSc in Financial Economics. I don't have much knowledge of these program structures, but I know that the MSc at SBS is extremely rigorous and admits only the best of the best (710 average GMAT, very quant heavy).

4) How is life at Oxford, how is the weather, how is the people around and the cost of living overall? Life is good, it's an amazing place to study and an experience I will never forget. I've met some truly incredible people and look forward to maintaining close contact with my classmates for many, many years. The weather is the weather. I've lived in Los Angeles for the past six years, so the gloom of winter gets me down a bit. However, the spring and summer are heaven on Earth. The cost of living is a bit high, but probably a bit less than London. The biggest factor for me has been the decline of the dollar, but exchanging my student loans to pounds at the start of the program locked in a reasonable exchange rate. If you think the pound will drop over time, just take out a Barclays loan denominated in pounds.

4) How is the faculty in Oxford, the Staff, and the atmosphere between students? Every student has professors they like and don't like. However, I've been happy with the vast majority of my professors. They are knowledgably, friendly, and available to assist students in both academic and career development. The staff at the school is great; friendly, competent professionals. The facilities themselves are fairly new with all the usual technologies (multi-screen projectors, amphitheatre seating, etc.). As for the students, I believe that the small class size greatly enhances the learning experience and create a cohesive class. You can get to know everyone in a class of 200, but at an MBA mill with 700+ students, you simply won't meet many of your classmates.

5) How strong do you believe that the Oxford brand is in London as far as the MBA? Very, very strong. Many City professionals went to Oxford as undergrads and have a strong affinity for alumni. How about in Continental Europe and in the US? I can't really say about Europe, but I assume it's very strong. In the US, the Oxford brand is extremely valued and held in the same regard as the Ivy League schools. Would you rate it anyplace close to Harvard, Wharton, Stanford? Definitely. After meeting several dozen MBAs from Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford while working at Google, I have to say that I'm really glad I chose Oxford. It's easy to get lost in the crowd and many MBAs come off as one-dimensional; even pretentious. Oxford MBAs are simply different. They are bright, knowledgeable, and accomplished, but they are also people you can have a great conversation with. In short, they are interesting and well rounded people, and that makes for a great program.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Denver, houses, and a new job


For the past couple of years I've been thinking about going to Denver to see if it might be a good place to settle in five or ten years, so this weekend I finally made the trip. The city itself is shockingly similar to Portland; both have active downtowns, large urban parks, and light rail systems. They've also undergone a period of urban redevelopment that has transformed large swaths of industrial buildings into a livable mix of shops, restaurants, and lofts. Between the two though, I have to give it to Portland. Denver has some good parks, but it's on a flat, dry plain 30 miles from the mountains. In fact, it seems closer to a midwestern town than to a mountain town. Perhaps due to the geographical limitations of being wedged between a river and the hills, Portland has had greater success in creating a dense, vibrant downtown. Plus, there's no ocean in Colorado.

After checking out the city, I headed for the Rockies. It was a great time to go. The leaves were turning and the mountains had a bit of snow, but it wasn't too cold. On Sunday I checked out the Wild Animal Sanctuary, which cares for abused and abandoned exotic animals. They have a ton of tigers, a leopard or two, grizzly bears, black bears, lions and more. You couldn't get too close, but it was worth it to see the tigers and support a good cause. All in all, it was a great weekend.

When I got back to LA, I managed to do a bit of house hunting and finally got pre-approved on a mortgage. Hopefully I'll be in my first house before the new year. I also started a new job at Experian Interactive Media. The people are great! I really like the team and think I'll learn a lot in this new role.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Au revoir Google

4am Sunday, my first job as a paperboy.


Well, my time as a Google contractor is almost up and it’s time to move on. So what’s the past year been like? Well, I’ve had some truly fantastic co-workers, particularly in Santa Monica. They are the reason I work so hard and go the extra mile, and I’ll miss them all. It’s been a great learning experience and introduction to corporate life. I leave with a deep understanding of interactive advertising, a great resume, and some new friends. My future looks bright, and I’m ready and eager for the next phase of my career.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Labor Day camping

So this weekend I went for a little hike. Well, it looks little on my Forest Service map, but actually it’s about 11 miles with +/- 2000ft. elevation changes. I started out at Switzer Falls picnic area, hiked the length of Bear Canyon, and then went over the ridge to the Tom Sloan Saddle where I camped for the night. Bear Canyon turned out to be appropriately named, because four miles in I came across a brown bear. It was probably around 300 lbs, but didn’t want anything to do with a bunch of sweaty hikers. Once he spotted us, he climbed up the steep canyon walls and disappeared into the brush to munch his berries in peace. I pressed on and when I finally got to the ridge I was completely exhausted and had burned through a gallon of water. I set up camp on a sandy peak with an incredible view of LA that stretched out to Catalina Island and beyond. Forgot the can opener, so dinner was prepared with a swiss army knife and a large rock. After the sun had set, the city lights stretched out to the horizon. It was a great way to end the day. The night was temperate and relaxed, apart for the scorpion guarding the water bottle. The next day, I woke up early for the long trek back. I saw a baby rattlesnake and the bear’s cave, but nothing much else. First stop in civilization; In-N-Out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SnapShots

I found a new blog toy called SnapShots. These are little preview windows that open up on hyperlinks. Check out some of these examples to see what I'm talking about: here's my YouTube video from Iceland, another great YouTube video, my favorite blog, my Botswana photos, one of my favorite movies, and my coordinates.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Outside Lands Music Fest in San Francisco

video

This weekend I went up to San Francisco to see Radiohead at the Outside Lands Music Fest. It was awesome! I flew up Thursday, crashed at the hotel, then went to work Friday morning at the new Google offices. The space was pretty cool; great views of the bay bridge, a big cafeteria, and tons of empty nooks to crash in. I grabbed a window office, plugged in, and got to work. By late afternoon I had to get to Golden Gate Park, so I crammed on a bus with about a million people and headed out. The fest wasn't too packed until Beck started up. Then it was tons of people and drifting clouds of smoke. A nice vibe, but a little claustrophobic. Mid way through Beck, I joined the stampede to grab a spot by the main stage. I managed to get fairly close for the show. Radiohead played for almost two hours! They had an amazing light show on stage, but just hearing there music live for the first time was a great experience. After the show was another cramped ride back to the City and a hurried morning flight back to LA, but it was well worth it. The rest of the weekend was sleep, though I did get some nice surfing in on Sunday. Now it's back to Monday wishing I had more time in the City.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My July...


Alright, I haven’t written in forever and need to catch up. So for the 4th of July I went to Santa Barbara and the next week I went to SeaWorld. The week after, I saw Coldplay at the Forum (good show, crap venue) and went to my niece’s birthday party. It was an all day Chuck-E-Cheese extravaganza, so the kids had a great time. As for me, I was sick as hell and creeped out by the evil robots. Still, it was nice seeing my niece, meeting my brother’s new girlfriend, and riding around in his new BMW 335. On the 24th, I spent the entire day stuck in a bus on I-5 for a team event in Del Mar. Not fun. However, some nice meals at Gulfstream, Katsuya, and Katana more than made up for it. Last week was insane! I had a client dinner on Monday, spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night going out, then did the company picnic in Long Beach on Friday. Saturday was great though; nothing but beach. I went to Huntington, did some BBQ and body boarding, then ended the day surfing on some nice long sets. This week, I’ve just been taking it easy and getting back in the gym. I killed my iPod in the ocean a couple weeks back, so I swapped it out at the Apple store and am now ready to hit the waves this weekend.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. In the more general sense though, I’ve been a bit stressed lately. My contract with Google ends in September (has it been a year already?), so I have a lot of uncertainty about whether I can convert to a staff position. Once I get a bit more settled in my career though, I can start looking for a house. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why SeaWorld rocks


1) Free beer. Yes, that's right, FREE BEER! SeaWorld is owned by Anheuser-Busch, so they have a beer garden, the Budweiser clydesdales, and lots of free beer. Not just Bud, but lots of delicious microbrews. Did I mention it was free?
2) You can touch things. Cool things, like dolphins, stingrays, and starfish, not to mention the petting zoo. It's so cool when a stingray sucks up a smelly sardine from your open palm (their skin feels like wet jello).
3) It's for adults too. This ties into the beer thing. SeaWorld is great for BOTH kids and adults. The park has activities and exhibits that appeal to a diverse demographic, like the animal performances, game arcade, and feeding the dolphins.
4) SeaWorld is educational. Besides being amazingly fun, you can actually learn stuff if you want to.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Reading, Concerts, Sailing, etc.


Time to catch up a bit. I'll start with my long neglected reading list. I recently finished Birds of America by Lorrie Moore. It's a collection of short stories with an overarching melancholy that's tempered by bursts of dark, but poignant humor. Not the best, not the worst, but a worthy read.
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Next up was Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. The basic premise is that experience allows you to make insightful choices based on thin slices of information. Also, our judgement can be derailed by racial or gender bias, information overload, stress, and marketing. One thing that was particularly interesting was the application of these ideas to personal relationships. We can misconstrue our biases for positive qualities in others and end up with brain dead, but attract partners (or presidents). Also, what we say we're attracted to and what we're actually attracted to are completely different things. Trying to qualify attributes that are purely qualitative is simply an exercise is self-justification, so beware of your biases.
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Two books that were pure crap were The Last Lecture and The Power of Now. The Last Lecture was simply pompous and self-congratulatory. Just because you're facing mortality (we all die someday) doesn't mean you have all the answers. Lame. The Power of Now is essentially cognitive behavioral therapy dressed up in new age jargon and pumped out through the Oprah machine. CBT generally has a positive view within the psychiatric community and is an effective tool for a number of issues, so why the new age window dressing? Double lame.
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On to my last book: When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris. This book rocked! It's insanely funny and David's flaws and eccentricities gives me renewed appreciation for the quirks that make us human. Highly, highly recommended. Buy this book now.
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Outside of my books, I've just been enjoying life these past few weeks. Last weekend I saw Combichrist at the Avalon. It was a solid show; rough, sweaty, and loud. For the 4th, I took a trip to Santa Barbara and went on a sailing cruise. I've never been on a real sailboat before, so it was an interesting experience. I liked the silence of the sails as we cut through the waves, but I still prefer flying over the ocean in an over-powered jet ski, jumping the white capped waves or blasting full throttle on the rare days when the ocean is flat and still as plane of glass. After the cruise, I spent a bit of time on the beach. However, the nearby fires were raining down ash, so I called it a day and heading back to LA. Saturday was BBQ and today I went surfing in Santa Monica, grabbed some lunch, then went hiking in Griffith Park. All in all, life = good.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why Oxford is so great


One of my Oxford Professors, Jonathan Zittrain, was on the Colbert Report last night to promote his new book ‘The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It’. He was just as lively and good humored as he was in the classroom, and his book brings up some interesting points.

Essentially, the book explores how the internet is transitioning from a loose and free playground to a patchwork of walled kingdoms and bespoke devices where applications and content can be centrally monitored, blocked, and manipulated.

For example: why is iTunes only compatible with the iPod? Doesn’t that lock out innovation in music and video devices? Similarly, the iPhone is a closed garden where only Apple approved applications can run. Even then, they can be scrapped at Apple’s command, just as iPhone unlocking software was blocked by code in one of Apple’s endless updates. Is your Tivo really your own if a company thousands of miles away can erase content without your permission? How about that Xbox? How much privacy and control do you really have when you’re tethered to Microsoft?

Seeing Jonathan on Colbert reminded me of just how extraordinary my time at Oxford was.

http://futureoftheinternet.org/

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekend in Cancun


This weekend was nothing short of AMAZING! My friend and I decided to take a trip to Cancun to get away from it all, so Friday morning we got up at 3am and headed to LAX for our flight. After touching down around four, we checked into the Westin Cancun, and headed straight for the beach.

The warm, clear waters stretched out to a distant reef before fading into the endless blue Caribbean. The sand, a fine mix of washed up shells, was white and cool under the afternoon sun. I jumped in the surf for hours, drank cold beers in the warm breeze, lounged on weathered beach recliners, and broke up the day with lethargic swims in the hotel pool. That night, I sat on the balcony overlooking the sea and listened as the waves gently washed ashore in the summer night.

The next morning was a leisurely breakfast before catching a van to Puerto Morelos. There, we ventured out in a small boat to snorkel the reefs. Under the salty waves I held large, smooth conch shells and watched stingrays and barracudas idly pass by. Between the first and second dives, the guide abruptly stopped the boat and jumped into the waters. He came up a minute later with a MASSIVE sea turtle struggling in his hands. Its head was as big as the guide's and it splashed around with flippers larger than my hands, but it only seemed mildly annoyed at the interruption and soon slipped beneath the surface and darted off. After the reefs was a lazy lunch of shredded chicken and tortillas in the shade of a thatched beach patio. Upon returning to Cancun, we smoked Cuban cigars on the balcony and waited for the heat of day to fade to night.

On the final morning, I just relaxed and enjoyed a long breakfast. After some last minute shopping, we headed to the airport and made our way back home. It was a perfect escape from the ordinary, but now I can’t wait to travel again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

iPod + surfing = fun

So this last weekend I got a new toy; an Otterbox waterproof iPod case. I wanted to see if I could take my iPod out while surfing, so this seemed to be the way to go. After giving it a quick test (by throwing my iPod in the pool) I headed out to the beach. The waves were pretty big and I spent most of the day eating saltwater, but my tunes held up; even underwater. The only weak point was my Sony earbuds, which vacillated between heavy bass and high treble. Guess I need to find a waterproof set. For now, it’s a workable combo that makes surfing even more fun.

This weekend I’ve got some big plans though. I’m taking a trip to Cancun with my friend. I can’t wait to go diving in some warm, clear water and drink beers on the beach at night. In August, I’ll be heading up to SF to see Radiohead at Golden Gate Park. This is going to be a great summer.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Kicking into summer


So it's been forever since I've written, but I haven't really been up to much. Didn't do anything Memorial Day; the weather was bad so I just went surfing and hiking. Last weekend was better, so I went surfing and hiking. I saw my little shark friend though.

Along the beaches of SoCal there are a bunch of bottom feeding sharks that hang out close to shore. I was walking out of the surf and spotted one a couple of yards away in the shallows. It looked like a sandy brown log, but it was a 4 foot sand shark. No big, they pretty much avoid people and swimmers rarely even notice them. Kinda cool once you notice though.

Today I had a client lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel and saw Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer getting lunch. The Fonz was there too. Happy Days.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Back in the 'Couv/running races


Last weekend I flew up to Vancouver to see the fam' and sell my old car. It's always a bit strange going home; the place has changed a lot since I moved to LA, but mostly for the better. I hung out with my friend for a little bit, saw my Mom and Dad, and spent a lot of time under the hood. The weather was nice though, so all in all, a good trip.

This weekend I ran a 5k race for women's cancers. Big props to Jack, Dawn, Sophia, Tiffany, Sara, Dick, and Sue for sponsoring me! You guys amaze me and I really appreciate your support. So Saturday at 5:30 and headed down to USC to get ready for the race. There was a huge turnout and I was really moved to see so many people out there to support a good cause. I managed to finish in 26 minutes at the head of the pack and was really proud that I ran the whole way (since I usually max out after a couple of miles).

That afternoon I saw Son of Rambow. It's a really funny, engaging indie film. Highly recommended.

Today I went surfing in Santa Monica. The water was cold and full of seaweed, but the clouds burned off around noon and I caught a ton of waves. This was a great weekend.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Disneyland weekend




Some people don't like Disneyland...



...but I had a great time.


Then I went surfing. It was great until I spotted a three foot long sand shark. They're pretty harmless though, but it's hard to put out of your mind when there was a great white attack just a couple of days ago in San Diego. I just imagined the shark as a friendly Disney character (Finding Nemo?) and kept on surfing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back in NYC...


The first time I saw New York was just after 9/11. After years of thumbing through The New Yorker, I was dying to see the city, but kept putting it off. That strange autumn seemed like a good time to stop procrastinating and get on with life.

I visited a friend who was living in Battery Park City, a few blocks from the pile, and explored the city in a surreal daze. Lower Manhattan was eerily silent, save for the songs spilling out of St. Paul's Chapel, which echoed like a lost whisper down Broadway (now named The Canyon of Heroes). There were other tourists as well; Americans from across the county who came to lend some quiet form of solidarity to the moment, to look at the images of missing family members and to try to grasp the meaning and scope of such a tragedy. It was an noble moment in a noble city, with a spirit that was all too fleeting.

Since then, I've breezed in and out of New York many times. Standing in front of Wall Street with my brother, spending a few hot August days with Shelly on my way to Botswana, circling the Statue of Liberty, huddling against the wind on the top deck of the Empire State Building, rifling through the souvenirs at the United Nations gift shop. The last time I was here was for my Oxford admissions interview (got the MBA, lost the girl), but that seems a lifetime ago.

Now I'm here again and miss the charm and fascination the city once held for me. Now, it just seems like a city; a bit too crowded for my tastes, but well within the navigable geography of experience. Through the alchemy of time, the charm of the big city is now a weighty nostalgia and I miss my home in LA.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What I've been up to...

The past two weeks have been crazy busy. Last weekend, I saw a couple of Pepperdine alumni on Friday, went surfing Saturday, and did the Brewery Art walk on Sunday. It was alright, but I wasn't seeing a lot of fresh work. I think the colony needs some new blood.

This week, my work held a conference in Newport Beach for a couple days. It was really great to spend time with the whole team and to relax after hours. Still, I feel a bit out of water in the OC since I grew up in a lower-middle class/upper-lower class family. Bentleys and 100ft. yachts just aren't the norm for me. Neither is modern subdivision architecture, but that's another matter.

This Saturday I went to the beach and got some nice surfing in, followed by lunch and a hike through the Temescal Canyon loop. Saturday night was Sinister and today was the Rose Bowl flea market. They had some cool period furniture, but I couldn't find an endearingly amateurish painting to hang on my walls.

Oh yeah, I'm also learning HTML, CSS, Dreamweaver, and Flash. Slowly and fitfully, but learning.

Two weeks later...

Anything new in Zimbabwe? I'm sure the results of the presidental election have been announced and he's well on his way to some dank prison for his crimes. No? Really? We tolerate this? Good thing the media is all over it.

Nope. Instead we got coverage of the Olympic touch relay. What's funny is China's assertion that protesters shouldn't policise the Olympics. Oh boo-hoo, China's a sensitive boy and we'll hurt his feelings. Grow up. Part of becoming a mature society is tolerating criticism (Tiananman Square anyone?). Besides, the Olympics have always been political.

The Olympic torch relay begin as a propaganda stunt by Adolf Hilter for the 1936 Berlin games (sidenote; he also gave us the Volkswagen, aka The People's Car). At the time there was a jaunty debate over whether America should boycott the games for Hitler's anti-semitism. We competed anyway and Jesse Owens, an African American, won four gold medals. Owen's victory was then used as American propaganda in the leadup to WWII, despite the fact that Owens enjoyed better treatment in Nazi Germany than he did in segregated America. Or how about the 1976 Munich games that brought the PLO to the world stage and inaugurated the first (largely forgotten) era of global terrorism. Not to mention the 1980 Moscow games that the US boycotted. Nazis good, commies bad? Point being, the Olympics are fair game for political theater and China should take their lumps and hire a PR firm like everyone else. Just don't jump onstage and expect the audience to be free of critics.

I've got a problem with abstract modernism

This is why people hate art. It hangs in some gallery with a $20k price tag on it and conveys nothing more than pretension. It's mute. It does not take skill to produce this. It only takes skill to convince people that the outrageous price is somehow justified.

I think the art of painting has been in a long decline. Somewhere in the late 1940's, novelty supplanted skill, abstraction replaced emotion, and art became disconnected from reality. Today, 50 years after Pollack dripped his paint (again, no skill), not even novelty remains.

There was a brief respite with pop artists like Warhol. They brought back accessibility. People could understand the language of iconography and apply the experience to their lives and times. Then it was lost again.

My core complaint is this; if art does not communicate in a visual language that is naturally accessible, if it requires a pamphlet, art history class, or knowledge of the artist's back story, if art requires explanation, then it doesn't have anything to say. It's gibberish and therefore irrelevant. Most people wouldn't indulge a film that was nothing but static or music that was random noise, so why should painting and sculpture be exempt?

Fortunately, accessible art has returned in the form of pop surrealism. Artists like Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia have created engaging paintings that connect to the human experience in a tangible (albeit nostalgic) way. They use a visual language grounded in the actual. People, places, and things can be identified as such. Instead of a nebulous fog, we are given form, we are given color, we are given emotion, we are given art.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Nice Guy...


The dude with the Hitler 'stache is Robert Mugabe, president/brutal dictator of Zimbabwe, a pleasant little place next to South Africa that was once called the breadbasket of Africa. Not so much now. After a decade of increasingly incompetent misrule which featured a botched land grab, thuggish political militias, and failed price controls, Mugabe now presides over 80% unemployment and 100,000% inflation.
This Saturday, Zimbabwe held elections for local, regional, and national office. The run up was hardly free or fair. The main opposition leader had his head cracked open and the state run media was a propaganda fest (are you taking notes Russia?). However, many are projecting an outright opposition victory. Now it's up to the US, EU, African Union, and South Africa to speak up and demand that the will of the people of Zimbabwe be heard. Thabo Mbeki needs to finally grow a spine and condemn this tyrant. Just because Mugabe fought the British does not mean he deserves a free pass to destroy a nation and a people.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nice layout...

I've finally got my blog how I want it (for now). It's been fun playing with HTML, but it's really time consuming when you have no idea what you're doing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brewery Art Walk, April 5 - 6

Can't wait. For now, my cat and I have some Cheesing to do.

Messing around with HTML

So my offsets are still a bit tweaked, but I've managed to embed a YouTube video feed in my blog and widen all of my text boxes to accommodate it. HTML is fun!

Friday, March 21, 2008

I <3 Portishead

I've been listening to their new song 'Machine Gun' non-stop today. I also love that they pulled a still from 'They Live' for their myspace page (www.myspace.com/PORTISHEADALBUM3). It doesn't really fit with their music, but I like the retro subversiveness of it. Can't wait for their new album 'Third' in late April (just before my bday).

Reality has a liberal bias…

Despite the total lack of insightful political analysis on my blog (sorry), I do, in fact, have opinions on topics that stray beyond what I did last weekend; one of which is health education.

According to a new study from the University of Washington (go Huskies!) “Students who receive comprehensive sex education are half as likely to become teen parents as those who get none or abstinence-only sex education”. Hmmmm….so maybe if we wanted to cut down on unwanted teen pregnancies, we should stop resorting to self-righteous calls for chastity and irrational fear tactics.

A part of becoming an adult is accepting the consequences of your actions. However, one of the responsibilities of our society is to minimize the harm done when immature kids have accidents, are the victims of assault, or simply make bad choices. The whole ‘that’s what you get for being immoral’ thing is callous and short-sighted. We’ve collectively decided to saturate our society in sexual imagery, so how about balancing that out with some realistic health education so our kids can make good choices?

It’s the principle of harm reduction; people will do things that we don’t agree with, but instead of ignoring problems or moralizing, we should roll up our sleeves and look at ways to minimize the behavior or mitigate its impact. Simple things like providing comprehensive health education, improving access to contraceptives, and creating a climate of open dialogue can go a long way towards preventing teenage pregnancy and reducing its lasting social costs (Freakonomics has an interesting slant on this). At the very least, ditch the myopic ‘abstinence only’ mentality and start thinking about Plan B. Even if it means having awkward and frank discussions about the messy realities of life, it’s worth pursuing a more pragmatic and better functioning society.

No comment

Secondhand paintings...


I found this at the Goodwill in Santa Monica the other day. It's pretty unremarkable, but I love it. When I was young, I would often spend the weekends at my grandparents house, playing cards, tossing a Frisbee with my brother, riding bikes through tranquil suburban streets. Their house was always neat and modern in a 1950's sort of way; simple, sturdy wood furniture lovingly crafted with smooth lines and light finishes, ornately patterned finishes on angular couches, yellow vinyl floor tiles with a vaguely cubic geometric pattern. The whole place felt like the late afternoon sunshine on a still summer day, the sounds of children playing drifting on a distant breeze. They had a painting of a battered dinghy washed up on a stony beach, bleached after years of sun and salt. The mood is the same is my secondhand painting. The nostalgia is warm in my heart.

Moving on...

Sigh. Sometimes I can't help but to replay the last six months in my mind, wondering if I've made the right choices, thinking about what could have been. I thought I had a partner in life that I could depend on, that was stable and committed, but I didn't. They let me down and it's going to take some time before I trust someone like that again. Still, time moves on and so must I. These moments will pass and fade with the coming years. I'll make new memories and build a life full of happiness and love. For now, it's just getting through to the morning light.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Life is good and full of sleep

Work is going well again; getting back in my stride, balancing relationships, and hitting the marks. I’m spending more time in Irvine over the next few weeks, which is nice because I’ll get to see more of my awesome SoCal teammates!

Still getting over this flu/cold/bronchitis thing, so my weekend was pretty lazy. Friday I got home late and went straight to bed. Saturday was a laid back dinner/movie date. Sunday I slept in, read The Economist, then got in a couple hours of surfing in Santa Monica. The winds were crazy and the waves were huge, but they were breaking pretty far offshore, so I got some long rides on the frothy wash. I got up four or five times and had some great rides.

The next couple of weeks will be super busy at the office, so for now it’s back to work.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sick...

Gotta fever and chills and my head is killing me. Today is all about sleep.

Laid back weekend...

Nothing much going on, did some volunteer work with Reading To Kids.org on Saturday morning then went surfing and hiking today. Time to sleep.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Stressed out...

It’s been a tough week, just soooooo much going on at work; lots of demands from lots of different directions and trying to balance all of the competing priorities. Working with multiple teams is such a balancing act.

I’ve also been a bit depressed lately. In addition to work, a lot of my friends and family are enduring personal challenges of varying severity, so I’m trying to be as supportive as I can with what little I’ve got left in me. I’ve had a lot of drama and heartbreak in my life since returning from the UK. Both my parents have been hospitalized, my friend had a brain tumor, two other friends are on the edge of divorce, I've moved twice, started a new job, and been through a major breakup.

My response has been to constantly stay busy, but that’s wearing a bit thin right now and the cracks are showing. I so need a vacation. Can't wait to go surfing again and just clear my mind for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dinner and a Movie


I'm really proud of my cooking abilities right now. Tonight I made salmon with a ginger and crushed cashew glaze, steamed veggies, artisan goat cheese, and basil crackers. Then I watched Michael Clayton, which is a great movie (much more enjoyable than There Will Be Blood and roughly on par with No Country For Old Men). Tomorrow is skiing at Snow Summit and Sunday is all about surfing and hiking in the Angeles forest. For all the drama in my life, some things are going really, really well.

Great weekend...

This weekend totally rocked. Saturday I went surfing, but the IFC Spirit Awards were blocking my beach and the waves were ginormous, so I wasn't out long. Sunday morning I had a decent hike at Griffith in the rain. Sunday night was awesome though. I met some friends at a bar in Venice and ended up staying out til 4am. It was totally unexpected, but so much fun.

So now I'm back in my week. The new Goldfrapp album came out yesterday on iTunes. I only like a couple of tracks though; it's too down-tempo and lacks the sensuality of Black Cherry and the purity of Felt Mountain; too nostalgic for the seventies. On the other hand, the new Bird and the Bee EP is really great. So is the Sia song Little Black Sandals. For harder beats, I've been hooked by the new Moby song Alice (I know, just shut up and listen to it), The Best Revenge by Fischerspooner, The Nest by Sons & Daughters, and Bring It On Down by Goose. Happiness is a soundtrack for an animated life.

The weather is SoCal has been great these past few days. For lunch today I went to the farmer's market at the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica and picked up some fresh fruits, nuts, and artisan cheeses. I love walking in the warm, sweet air with the sun beating down and the ocean on the horizon. The oranges were amazing! Now if only I could find a good supply of salmon...

Tonight I had a date in Burbank. After sitting in traffic for an hour and a half, I remembered how draining it was to live out there. No wonder I was such a homebody while living in Burbank, I never had time to just unwind after work and enjoy life; I was busy sitting in my car. Hollywood isn't exactly close to my job, but man, it makes a huge difference. Working out, eating right, and taking up new hobbies has also helped a lot. I feel like I have much more energy now and get so much more out of life. I guess you just have to see beyond the lows and be patient for that better day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Busy week...

Yeah, I know it's only Wednesday, but still. I went to my first Lakers game last night for a client function. We had a VIP suite overlooking the court and an open bar, so good times were had by all. Today I was in sales training all day, then hit the gym, and now I'm back at work at 8:30pm catching up on all the misc. things I needed to do today. Still, the Lakers game more than makes up for it. I love my job : )

Monday, February 18, 2008

Long weekend...

Friday night I saw 'In Bruge'. It was a really good movie; funny, dark, and engaging. I also love seeing Europe on the screen. Can't wait to travel again.

Saturday was drama. I drove to Ron Jon in Orange County and bought a surfboard. Was going to go surfing, but I decided to take a six hour detour to visit a friend in need. Not sure if I made a difference, but hopefully it helped. My other friend had their surgery and came through alright. I hadn't realized how much it had affected me until I heard they were ok and got all choked up. Lots of emotional ups and downs, the net effect was draining. I didn't get home until late, and by then I was exhausted. I went out anyway, but the club was lame so I came in early.

Sunday was Big Bear. Word of advice to all those SUV drivers going to Arrowbear for tubing; the pavement is dry, you can speed it up. Oh, and if you see a line of cars behind you and a lot of space ahead, you are the 'slow traffic', so use the turnouts. My two hour drive turned into five, the snow was slush, and I officially suck at snowboarding. I called it a loss and headed home.

Today was the first really decent day of the weekend. I got up early and headed to Santa Monica with my new board. The surf was great; smooth rolling waves perfect for a newbie. The old timers were really cool and gave some encouraging words. Best of all, I was finally able to get up and properly ride a wave. Can't wait to go surfing again next weekend.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Singles Awareness Day

The past six months have been crazy. I finished my MBA, moved twice, went through a major breakup, started a new job, learned to surf, went on a 16 mile hike, and got a fuzzy little kitten. I've also started dating again and just kicked off six weeks of gym time with a personal trainer. For all the changes though, I'm really happy with my life right now. The future is going to be great!

What's on my iPod


Sand and Ice...


I love panoramics. This weekend I went surfing and skiing. The surfing on Saturday was a lot harder than last weekend. There was a big morning tide, so the waves be brutal and breaking really close to shore. I was burying the nose of the board a lot, which flips you over and puts you through a salty spin cycle. It's a pain, but I've learned to just roll with it and wait it out. As the afternoon went on, the waves calmed down and I started to get some traction. I caught a couple of waves and got on my feet, but have yet to get fully up and balanced. Think I'll need a couple more weekends of practice : p
Skiing today was awesome! Big Bear got a heavy storm last weekend, so the snow was deep. I headed out at nine and got there at noon, but the snow was just right; no slush, no icy. The sun was blazing, so I spent most of the day in my t-shirt with my ipod cranked. I got about ten good runs in and got a bunch of pics and video. It looks like crap on YouTube, but you get the point.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Strange Week...

This week, I found out that an old friend of mine needs brain surgery. Statistically, the prognosis looks good; over 99% of patients make it through the surgery just fine and there seems to be no long term effects on either lifespan or functionality. Still, it's f*cking brain surgery.

The odd part is just my relationship with this person. We were very close for about 10 years, then had a major falling out (work, stress, mis-communications, outside relationships, etc.) so we haven't really talked much for the past two years. However, knowing what they're going through kinda puts things more into perspective and makes past disagreements seem pretty irrelevant. What's important is that this person played a significant role in my life, and I want them to be well and know that I'll be there in any way I can.

Outside of that bit of news, my week has been going pretty good. I started working out and signed up with a personal trainer, had a nice date on Wednesday, and had drinks with some Pepperdine classmates last night (and haven't laughed that hard in a long time!). This weekend is pretty open, but I've been thinking of surfing and/or skiing. I'm really happy that I'm enriching my life and pursuing the world outside of work. Now if only I could find a nice girlfriend....

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shark bait...


Went surfing today, it was awesome! I love the feeling of that moment when the wave takes hold of you. Not so big on the major wipeouts and salt water up my nose. Now I'm cooking up some baked salmon and vegging out. Nice.

Life is good...

My best friend is coming into town this weekend, so I signed us up for some surfing lessons. I've always wanted to try it, but there's no time like now! I also joined a gym today and worked out. It feels good to be moving forward and growing.

Just in case you are really, really bored, here's a video of my new place: http://www.youtube.com/shawnconn. Yes, I am now officially a total dork. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year


Went skiing with my brother on Monday at Big Bear. The snow was a bit slushy, but it was sunny and warm and I had a great time. Now I'm just packing up for my move to Hollywood. It'll be good to be out of Burbank and in a place of my own. I think this year is going to be full of changes.