1. of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly: mundane affairs.
2. common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.
3. of or pertaining to the world, universe, or earth.
-noun, plural - cies.
1. insanity; mental disorder.
2. intermittent insanity, formerly believed to be related to phases of the moon.
3. extreme foolishness or an instance of it: Her decision to resign was sheer lunacy.
4. Law. unsoundness of mind sufficient to incapacitate one for civil transactions.

Tue, 19 Jan 2016 -

testing to see how this button performs in the wild

Office Hours


Thu, 17 Mar 2011 - Staying cool

I'm no radiologist but from what I can tell I don't think Tokyoites have much to worry about.

The first chart comes from a blogger in Tokyo who has rigged his computer to a Giger counter. Recorded radiation levels seem to be normal (the spikeat 9amoccurred when he accidentally unplugged the counter). As you can see, readings from yesterday and today are more or less stable at 20 CPM.

Second chart comes from the Japan Times. It says the body can take up to 500 millisieverts of radiation before it has a toxic effect on the body.

Math works like this: 20 CPM is equivalent to about 0.0002 millisierverts per hour. The radiation in Tokyo is lethal, it'll just take 285 years to (partially) kill you.

That's not to say that we shouldn't exercise caution. The situation in Fukushima could take a drastic turn for the worse. Luckily radiation measurements are reliable and precise (anthropologists use it to date artifacts). If Tokyo were in trouble we'd definitively know.

Sent from my iPad


Sun, 23 Jan 2011 - Morality, religion, and the speedo

I found a wedding ring at the bottom of the pool today. When I waved in the direction of a life guard, a middle aged Japanese man came rushing toward me all smiles. He gave me the 90 degree bow and proceeded to grab both my hands and thank me as if I'd lent him my toilet after an Indian buffet. The demonstration would have been over the top without the speedo and swimming cap.

Sarcasm aside, got to say it felt good. In many ways I was as excited to return the ring as he was to receive it.

I'm a pretty careless guy. One time while rushing for the train bound for the airport I dropped my wallet. Some woman picked it up and literally ran to return it to me before I got on the train. Incidences like these are hardly rare in Japan. Foreigners are
typically amazed to see cellphones, cameras and wallets left in taxi's magically returned to them.

I've heard that the difference between Asian morality and Western morality is the difference between society and God. In the east you don't do bad things because society judges you. When you are alone therefore you can do whatever you want. In the west you are never alone. God is watching you always.


Sun, 23 Jan 2011 - Learning Chinese

This translates to "I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Satoshi Kawase. I live and work in Japan but I am American".

It took me roughly 6 months of weekly 3 hour one-on-one language sessions for me to get this. Chinese is one hard language.

One of the great ironies of my life is that I'm fascinated by other cultures but an utter failure at languages. This morning my stated task was to study Chinese. I decided to wash the dishes first. Then, I cleaned my entire apartment. I don't particularly enjoy housework but apparently I enjoy it more than studying Chinese.

Sat, 22 Jan 2011 - NBA 2K11 - I have defeated thee

It took me nearly a month, almost destroyed my relationship with my girlfriend, and caused me to alienate nearly every person I know but I finally won the NBA championship on 2K11. That's my fantasy team consisting of Amare Stoudimire, Andre Iguodala, and Jrue Holiday hangin' with a CGI Obama that does't quiet cross the unreality valley. Was it worth it? I'll let the picture speak for itself.

Sat, 15 May 2010 - Life update: moved to Tokyo

Yoyogi to be more precise. More to come :)

Thu, 16 Jul 2009 - Phoenix on KCRW :)


Tue, 21 Apr 2009 - The road to Bandung


Fri, 10 Apr 2009 - Hot women love gay men

Went clubbing the other night and saw throngs of hot women in the VIP section grinding up against these two gay guys.

I got to admit- as a straight man - sometimes I wish I were gay. It would be cool. we'd get home, watch basketball on the TV, play some video games and then have sex. That would be both awesome and convenient. Plus, I wouldn't have to blow a lot of money on dinners and flowers.

For this and other reasons I don't attract many women. Actually I don't attract any women, but that's not the point. Gay men seem to have the power to attract women. It's not fair.

I can't really explain why hot girls are into gay men. I think it has something to do with the fact that too many men lust for them and consequently they seek attention from the only people that have no business giving attention to them in the first place.

It makes no sense, but then hot girls and have no business being into me, so I guess it's more or less the same. People always want what they can't have. How depressing.


Wed, 08 Apr 2009 - Fujimori behind bars

?I had to govern from hell,? he said. ?That is why I am being judged.?

- Original Gangsta

Sun, 08 Mar 2009 - Amsterdam

So I just got into Amsterdam a short while ago. On route to a training out in the middle of nowhere in the Netherlands. Oh well at least we get to spend the weekend in the city. I turn 30 on Thursday. I haven't thought about this much but it's strange to think that I'm turning the corner. I don't feel like a grown up. I think maybe because I don't have any responsibility for anyone but myself. No girlfriend, no kids, parents doing fine. I don't know how I should feel about that. Relieved? Inadequate? Got it. 30.

Sun, 08 Feb 2009 - Sensitivity

I've become a more sensitive man since moving to Europe.

I used to think "sensitive man" was just another way of calling a guy a pussy but lately I've realized that's not really the definition of sensitive. Sensitive refers to the ability to understand how a person is feeling without that person having to tell you. I can't believe it took me 29 years for me to figure that out.


Sun, 08 Feb 2009 - Hamburg weekend

For the past three weeks I've been commuting back and forth to Hamburg. As is the consulting tradition I've not seen any of the city other than my hotel and the client site. Hopefully that changes this weekend.

I'm not sure what I'll find. I read recently that there is a club here where the Beatles used to perform on a regular basis.

Other than that, it's pretty much up to me to explore this town. I wonder what I'll find?


Sun, 28 Dec 2008 - Fat Cat West Village

New York City reviewed: Fat Cat - Christopher street and 7th avenue

Went to a place call Fat Cat's. It's a hard place to describe. They don't serve fancy liquor, only beer and soft drinks so it's not really a bar. They have live jazz but the listeners are white NYU college students sitting around velvet couches eating pizza brought in from the outside. It might make it a jazz venue, but one that I wouldn't recognize. Oh, also the place is in a basement and half of it is dedicated to billiards, ping-pong, and chess tables. They have a strange music selection there. When they have a live act it's generally an experimental jazz-funk trio whose erratic and impromptu play you'd only expect to find nowhere except at a jazz hole in the depths of the west village. When they're not on the soundtrack switches from punk rock to classical to Indian sitar music.

The crowd is equally confusing. It's somewhere a mix of artsy hat wearing NYU kids, white afro jazz aficionados, greasy pool sharks, and the angrily-focused bearded chess players you see at the park.

There's something cool about a place that clearly grew organically - as in - you go into Fat Cats today and you think there was no way any of this was drawn up in the business plan. I first went to Fat Cats in 2005. Back then, the billiards and ping-pong and the jazz club were separated by a wall as if they were two separate venues that just happened to share the same entrance. On one side of the wall it was like a sweaty gym basement. On the other, a dusky club with black and white photos of jazz musicians. Before that time people tell me that it was just a regular standard billiards hall in a basement.

New York is a funny place. Fat Cats went from a place where you played pool, to a place where you played pool and you could listen to live jazz, to a place where you could play pool WHILE you listened to live jazz along with all the artifacts of a weird social experiment gone wonderfully wrong attached. Businesses evolve in New York and it's not the "McDonald's has coffee" kind of evolution. It's more like business owners have friends with different passions and things just sort of had a weird way of working out kind of evolution. It's fun to see.

I'm not so sure exactly how many people there are in the ping-pong / chess / jazz / beer crowd - but then - this is New York. There's a niche for everything.

Sat, 27 Dec 2008 - Odometer 996

Saw this in my mom's car. If you notice the trip odometer is all the way at 996 - 4 more miles and it resets. I've never had the will-power to let it wind all the way forward.

Mon, 10 Nov 2008 - LOVE: Episode I

Anakin is the chosen one - the boy prophesized by the Jedi to bring balance to the force. However, along the way unfortunate events intervene. Though his Jedi powers are great they are of no use as his mother is slaughtered by vicious sand people inhabiting the outer-rim planet of Tatooine. Dreams of losing his wife - Padme Amidala - haunt him as the evil emperor seduces young Anakin with tales of the dark side. He promises him limitless power. He promised him a way to reverse the course of his soon-to-be-dead wife.

When Episode III was released I wondered how George Lucas was going to turn Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. It's hard to maintain suspense when everyone knows how it's going to end. While I won't defend Lucas' story-telling abilities (wait ... he goes from reluctant Jedi to child-slaughtering Sith in 10 minutes?) there's something genuinely profound about the fall of Anakin Skywalker.

How does a farmer boy meant to embody light and innocence transform into the cowboy-western-esque man in the black hat - a man of darkness and cruelty. Let me stop and take that in for a second. That is an abjectly powerful philosophical question. You might as well ask where do bad people in the world come from? Hitler, Stalin, Tony Danza. Is evil merely a perception of differing perspectives or is the devil within us? Is he hiding? What the Anakin-Vader transformation asks is this: how does a good man become bad?

Never short on subtlety Lucas answers this in a conversation Anakin has with the great Jedi master Yoda:

YODA: Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.

ANAKIN: I won't let my visions come true, Master Yoda.

YODA: Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.

ANAKIN: What must I do, Master?

YODA: Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

What led to Anakin's downfall was a flaw in his character but one that we can all relate to - fear of losing that which we love. The relationship is systemic. The more Anakin loves Padme the more his fear grows. The more his fear grows the more he is consumed by the power of the dark side.

While I don't follow religion, I do follow Star Wars and so this got me to thinking -

Could it be that the root of all evil is .... love?

The answer of course is yes. The problem we have though is love is the root of all good and so far as humanity is concerned we're really up shit's creek on this one.

If you're a female reader of this blog or you just look like a woman, you'll be happy to know that I'll be devoting the next few posts on the topic of love. As a dude who hasn't had a steady girlfriend for upwards of two years don't expect Cosmo/Maxim writing meant to help you "get that guy/girl/transgender homeboy". Mostly it'll be wrist-slittingly? geeky commentary on a topic I think about as I gaze at German school children (see last post). With luck I'll find a new way to depress and bore you each time.

Tune in!

Wed, 05 Nov 2008 - Homesickness

In one more month it'll be two years since I moved out of the United States.

Autumn is lovely in Frankfurt. There's something about the way the leaves turn an earthen red and the air gets just brisk enough to wake you up. The neighborhood I live in is quiet and residential and it reminds me of the town I grew up in New Jersey. Every day I walk to work and I pass by this elementary school. I see the kids riding their bikes with their little backpacks as their school day starts. Today deja vu happened upon me. It was like I was watching myself out there. I don't know much but I do know this: today, two years sank in.

When I was a kid one of my favorite movies was a Tom Hanks film called "Big". If you've never seen it Tom Hanks plays a kid who grows up in the suburbs of New Jersey and wishes he could be an adult. He gets his wish and for a while it's great - he parties, he eats what he wants, he scores a hot girlfriend. But at a certain point Tom wishes he could be a kid again. He visits the town he fled, and looks at it, this time through the eyes of an adult on a brisk autumn day. He sees the life he's missing out on - football games, class pictures, riding bikes through tree lined streets as autumn leaves whisp gently onto the pavement.

They shot that movie about 20 miles from my town. "Big" kinda looks a lot like where I grew up - which is to say it looks a lot like where I live now. When I see these kids in Frankfurt, it's somewhere between going back in time and watching a movie and it captivates me and I stare watery-eyed. Eventually the BMW behind me honks it's horn and the driver starts yelling at me in German. Reality hits me like a coffee table on the shins. I live in a foreign country far away from home. I move on.

Everything is so weirdly familiar here - it messes with my brain.

I'm homesick. It comes and it goes but something about this time of year really makes me want to be home. I'm not proud of this. I've spent a lot of the past two years mocking Americans who have never left the country. I also have this self-image of myself as this international guy - born Japanese, raised in America, educated in Europe, worked all over the world. Another word for someone like me might be "multi-national". Another word might be "arrogant dick".

It's times like these when I see those kids on the street here in Frankfurt two things run through my brain: one - I hope no one mistakes me for a pervert, and two - no matter how hard I try I'm always going to be from New Jersey.

Which is not actually a good thing. New Jersey is often regarded as the armpit of America. This mostly has to do with the physical shape of the United States. If the north-eastern coast looked like a great arm extending out into the Atlantic, then Main would be the torch of freedom. New Jersey would be where the sweat glands are. We people from New Jersey cling to our sports like testicles to a scrotum. We have a daily paper whose sports section is bigger than the rest combined. The irony is, none of them are our sports teams. They're all from New York. Great.

I don't care. I miss New Jersey. It's where my heart is. I feel like Tom Hanks - like a kid who grew up too fast and wishes he could go home. I wonder if I'm the first person in history to feel this emotion.



Mon, 03 Nov 2008 - I caught the Stockholm syndrome

I've spent the past week in Stockholm and I got to say I liked it very much.  Before going there all I knew about the Swedes was that they were blond, peaceful, and they named their children after IKEA furniture.  OK, maybe it's the other way around, but honestly what sane person names their child Tjrn? 


I found Stockholm to be a lovely city.  The people are educated, laid back and terribly attractive.  One thing that surprised me about the country was how design conscious everyone seemed to be.  There's a minimalistic aesthetic to the buildings and interior design in Stockholm that is a delight for my Japanese eyes.  I have no idea what the term "post-modern" actually means but that's how I would describe it:  "Post-modern". 

One of the things I did while I was in Stockholm was visit the city's Army museum.  This was probably the most gruesome museum I had ever gone to.  The museum is laid out in chronological order and started with an exhibit of wild monkeys tearing each other apart.  The tag-line was "War is natural.  Even monkeys go to war".  Honestly, a bit surprising from a country that hasn't been in a major war for close to a hundred years.  The first section of the museum that focused on Viking plunderers and the great Northern war were action packed with bloody wax figures depicting Medieval battles and tales of sickness and disease.  Awesome.  If you visit the Army museum in Stockholm (and I recommend you do) know that it is quite front loaded.  This is probably one of the most peaceful nations on earth after all.  The final exhibit in this museum of war feature (I kid you not) Swedes sitting on a couch watching Americans fighting the Vietnam on CNN. 

The other exciting thing I did in Stockholm was to visit the Nobel museum.  My childhood hero was the great inventor Thomas Edison partly partly because he was from New Jersey.   If I grew up in Europe, I may have been an Alfred Nobel fan.  Here is a certified genius who had over 300 patents including one for dynamite which he discovered after a year or so after exploding his brother during an experiment with Nitroglycerin.  He made a fortune on the stuff but couldn't translate any of it to gettin' with the ladies.  The closest thing he to a wife was an unrequited 20 year crush on an impoverished Austrian heiress.  Nobel died alone, without children, family or friends and wrote his last will and testament himself (as most scholars believe) as a big "F-You" to his heirs and lawyers who'd otherwise get his gigantic stack of cash.  That's the story of the Nobel prize - a socially inept eccentric genius with a penchant for blowing people up.  Gangster.

On a completely unrelated note, the Nobel museum sells these really awesome chocolate gold coins that look like Nobel prizes.  They're delicious because they're priceless.  Pics of my time in Sweden can be found on my Flickr page.  Enjoy!


Sun, 02 Nov 2008 - Complicated Presidents

In June, I predicted Obama in a landslide, and with the election few days to go it's likely going to happen. The problem with John McCain is a that he's a "'tweener" in a Republican party wanting a solid red-state conservative for president. They in-fact got two - Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee who split the Republican baby of rural voters during the primary season leaving John McCain to clean up on the independent voter afterbirth.

While some cultures may prize afterbirth, it's hard to become Republican president without the baby - and after 8 torturous years of George Bush presidency the big infant was on heavy dialasis, lacking clear direction and gosh do I ever need to come up with a new analogy.

Point is, what you've seen McCain doing these past few months is throw away his kitchen sink (better?), not least his scruples to transform himself into a Bible thumpin' redneck Bush lackey. He led in the polls exactly once during the general election and that's when he made his base conservative pick of nut-job / porn star Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

It's hard for me to stomach the things that's been going on in this campaign as well as what's been said about John McCain these past few weeks. I genuinely like the man - and this is not just because Rush Limbaugh said John McCain would singe-handedly destroy the Republican party. In the 5 years that Republicans held both Congress and the White House John McCain was one of a handful of powerful centrists in his party that kept the country from going off the deep end. Pick up the documentary "Shut of and sing" and watch vintage McCain stand up for the first amendment rights of those who would criticize the president in a time of blind hysterical patriotism. The old John McCain was the man.

The fall of John McCain is a Greek tragedy. I haven't felt this way since 2000 when Gore went against Bush. Even back then, Al Gore was a great guy. He was smart, he was funny, he was capable - and most importantly of all - he was right. The problem with him was that he too was a "'tweener" candidate trapped in a Democratic party bent on replicating the Clinton strategy of claiming the rural south on it's way to the White House. Much like John McCain today, the Al Gore of 2000 transformed himself into a conservative shell of himself - partnering with that snake oil salesman Joe Lieberman and disavowing all connection to the presidency of Bill Clinton. I wish we could go back to 2000. I wish we could have had the real Al Gore.

I am mad at John McCain. Right now I want to shout, as the Economist headline put it, "Bring back the real John McCain". Here is a man who decided he'd rather rot in a prison camp rather than sell out his brigade in Vietnam. I can't for the life of me understand why he's selling out now. My anger however, is displaced. Sure, a lot of the blame goes to him. He ran a sloppy undisciplined campaign with a generic and uninspired message to "Put America first". There's more to it than that. The reality is that we live in a country where complicated figures like John McCain and Al Gore are impossible to elect into high office. They have to pretend to be someone they're not in order to apeal to the various common denominators that make up the electorate. It's simple election math. You can't win with Republican after-birth.

I'm what you might call a fiscal conservative, social liberal. The past 8 years, George Bush - by all degrees a fiscal liberal, social conservative - have been a nightmare for me. Any change from that ignorant, arrogant, son-of-a-bitch is a welcomed one. John McCain - the old one - was/is the Republican antithesis of George Bush. It's a shame that that version was deemed unelectable.

For this election I like Barack Obama. He too is a man of great complexity and insight. I hope for the sake of the country he does not follow through on the populist rhetoric he espouses at hard-hat lunch-pail photo-ops in Ohio and Pennsylvania factory sites - but that's just the MBA in me talking. His first 100 days in office will be scrutinized, not only because of the turbulent winds that blow outside our doors, but because our alternative was a man who has weathered the storm for over 20 years.

Still I am hopeful, Obama has bet the house on the American people. He's got half of them behind him, it's the other half that's going to be the real challenge. Obama-girl will not help.

Mon, 20 Oct 2008 - YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NA na. Na na na na. HEY HEY HEY! GOODBYE!

It's official. The Red Sox are the new Yankees. A song for Boston fans. It'll cheer you up!

Aux Champs-Elyses, aux Champs-Elyses
Au soleil, sous la pluie, midi ou minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elyses


Sun, 12 Oct 2008 - Radiohead in Japan

I love Radiohead.  I love Japan.  Was Radiohead in Japan worth a 3 connection 15 hour trans-continental journey?  That's what we call - in the lobotomy industry - a no-brainer. Obsessive fan-boy-ish pics, vids, and commentary below. 

Clearly Japan's national pastime is waiting on line. 

my friend Saki looking very Japanese rocker-girl-ish

Saitama stadium.  Seats 20,000


Mon, 06 Oct 2008 - The Financial Crisis for "Dummies" (a.k.a. me)

Two years ago, before I did my MBA, I would not have understood this financial crisis.  The following is an inner monologue arrogant pretty-boy 2008 "New Toshi" vs. that lovable goof 2006 "Old Toshi".  Enjoy. 

 -- Begin inner-monologue --

New Toshi - Apple stock price tumbled to 128 to 105 in a single day of trading. 

Old Toshi - I never quite understood this.  What the heck is stock price and why does it change? 

New Toshi - That is both a stupid and incredibly complex question.  Think of it this way.  Add up every cent Apple profits over the next 10 years.  That's the profit off of every iPod, iPhone, and computer it sells until 2018.  Well ... that big number ... that's the value of the company - that's how much it's worth.  Divide that by the number of shares and you get the stock price. 

Old Toshi - Wait, so stock price is just the sum total of all of it's future earnings for 10 years?

New Toshi - It's not but trust me ... it's complicated ... so let's pretend, for the sake of argument, otherwise you're head will explode.

Old Toshi - So how do people know what Apple will make in 2018? 

New Toshi - No one knows for sure.  Some persuasive idiots make predictions but for the most part the market makes guesses based on the best information available today.

Old Toshi - So two days ago people thought Apple was doing well.  In one day people think it's going to make 18% less over the next 10 years? 

New Toshi - Well, people think we're heading into a recession.  It's not just Apple that went down.  Almost every stock in the market dropped too.  That means all those other companies are expected to have lower earnings in the future too.  That means less pay for employees, less hiring of new grads, less money for luxuries like the iPhone... 

Old Toshi - it's one big ecosystem?

New Toshi - Exactly. 

Old Toshi - Ok, so why did the market go down?

New Toshi - Long story short.  The financial crisis.  You've heard of sub-prime right?  These 'Toxic Waste' assets?

Old Toshi - Sounds cool.

New Toshi - Well, in 2000 they were really cool.  Banks used to think they'd provide them with a steady stream of income forever.  Today, we knows sub-prime assets aren't worth the paper they're printed on.  Turns out a lot of big investment banks and hedge funds spent a lot of money on sub-prime.  Some more than others.  Lehman and Bear Stearns had toxic waste spewing out their mouths.

Old Toshi - So how do people know who has a lot of sub-prime and who doesn't?

New Toshi - Again, no one knows.  All the bankers are spooked.  No one wants to lend to nobody.

Old Toshi - Why?

New Toshi - Would you lend money to someone who's assets may or may not be 100% toxic, but have no way of finding out?

Old Toshi - So, what that has to do with Apple and the stock market? 

New Toshi - Well, banks operate by lending money to people and companies right?

Old Toshi - Is that supposed to answer my question?

New Toshi - Hear me out.  Where do those banks get the money to lend?  Turns out banks hardly ever use their own money.  A lot of them borrow money from other bigger banks.  Those banks borrow from even bigger banks.  This goes on and on until finally you get the big fish in the money market sea - the pension funds, the governments, and the sovereign wealth funds. 

Old Toshi - So when small banks can't borrow money they can't lend and if they can't lend they ...

New Toshi - ... die.  Banks are failing all along the line.  AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merryl Lynch all went bust from this mess.  Even retail banks like Wachovia and Washington Mutual went down this week. 

Old Toshi - So the banking industry is an ecosystem too. Is that why the US government proposed a $700 Billion bailout plan to buy up the toxic waste? 

New Toshi - Right.  When that didn't pass people rightly assumed we were in for more and more bank failures.  People are getting scared and that's making them more reluctant to lend.  That'll cause more bank failures.  It's a vicious cycle. 

Old Toshi - So, in 2013 when Apple needs to borrow money to come up with the new iPod, they'll pay a higher interest rate?

New Toshi - .... not just Apple, every company, every government, and every person in the world.  Less competition means higher interest rates.  No one knows how long it'll take for the financial system to recover.  For that matter, no one knows IF it'll recover.  It took a hundred years for the markets to create Lehman Brothers.  It took 6 months to make it a memory. 

Old Toshi
- Dude, when is this going to blow over?  Doesn't the economy go through fluctuations like this all the time?

New Toshi - *sigh*  That's the thing.  No one knows.  If the banks were merely dropping, I'd say yes.  But they're dropping dead.  In fact, we haven't had this many corpses since the great depression.  The fear might subside, but that's not going to change the fact there are 7 less banks. 

Old Toshi - Wow.  It's a big shit sandwich....

New Toshi - .... and we're all going to have to take a bite.

 -- End inner-monologue --

On a final note, my British investment banking friend Vaneet was kind enough to look at this blog entry to check its veracity.  Arms crossed in his pinstripe suite, Vaneet read blithely over his spectacles slowly shaking his head in disapproval and told me (in posh Londoner's accent)

"While it's quite evident you've learned nothing in business school, I do say - your fundamental arguments are structurally sound"

which translated into American (a.k.a. "real") English means

"Duuuude, right on !!!  You rock !!!!   Whoooo!!!!  " 

He did however say I should include this funny little accounting concept called mark-to-market.  Happy reading :)


Thu, 18 Sep 2008 - Sarah Palin is to 2008 what Gay marriage was to 2004

Wind back the clock to 2004

The Republicans in congress are proposing a bill that in effect illegalizes gay marriage. Republican presidential incumbent George Bush is an ardent supporter and the Democratic challenger John Kerry (from Massachusetts) is a reluctant detractor. It's a farce and everybody knows it.

For starters, the bill has zero chance of passing. Politicians are genuinely divided on homosexuality, but everyone AGREES that it should be decided at the state level ? just as it's been done since the beginning of time. The issue is absolutely and totally irrelevant at the Federal level.

Regardless, the topic grips the Presidential election. This, despite a healthcare system in shambles, an economy propped up by a self-deluding housing bubble, an ongoing global warming crisis, and a bloody and costly Iraq war. All of sudden John Kerry is a homo-lovin' left wing pinko and George Bush is a gay-bashing right wing nut job.

The farce of course is a calculated political move so established and well documented it has its own name: THE WEDGE

Here's the thing about the general election. Despite all the fancy graphs, polls and ever shifting numbers 90% of voters know who they're voting for a year before election day. When you're two months away from the big show, you're not trying to win over new voters you're trying to make sure that you're guys come out. It's one thing to say "I like so-and-so", and another to actually take a half-day, drive to the poll, wait in line, and fill out the ballot.

The problem with the truly important issues of today are they are too big and too complex for voters (including myself) to understand hence they're hard to get excited about. Wedge issues like gay marriage are black and white. They not only make you want to vote for your guy but all of a sudden it's crystal clear - you have to stop the other guy from getting elected.

Flash forward to 2008

Hurricane Ike and Gustav are wreaking havoc on the coast. The economy is in shambles after the collapse of Fannie and Freddie, and the Iraq war rages on. Despite this, Sarah Palin's views on abortion and dinosaurs are making headlines. People seem to care a great deal that her teenage daughter is pregnant.

A lot of people ask me what I think about Ms. Palin. I think she's a political calculation and a genius one. For this I have two reasons.

1. Sara Palin is a gun-toting conservative
The fact that she is a small town, Bible thumpin', pro-lifer is basically the Republican party throwing a hand grenade at the Democrats. I open my Facebook and I see about half a dozen Matt Damon or Tina Fey postings making fun of Sarah Palin. Her appointment has effectively changed the discussion away from the economy and the Iraq war and put it squarely on trivial social issues.

Liberals who smugly mock Palin don't understand how in the world McCain is actually gaining Obama in the polls. Simply put, the more attention liberal outlets like Colbert Report, Facebook, and the New York times editorial department bring to Sarah Palin the more they piss off conservatives.

If you asked me a few months ago I would have told you Obama in a landslide, but liberals are really shooting themselves in the foot. They are driving otherwise indifferent conservatives who would not have voted McCain to vote anti-Obama. CLASSIC WEDGE.

2. Palin is "politically inexperienced"

The biggest knock on Barack Obama is his lack of "political experience" so many were puzzled why McCain chose a first-term Alaskan governor as his running mate. A lot of pundits have called this a stupid move. I don't. It's counter intuitive, but brilliant.

For voters there's a huge difference between the amount of experience we perceive them to have, and the amount of experience they actually have. Case in point the Democratic primary:
  1. Hilary Clinton is more experienced than Barack Obama
  2. Joe Biden is more experience than Barack Obama
  3. Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden are experienced
That's how most primary voters (including myself) felt but in actuality the facts are this: Hilary only has 4 more years Senate experience than Barack's 4. Joe Biden 35 years.

The point I'm trying to make is that the "political experience" we perceive is all relative. Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton seem equally experienced because Barack Obama is the reference point. If you don't buy this argument, ask someone who works in consumer product pricing.

Sarah Palin's inexperience is an asset to John McCain because all of a sudden SHE is the "political experience" reference point.

BEFORE, we knew that John McCain had more experience that Barack Obama but we didn't know how much. NOW, we know John McCain is more experienced than Sarah Palin who is more experienced than Barack Obama e.g.

John McCain > Sarah Palin > Barack Obama

At least this is how you'd think if you're moderately McCain leaning. If you're moderately Obama leaning you might think the other way around e.g.

John McCain > Barack Obama > Sarah Palin

In actuality, it's absurd to compare the political experience of a first term governor from Alaska to a first term Senator from Illinois. Regardless, people form a much clearer idea of experience as an issue and are more likely to take a side. COUNTER WEDGE.

What should you take from all this? Well, if you're like me and you support McCain on real issues but hate Sarah Palin and the political freak show, I don't know what to tell you.

I do take solace in the fact that the VP is merely a figurehead and the Republicans have a history of appointing some comically bad, politically expedient running mates. Think Quale, Cheney, Kemp. Al Gore didn't become Al Gore until years after the Clinton years were over. I'm afraid, but issues matter to me.

If you're an Obama supporter I urge you not to get caught up in Palin-mania. Of the many things I admire about Barack Obama his message of bringing people together and his refusal not to lower the level of discourse is probably the two that stand out. Yes, the Republicans shot the first bullet, but bear in mind, you have the choice not to fire back. Use it.


Wed, 27 Aug 2008 - INSEAD Memory: House of Moret Sur Loing

Another memory from the year that went by too quick. 

My time at INSEAD lasted 12 months.  The first 8 were spent in Singapore, and the remaining 4 were in France. Singapore was all about the big party, exotic trips, chilling out on the beach.  It was a convenient place, inexpensive to live, and lots of local activities.  France was nothing like that.  The weather stank.  No one spoke English.  Everything cost at least twice as much.  Parties were good but the whole designated driver thing put a real damper on things.  Hey, when 20% of the women are sober you're playing the odds.

Here's the thing.  If you want to compare France on Singapore on fun-ness Singapore wins hands down.  But INSEAD Singapore was a fling.  She knew it, I knew it.  But it was France stole my heart.

We lived a small village 20 minutes from campus called Moret Sur Loing.  It was a 3 story house that once served as quarters for a monastery.  Down the road was a historic medieval town out of a fairy tale.  At the time I thought all towns in Europe had guard towers, cobblestone streets, and gingerbread houses in them.  I would later learn we lived in a Unesco world heritage site. Our landlady was a lovely French woman named Carole.  When I woke up I would play with her 3 pugs, Chin-chin, Falcon, and I forget but I do remember he was super old and liked to be carried around everywhere.  Behind our house was a well manicured lawn and a river where ducks and swans would quack late into the night.

I lived with 7 guys, an Israeli, a Brit, a Russian, a Spaniard, a Portuguese, and a Brazilian.  Although we were from different backgrounds we were like brothers in that house.  Maybe living in the middle of the forest with nothing to do freed us from the realities of career, intellectual elitism, and shallow groupism that you develop when you do an MBA.  It's a comforting feeling to know that somewhere in the house there's a PS3 opponent or an unintelligent conversation waiting to happen.  These things don't happen by making an appointment in your date book and it doesn't happen over dinner at a fancy restaurant.  They occur when you're unshaven, unshowered walking around in your underwear eating Cheetos for breakfast.  The humor was low brow.  We talked in the filthiest of terms.  Everyone, save Vaneet had a "dude you were so wasted last night" story.  France is a very classy place which our house somehow managed to get unclassy - but in a good way. 

I miss my life in Moret.


Mon, 25 Aug 2008 - Westside till I Die - New York, Philly, Frankfurt, Brussels, Vienna

So, I've been doing a lot of moving around lately.  My project in the Philippines ended and for some reason I don't fully understand I was sent to Philadelphia.  This is basically the other side of the planet.  It's amazing how email makes very long distances seem close.  I wish the same could be said about 24+ hours of transcontinental flights but hey, at least I'm racking up the milage. 

I traveled from New York to Philadelphia via the super fast Acela train which covers the distance in exactly 1 hour.  I felt like a big shot until someone pointed out the much cheaper, more frequent regional train which takes exactly one hour and twenty minutes. Somewhere the ghost of John D. Rockafeller just guffawed.  Although I've lived in Baltimore and New York I've never really spent a lot of time in their northeastern sibling.  I learned that there is a good part of Philly and a bad bad part of Philly, the political boundaries of which - like Georgia's - arbitrarily change depending on who you ask.  After a year abroad it was really nice to be somewhere that's - and I'm not being trying to be sarcastic - kind of ghetto.  There's something comforting about going to a fancy bar where they serve "the mojito", and have 10 different kinds of miniaturized mexican fast food items as finger food. 

New York
It's nice to be back in the hometown.  I nearly cried walking around in the East Village.  Someone on the street asked me what was wrong.  I said, no nothing's wrong, it's just nice to be back home.  Then she asked me if I could spare some change.  It really is good to be back home.  Weather was great and lounging around central park made me feel like a new man.  My timing was perfect.  The investment bankers make migrate annually to the big city around August and I was in the thick of it.  I was really looking forward to seeing my INSEAD friends.  As an American who spent the year abroad doing his MBA in Europe and seeing my attemps at picking up women upstaged by my smoother, classier European counterparts I thought I'd be nice to finally see the tables turned.  Wrong.  I quickly learned that my European counterparts who were better at picking up women in Europe were also better in America also.  I also I learned this:  American girls will fall for any man with an accent thus making them the easiest women in the world.  Oh well, at least I saw the Dark Knight 3 times (twice on IMAX bitches)!


After New York I spent 2 weeks in Brussels.  Like pretty much every city in Europe the people of Brussels claims their city was once the center of human civilization.  I'm not sure how valid this claim is but considering that this is where they convene the EU and InBev, the Belgium beer maker who bought out Budweiser is based here, they at least make a strong argument.  One nice plus about Belgium is that have populations that speak Dutch/Flemish and French and hence you can reliably get by on everybody's default language English.  On the weekend I took the train to a real life fairy tale town called Bruges.  This is an almost pristine 14th century European city filled with romantic churches, cobble stone streets, gingerbread houses, and the quaintest Pizza Hut you've ever seen.  Isn't it just adorable?

Walking around the city of Mozart the one thing that strikes you is how freaking beautiful the people are.  No wonder Amadeaus wanted to get the hell out of Saltzburg!  Honestly, the city is filled with tall, gorgeous, blond men and women that bring out all your insecurities.  It's like you're back in middle school with braces, glasses and discount Kmart tshirts.  People are exceedingly friendly in Vienna.  At least three guys came up to me asking (in an Austrian accent), would I like to go to the hottest disco in Vienna?  In any other circumstance, I'd think wow this gay guy got the wrong idea.  But here you don't get any sense of iill will.  Helps that some of the nicest people I knew at my year of INSEAD were Austrian too.  Goes to show What an impression a few people can make on an entire country.

Back in Frankfurt.  Where will the job take me next?  Hopefully will be back in Asia but will depend on staffing.  More to come this week.