Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Ways that MBA School is Like Playing Hockey For 10 Days Straight

So I just finished four solid days of classes. That’s 8 am to 5 pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, plus homework in the evenings. Plus a welcome dinner on Thursday night. I now have 3 assignments and 2 rounds of a business simulation due before the next weekend of classes, two weeks hence. Plus prep for both a group presentation and a group in-class experiment, though I won’t be there do either since I’ll be in Ontario for my Dad’s brain surgery. To make a long story short, they weren’t kidding when they described the core part of the MBA program as “intense.” As I was going through this weekend, which thankfully is the longest weekend we’ll have in this program and the only one preceded by three exhausting weekends of pre-core courses, I kept noticing similarities between this program and the 10-day long hockey game I played in back in the summer. And thus, I give you this list:

Ways that MBA School is Like Playing Hockey For 10 Days Straight

  • thrown into an extremely intense situation with a whole bunch of people that I don’t know1. And, happily, all of them are friendly, supportive, and tonnes of fun!
  • took the optional preparatory course (Bootcamp for the Longest Game and pre-core Quantitative Methods/Accounting/Economics for MBA school) and it was exhausting, but so worth it2
  • long, long hours of doing the same thing (playing hockey vs. sitting in class)
  • sleep deprivation
  • delirium
  • people hitting walls at different points, and be able to see in their eyes that they are just so done with this right now3
  • immediately losing track of what day of the week it is4
  • cycling between thoughts of “this is the worst idea ever. Why did I agree to do this?” and “this is SO AWESOME! I’m so happy that I’m doing this!” about a thousand times per day

We have a very long haul ahead of us, but I’m going to stick with what I learned in the Longest Game and take it one day, one shift, one Accounting lecture at a time.  I think I may also post this photo of the sign that gave me so much strength during the Longest Game by my desk to help keep me going:

We are closer today

than we were yesterday

  1. My 29 new hockey sisters I made during the Longest Game and my 50 new best friends in MBA school []
  2. both to get me ready and to meet some of my teammates/classmates in advance []
  3. happily, they are back into it the next day after getting a few hours sleep []
  4. “Is it Saturday today, or is it Sunday?” is something I’ repeatedly heard from both classmates during this past weekend of classes and teammates during the Longest Game []

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Bulleted Lists – Because I’m Too Tired To Write A Real Blog Posting

Ever so tired, brain too fried to put together coherent paragraphs, so instead you get bulleted lists. Because really, who doesn’t love a good bulleted list? Also, incoherence. My Dad

  • My dad’s operation, which will be at least 10 hours long (!), is scheduled for Feb 8. I will be flying out to Ontario to be with my family at that time.
  • I’m so thankful that I have a very understanding boss and that my school is understanding as well.
  • My friends and colleagues have also been so supportive and it’s meant the world to me. Kind words, offers of drives to and from airports, stories of similar surgeries that have been wonderfully successful and all the other support offered are all helping me and my family a lot.

School

  • When I said that I’d likely be posting a lot fewer blog postings once school started, I wasn’t kidding – it feels like forever since I last blogged! In preparation for the first weekend of real classes1, I’ve spent the last three nights reading pretty much from the time I’ve gotten home from work until the time I’ve fallen into bed exhausted. This is in addition to the fact that I’d started reading prior to this week AND I had to do a bunch of administrative-y things – like buying textbooks, downloading a course binder of materials, signing up for various websites, etc. etc., that I’ve been chipping away at over this month.
  • One of our profs told us we aren’t allowed to whine about our workloads because if we have time and energy to whine, we should use that time and energy to get our work done instead of whining. So, for the record, I am not whining – I am merely stating facts
  • Because I am a nerd, I’m tracking the hours I’m spending on homework using a program called Time Edition 2. I’m not sure if seeing this  will make me feel validated that I’m working hard enough or make me want to throw up when I see how much time I’ve spent on homework. Either way, I’m sure there will be graphs of this data in future blog postings.
  • Tomorrow night is the welcome dinner for the program and we have to wear business attire. I’m very excited to have an excuse to wear my designer suit!

Work

  • I really freaking love my work. I do such cool things and work with such great people. Things are ramping up for the AWESOME Project and I am SO EXCITED about that. Also, another work trip to Ottawa is coming up, which makes me squeee!
  • In less awesome news, I got my first ever rejection from an academic journal for a paper that I submitted. Boo-urns! We are going to adapt it to submit to a different journal, so fingers crossed!

Health

  • Given my January schedule of 8 hours of work or school 6 days a week, with the 7th day of the week being a 14.5 hour day of work plus driving to school, I’ve done virtually no physical activity this month, save for a couple of hockey games that mercifully fell on Sunday nights after I finished school. I think I need to force myself to make some time for at least some short distance jogs and the occasional yoga class because I feel like crap when I don’t get exercise.
  • These long hours are really not doing well for me nutrition-wise. I haven’t had time to go to a grocery store in ages and my game plan for this week turned out to be to order lots of pizza last night, so I’d have enough for not only last night’s dinner, but today’s lunch, today’s dinner, tomorrow’s lunch and probably Saturday’s lunch as well3. Clearly, I need a better system!

I really thought I had something else to say, but now I can’t remember for the life of me what it was. Anyhoo, headed to bed now. So. Freaking. Tired! Update: OK, I remembered what I wanted to say, which was: If this week is any indication, I think I need to buy stocks in Pepsi. Because at the rate I’ve be downing diet Pepsis, they are going to be one hellava profitable company in the next 28 months of my schooling!

  1. As opposed to the pre-core classes I’ve had the past three weekends []
  2. For the record, I have no affiliation with the Time Edition people. It just seemed like a handy time tracking program and I’m going to test it out. I’ll probably blog a review, should I ever have time to blog ever again []
  3. School is providing tomorrow’s dinner & Friday’s lunch []

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Things I Learned in School This Weekend

So apparently the world continues on no matter how big the tumor in my dad’s brain is, and so this weekend I was back at school for the third of three pre-core courses. This time, it was economics. Economics, according to our good friends at Wikipedia, is “the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.” I had to look that up, which shows you how much I knew about economics before this weekend. But now I’ve done the 20.5 hours of pre-core, so I know all there is to know!

Some random stuff I learned this weekend:

  • Opportunity cost represents the value of what you gave up to do something – specifically, the “what you gave up” is the next best alternative (as you could probably identify many possible alternatives). For example, if you buy a coffee for $4, the opportunity cost of buying that coffee is whatever the next best alternative use of that $4 would be – like, buying half a beer (assuming that beer costs $8). If you pay $40,000 for tuition for an MBA program, the opportunity cost would be whatever the next best alternative use of that $40K is – namely, buying 5,000 beers1.
  • The Law of Demand says that, all other things being equal, when price of a good/service goes up, demand goes down.
  • I’m sure I learned a bunch of other stuff, but my brain is too tired to remember any of it!

In related news, here’s a photo of my “to do” list of all the things I need to do before school officially starts on Thursday:

To Do List

  1. Of course, in my particular case, the opportunity costs of paying $40K for tuition is actually nothing – since I got a scholarship that pays for my MBA, but which I can’t get for any other purpose. Thus, if I didn’t do the MBA, I would, sadly, not have the $40K to buy 5,000 beers. []

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Update

The neurosurgeon said the nicest word that one can hear when you have a tumour: benign. My dad will get an MRI tomorrow and then they will book a surgery – and I’ll book a flight to be there. From the sounds of it, the surgery will be very long and, well, it’s brain surgery, so it’s dangerous, but the fact that it’s operable and benign is the best we could hope for in this situation. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but he sure could have given us much worse news than this.

Also, apparently my dad’s brain tumour is 1/4 the size of his brain. I think this is one time when our family motto of “go big or go home,” is *not* working in our favour. The neurosurgeon said it’s probably been growing for long time to be that big. My dad’s reply was that he wished he’d known because he could have blamed so my things on that brain tumour over the years: “It’s not my fault! It’s my brain tumour!” So he still has his sense of humour! Also, when I talked to him on the phone today, he said that the doctor remarked that my dad was pretty optimistic while many people in his situation would not be. His reply was “Would it help anything if I panicked? What good would that do?” I guess I know where I get my positive outlook from!

And thanks to everyone who has sent me emails/texts/comments/etc. of support. It really is helping me get through a difficult time knowing that people care about me and my family and that I have lots of people to lean on when I need it. You guys are awesome.

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My Dad

My sister called me last night to tell me that something was wrong with my dad. She got him to go to the hospital – no small feat, as my dad is not a big fan of going to see doctors1 – and we were worried he may have had a stroke, but after much waiting around at the ER, when he finally got admitted and had a CT scan done, we found out that he has a brain tumour. Today he was transferred to a bigger hospital and is waiting to get an MRI and see a neurosurgeon in the morning. We really don’t know anything more than that at this point and I’m trying to remain optimistic that it will be operable. I’m waiting to find out what the prognosis and plan is to decide when I should go there. If he goes into surgery right away, I’m getting on a plane immediately. If it’s not that simple, I’ll figure out when is best for me to go there. I really wish it was tomorrow morning already, because the waiting is killing me. It’s hard to be so far away, because I can’t be there with my family for this. It’s hard even writing this posting, because all I can think is that my Dad isn’t at home to say to my Mom, “Hey Ann, come see what Bethy wrote on her blog today.” So I’m doing the only thing I can think to do right now – I’m adding Toronto Maple Leafs players to my hockey pool team.

I just need my Dad to be OK. I love you, Dad.

  1. Which is a huge understatement – I don’t think my dad has seen a doctor in more than 20 years. []

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You wouldn’t like Beth when she’s accounting!

This past weekend’s pre-core course was about accounting, which means I spent Friday night and all day Saturday and all day Sunday journalizing, posting to ledgers, and making statements of income/owner’s equity and so forth. I can feel your jealousy. I’ve never done *any* accounting before, so this was a pretty steep learning curve. When I went to bed on Friday after class, my head was spinning with thoughts of “An increase to an asset account is a debit” and such stuff1. Also, I’m not a very detail-oriented person – I much prefer big picture thinking – so I kept making little errors, like putting things in the wrong column (by accident, as opposed to thinking they actually belonged there) or putting too few zeros. Happily, the prof wanted us to understand the concepts, rather than just being good at the mechanics with no understanding. In the end we had a quiz to test ourselves to see how well we’d learned and I got 85% (even though I didn’t get to the last 3 questions), so that made me feel like I’m doing OK.

Here’s some random things I learned this weekend:

  • Debits  go on the left side, and credits go on the right side, of a ledger. Whether an increase (or a decrease) is a debit or credit depends on what kind of account you are talking about.
  • The double-entry bookkeeping system, which we still use today, was first described in 1494.
  • Expense ≠ Cash Out. Expenses don’t happen when you give someone money – they happen when you benefit from the asset (e.g., product or service) associated with that expense.
  • Revenue ≠ Cash In. Similarly, you don’t make revenue when the money comes in – you make the revenue when you deliver your product/perform your service.

Also, I got this swanky backpack as part of being in the program. Not bad for $41,000, eh?
My new backpack

  1. I also spent the first half of the first period of Sunday night’s hockey game with my brain racing with thoughts of accounting. I couldn’t seem to get my head in the game for that first 10 minutes, but I could easily have told you that accrual-basis accounting follows the revenue recognition principle. []

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Happy Bething Day!

Bething Day, as I’m sure you know, is the the Bethmas equivalent of Boxing Day! The traditional way to celebrating Bething Day1 is do to something that makes Beth happy. Last year, it was buying a pair of sexy boots. This year, it’s a massage and then dinner with Kalev. I hope you all have wonderful Bething Day plans too!

  1. Where “traditional” means, whatever tradition I feel like inventing. []

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Shooting Guns, Baking Cupcakes

So it appears that I did, in fact, turn 35 today. And the world did not, in fact, end. Surprising, I know. And I suppose you are all wondering how I celebrated the big day. Well, first off was Bethmas Eve dinner. Since I live in the boonies and I didn’t want to drive all the way to Vancouver (where all my favourite restaurants are) given how limited my time is these days and how much driving to Vancouver I’m doing this month1, I had to decide on somewhere out this way. There’s a good Greek restaurant near my place, but we’ve been there a few time recently and I didn’t feel like going to the brew pub, and that’s pretty much all I know for restaurants out here. So I decided to try The Keg. Everyone keeps telling me that it’s really good and my sister assured me that it’s good “even though it’s a chain restaurant”2, so it was off to the Keg for a peppercorn encrusted steak and garlic mashed potatoes. I have to admit – pretty delicious! And since it was my birthday3, I got a free dessert! Already, my birthday was starting off awesome and it wasn’t even my birthday yet!

Now, for my actual birthday, there were two things that I wanted to do. And, as I mentioned, both of these things were on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. And those things were:

17. visit a shooting range and shoot a gun!
92. make Dark & Stormy cupcakes

Shooting Guns

Just before Christmas, there was a Social Shopper4 deal for the shooting range in PoCo that I keep hearing about on the radio5. The deal was pretty good – $29 got you on the range and you got a 9mm gun and 50 rounds of ammo to do some shooting6 and knowing that this item was on my 101 list, I convinced Devon to get this deal with me. So after a glorious morning of sleeping in (something I won’t get to do on any other day in this entire month!) and lounging around drinking coffee, we were off to PoCo for some shooting! After signing a waiver saying that “hey, shooting ranges are dangerous!” and that my heirs can’t sue the shooting range if I get injured or die7, we got our ear muffs and safety glasses and headed into the range. The instructor told us all the rules8, showed up how to work the guns and then we got to do some shooting! The instructor had to watch us each shoot a round individually, to make sure we were doing it right, and then we could both shoot the rest of our bullets while the instructor watched. I made Devon go first, because I’m a big chicken, and I have to say it was kinda scary to watch. You always hear that it is surprising how much recoil there is on a gun when you shoot it but, holy crap, it’s a surprising how my recoil there is on a gun when you shoot it! Also, the bullet casing fly every which way – bouncing off the wall, off you, off the instructor – just everywhere! Once I tried it myself, though, it wasn’t so bad – you can feel that the recoil is big, but it somehow doesn’t look as big when you are shooting as when you are watching someone else shoot. And I didn’t see where any of my casings flew, because I was intently staring at my target. Why did I need to stare so intently at my target? Because, naturally, I chose a zombie target!

Me & My Zombie Target

Me and the target I used for the first time I ever shot a gun! I feel much more prepared for the upcoming zombie apocalypse.

I practised aiming for the head because, as everyone knows, you’ve got to destroy the brain when it comes to zombies. Headshots. Double tap. It’s elementary stuff.

My & Devon's Zombie Targets
My target on the left, Devon’s on the right. Out of the 50 rounds, I got 30 hits and he got 27. Not bad for a first go!

Baking Cupcakes

After we finished at the shooting range, it was back to my place for some lunch and to bake some cupcakes. You see, I long ago discovered this recipe for Dark N’ Stormy cupcakes, based on the Caribbean drink of the same name. The drink is a delicious concoction of lime juice, ginger beer, and black rum. The cupcake has a bottom layer that is essentially a gingerbread-flavoured cupcake9, a top layer that is a rum and lemon rind flavoured white cupcake, and then the whole thing  is topped with a rum cream cheese icing and some candied ginger on top10

Dark & Stormy Cupcakes

Dark & Stormy Cupcakes - Close-up

Cupcake verdict: Delicious!

In the evening, Devon went off to Irish Gaelic class, and my friend Kim came over for tea and cupcakes! She also graciously helped me take down my Christmas tree, which I hadn’t yet had time to do this month and figured that I wouldn’t have time to do it until sometime next week if I didn’t get it done tonight. And now, I’m finishing up this blog posting and then heading to bed! Because apparently shooting guns and baking cupcakes is tiring work!

Happy Bethmas, everyone!

  1. For the record, it’s 14 trips to Vancouver in the 31 days of January []
  2. As she knows how much I dislike most chain restaurants. I mean, there are a few good ones – I like White Spot veggies burgers, for example, and recently tried Red Robin and found that their burgers don’t taste like chain restaurant at all. []
  3. Well, birthday eve, but who’s counting? []
  4. i.e., Groupon-type thingy []
  5. Yes, apparently I am a slave to advertising, apparently. []
  6. In comparison, the range fee – i.e., just stepping on the range – costs $30! []
  7. Which would be a very sucky way to spend one’s birthday []
  8. Very sensible things like “always point the gun towards the range” and “don’t put your finger on the trigger except when you are all set up and ready to shoot.” []
  9. Molasses, sugar, fresh ginger, cloves, etc. []
  10. It’s also supposed to have a rum sauce poured over the cupcake before you ice it, but being brilliant such as I am, Devon made the rum sauce while the cupcakes were baking, and then he had to go off to Irish Gaelic class, so we quickly iced a warm cupcake for him to take, sans rum sauce. And then I let the cupcakes cool and then iced them, completely forgetting to poke holes in the cupcakes and pour the rum sauce on! So I just drizzled rum sauce on before I ate it and that saved the day! []

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Happy Bethmas Eve!

Unlike a typical year, I haven’t been yelling from the rooftops about my upcoming birthday. OK, I’ve done some yelling from some rooftops, but from much fewer rooftops that usual. I guess I’ve been a little less excited because this year I’m turning the big 3-5. How is that even possible? I certainly don’t *feel* like I’m 34 years, 364 days old. But, as I’ve said before, turning 35 is much better than not turning 35, so I best get on with celebrating it!

And I do have celebration-y type plans. Often for my birthday – or sometimes my half birthday – I’ll invite a bunch of friends out for dinner at a restaurant. But seeing as I have no weekends free this entire month, that seemed like it wouldn’t work1. Instead, I’m going out for Bethmas Eve dinner with Devon tonight and then tomorrow we’ve both taken the day off work so we can get up to some shenanigans. In fact, said shenanigning involves knocking not one, but *two* items off my 101 Things To Do List! I’ll also be seeing my friend Kim on Bethmas night and then going for a massage and dinner with Kalev for Bething Day. Which all sounds like a pretty fabulous Bethidays to me!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to enjoying my last day as someone in her early thirties!

  1. Though now that I think about it, I might do that for my half birthday, since I don’t have any classes in July! []

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My First Weekend of School

So, I was in class for 20.5 hours on the weekend1:

  • Friday – 5:30 to 9 p.m.
  • Saturday – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It was a lot of hours and it was all math and – I’m sure this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me – I quite enjoyed it. I mean, it was rather exhausting, of course, and I really didn’t like having to get up at 6 a.m. on the weekend, but the content was interesting and the professor was excellent. And it was really nice to meet some of my classmates for the first time! Since the program I’m in uses a cohort model and involves predominantly group work, I’m going to be spending *a lot* of time with these people over the next 28 months, so it was great to meet so many friendly and interesting people!

One thing I found myself telling a lot of people is something that I learned when I played hockey for 10 days straight – don’t think too far into the future! Take things one shift class at a time. Anytime someone mentioned that we were going to be spending four weekends in a row in classes – 20.5 hrs for each of the first three weekends, followed by 32 hours on the last weekend of January (Friday to Monday) – I saw this look in their eye that I recognized as showing what I felt whenever I started to think too far ahead during that game. It’s a look of overwhelm, a look that says, “I can’t do this.” And so I would say, “Don’t think of it like that. Just think of this weekend. One day at a time! We can totally do this!” And it was a really good reminder for me too! And I just typed this out, I’ve realized something else – it’s hardest at the start. The first 3 of the 10 days of hockey were the worst, and I bet the first weekends of classes are the worst too. Just like in the game, it will get better once we get used to the new routine.

Anyway, I learned a whole bunch of stuff – and get a refresher on a bunch of stuff that I knew before but didn’t remember all that much – I’m looking at you, calculus! Here’s some random things I learned this weekend2:

  • The symbol used for “profit” in business math equations is π . Dr. Dan‘s theory on why this is so is because π goes on forever, which is what you would want your profits to do. Also, π  is delicious!
  • Bill Gates and Warren Buffet started a movement to get the mega rich to give away a lot of their money. And by “a lot,” I mean at least 50% of their wealth, within their lifetime or upon their death (in case they haven’t given out the 50% before they die). In the case of Buffet, he’s giving away 99% of his wealth. To give you a sense of how much money he has, he says that even after giving away 99% of his wealth, he won’t notice any change to his lifestyle or that of his family! You can check out a list of the mega rich people who have taken this pledge at givingpledge.org.
  • Calculus is all about slope and reaching limits.

Also, as part of our course package, which costs one zillion dollars, we got a swanky business math calculator. It’s the calculator that we have to use on all of our exams so that no one has any unfair advantage of having a more advanced calculator than anyone else. The problem, of course, is that everyone in the class has the exact same calculator, so it will be quite easy to accidentally pick up someone else’s and if you lose yours, how would you ever be able to figure out which one of the 50 in the room was yours3? This is my solution to that problem:

Calculator with skulls stickers

Happy calculator is happy

  1. Hence the blog radio silence for the past few days. []
  2. This isn’t *all* that I learned, but I figured that most of it would bore the hell out of you. []
  3. This reminds me of my undergrad, where all of the thousands of students had to use the Casio fx991 calculator, and one day the Calculus prof made an announcement at the start of class in front of the 200 or so students: “Someone left a calculator in the lecture hall after class last week. It’s a Casio fx991. You can come and claim it at the end of class.” []