Tag Archives: boston

Seeking Outliers on a Normal Distribution

With all our freaks, geeks, and future politicians/sex solicitors, Harvard doesn’t really have a reputation for churning out “normal” people.  Most people believe that all Harvard students do in college is sleep and study, which doesn’t allow for any social interaction whatsoever.  Some of this is well-founded.  At our senior trip to a Red Sox game, I saw a girl furiously doing her math homework, calculator and all, right there in the bleachers of Fenway Park.  Harvard 1, Normal 0.

Most Harvard people, though, do come out pretty well-adjusted after college.  Unlike popular perception, we don’t always wear our elitist blazers with cashmere sweaters tied around our necks.  We don’t drink alcohol out of lab beakers and carry TI-83s to calculate our BACs (we do that in our heads). We still get shwastey-faced and make bad decisions at shady bars with unattractive strangers.

In fact, to show how normal we really are, let me tell you about “Chase”, a fellow Harvard grad from Jersey.

Chase is just another twenty-something with a steady job, a sweet girlfriend, and a gregarious personality.  He’s a very nice guy with good intentions.  But, he’s also crazy.  Crazy in a totally normal, Florida State way.

Even though I would best describe him as an “acquaintance,” I’ve seen Chase get drunk, get in fights, and get naked and run through the streets.  I’ve seen him projectile vomit, pass out, and ice-luge goldfish (multiple times, though not necessarily in that order).  At the Harvard-Yale tailgate on Saturday, I saw Chase operating at his very best: funneling Buds and leading raucous cheers about how much Yale sucks.

See?  At Harvard, we do have typical, jock-ish frat boys with high tolerances and low inhibitions.  So, you can say it: Harvard–they’re just like us!  (Notice how I reference popular mag Us Weekly to show how normal I am.)

Then again, as much as we love “normal” people (like Sarah Palin), perhaps we do need our leaders to deviate from the normal distribution.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that I don’t want our President crushing beers on his head while memorizing the nuclear codes.

“Do you realize,” my friend mused, as we watched Chase shotgun another Bud, “That Chase could be the Republican senator of New Jersey one day?”

At least it’s just Jersey.

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Five Forces to Getting a Job

One of the virtues of being an alum is that people start asking for your expert advice.  This past weekend, I attended a business conference in Boston, where I met several ambitious young women who all want to land fancy jobs after college.   They showered me with a barrage of inquiries: What interests should I include on my resume?  What kind of suit should I wear to my banking interview?  What about job sites, high school achievements, appropriate networking etiquette?  Finance vs. consulting, pants vs. skirts, New York vs. not New York?  And, my favorite question (if only for its implications that I’m somehow a career sensei): How do I become as wildly successful as you are?

Well, I’m here to say that it’s tough.  Some people just aren’t born with my natural charm, superior intelligence, and strikingly good looks.  But even if you’re awkward, stupid, and heinously ugly, you could still get struck by lightning.  And in this metaphor, lightning equals getting a job.

Given that you’re all astute business students, here is a Porter’s Five Forces diagram to show how the job landscape.

getajob

So, good luck everyone.  And if the job thing doesn’t work out, you can always turn to blogging (or, moving to India).

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Why Red Sox Nation Loves A-Rod

They say that when you grow up in Boston, it’s in your blood. It seeps into your mind, your heart, and your soul. There is no denying it, and there is no cure. In life, you may change jobs, political affiliations, or even genders, but you will always, always be a Boston Red Sox fan.

The Red Sox are an institution in Boston. This is a city that bleeds red in October. It is a city that jams thirty-thousand-plus people into a green concrete box on game days. It is a city that goes crazy when the Sox win, and self-immolates when the Sox lose. If you were walking the streets of Boston today, and asked a stranger about the three happiest moments of his life, the first two would be some variation of the typical answer: when my children were born, owning my first home, the day of my wedding, the day of my divorce, etc. However, the third happiest moment would likely be repeated by most everyone you meet: the “Sawx” winning the 2004 World Series. Seriously: everyone. Or at least 90%.

But even though us Boston fans are undoubtedly consumed by our sports teams, this fanaticism isn’t limited to Massholes. In fact, there are some places that may even be worse. After all, grown men wear dresses and pig snouts to support the Redskins in Washington. Detroit fans help out their basketball team by sucker punching opposing players. And infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman received death threats before he was forced into hiding… all because he interfered with a foul ball.

Some might think that our country’s infatuation with sports is strange: you have millions of people on the edge of their seats, fixating over an event they can’t control, with participants they don’t really know, in a game they’ve probably never played. Even though we may give ourselves credit for our team’s victory (“during the whole game, I didn’t move my right arm, because the last time I did, Favre threw an interception”)… really, telekinesis has yet to hit NFL playbooks.

So why are we so obsessed? Why do we set aside our Sundays, neglect our work, and force our arms to go numb? Why do we let two-point conversions and last-second threes and outcomes (over which we have no control) impact our mood?

Why do we allow the fate of a foul ball decide how homicidal we want to be today?

Well, what else is there to do? I’d rather watch a baseball game than turn on the news to another bank bailout. I’d prefer to fill out my brackets than pore over my shrinking 401(k). The country needs a diversion right about now, however minor or fleeting it may be. We need sports now more than ever before.

a-rodFortunately, there are some among us who recognize this, and have stepped up to go above and beyond their vocation. To Alex Rodriguez: your recent revelations (of steroid use, of infidelity, of loving yourself a little too much) have not only distracted us from the dire financial crisis, but they have also reinforced all of New England’s fervor for baseball. For as it is with the symbiotic nature of sports, loving the Sox is also about inherently hating the Yankees. And it’s pretty easy to hate on the Yanks these days… I mean, come on: just look in the mirror.

Part of this post was excerpted from a previous post by the same author, from September 17, 2008: “I’m Voting for the Candidate Who Agrees That the Yankees Suck”

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Los Angeles vs. New York… Working to Live, vs. Living to Work?

Growing up in Boston and having gone to school in Cambridge, I had a strong conviction of East Coast superiority. I loved the history of Boston, the competitiveness in Cambridge, and, after spending two summers in New York, the pace of Manhattan. There was a gritty, dog-eat-dog mentality that permeated throughout the city, both up in the boardrooms and down on the streets. There was a toughness and an urgency that New York required, as evidenced by the fast walking, fast talking culture. And even though the suits could be parading around with million-dollar bank accounts, they all still carried themselves as if entering the school of hard knocks: brows furrowed, collars up, and wielding a vast repertoire of profanity.

Even with its rat-race culture, I loved New York. During my senior year of college, I interviewed solely for jobs that were based in the city. Having grown up in the ambitious East Coast lifestyle, it just seemed like a natural progression to move to Manhattan, with its promise of hard work begetting career advancement.

img_0387I ultimately accepted an offer to work in a program which required a year in New York and a year in Los Angeles. When I got my first assignment, I was devastated to learn that I was starting in California. On a cold, wintry day in Boston, I packed my bags and flew out to the West Coast. I figured I’d just wait it out for a year until I got back to New York, where my career would actually begin. After all, LA was about its actors and singers, smoke and mirrors, and Britney and Kevin. Instead of M&A, I figured I’d just find T&A. It certainly wasn’t the same type of professional environment that I expected in New York.

img_0383Throughout my year in LA, I did encounter many examples of the superficiality that I expected when I first came to California. Most conversations centered around the gym, the beach, or the latest celebrity debacle. Meeting people out on the town invariably turned into a casting session. There was an endless supply of aspiring actors, models, and dancers moonlighting as waiters, secretaries, and personal trainers. There was a sleepy, slow pace to LA, where people mostly ambled along. Furrowed brows and premature wrinkles were nonexistent, if not for the worry-free lifestyle, then for the rampant use of Botox.

img_0271To my surprise, I found myself drawn to many aspects of the laid-back, West Coast lifestyle. One huge part of this was the weather. When I first arrived at the Burbank airport in January, I was greeted by 65 degree weather and bundled-up Californians. My landlord, wearing a thick black parka, apologized for how cold it was. (Over my year in LA, I could count on one hand how many times it rained. Almost 90% of the days were over 70 degrees and sunny…even in “winter”. I remember going to the beach in February, and just like in the Corona commercial, feeling disappointed when a cloud would appear in the bright blue sky.) The beautiful weather was something I didn’t expect, and it seemed to justify the slow pace of LA. Lying on the Santa Monica beach in the middle of March, I remember feeling rather smug–while my friends back in New York were shuttered away in their tiny apartments, I was out on the beach every weekend, enjoying the sun. While they were trekking through snow and maneuvering through the NYC subway system, I was cruising down Ventura boulevard in my car, windows down, radio blaring. While they were working weekends and long hours, I was putting in ten-hour days at most, with enough time to go to the gym and still get a margarita after work.

img_0281Yet even with this carefree lifestyle, there were often times when I felt anxious about the life I was living. I almost didn’t want to get too comfortable… it seemed like I was getting complacent or soft. I worried that I was losing my drive and ambition to the allure of comfort and sun. I didn’t want to become the stereotypical airhead Californian, without a care in the world. I’d think of the negatives of living in LA (the superficial people, the earthquakes, the traffic, and the smog) and remind myself of my East Coast convictions. I was bred to be a New Yorker after all, and there was some built-in angst that I had to have. Even with all the comforts out on the West Coast, I was never free from anxiety about my career, future, and ambitions.

A week ago, I moved back to New York to start the second year of my program. As I sat at my austere desk and looked out on the gray horizon, I missed the carefree days of life in sunny California. I can’t help but reminisce about LA and its anti-New York philosophies: work to live, don’t live to work. Life’s too short. Don’t worry, be happy.

A year ago, I would have thought that these philosophies were just an excuse for being weak, lazy, and of course, soft. Now, I’m not so sure. I don’t think I can ever completely embrace either side. As much as I loved LA, perhaps I’m programmed to feel guilt for “settling” or being too comfortable. Perhaps I can’t shake that gnawing ambition and ensuing anxiety. But now that I’ve seen how the other half lives, I don’t think I can bear the rat race of New York. I’m still awed by the intensity and energy of the city, but I’m not quite as keen to be immersed in it. Maybe that means I’m more willing to sacrifice career for life, in order to have fewer wrinkles when I’m older. Or, maybe I just need a few more weeks to get used to the fast pace of NYC again.

At some point I’ll have to choose… but I’m probably just not ready to do it now.

Update (6/25/09): What I Love About New York City

Update (10/14/09): Oddities in New York City

Update (3/31/10): I’m moving back to LA … Guess I’ve made my decision, huh?

Update (4/30/10): Goodbye, New York

Update (6/7/10): Truth is Beauty, and Beauty is Los Angeles

Update (6/29/10): Deciding On Lew Yongeles

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I’m Voting for the Candidate Who Agrees that the Yankees Suck

They say that when you grow up in Boston, it’s in your blood. It seeps into your mind, your heart, and your soul. There is no denying it, and there is no cure. In life, you may change jobs, political affiliations, or even genders, but you will always, always be a Boston Red Sox fan.

The Red Sox are an institution in Boston. This is a city that bleeds red in October. It is a city that jams thirty-thousand-plus people into a green concrete box on game days. It is a city that goes crazy when the Red Sox win, and self-immolates when the Red Sox lose. If you were walking the streets of Boston today, and asked a stranger about the three happiest moments of his life, the first two would be some variation of the typical answer: when my children were born, owning my first home, the day of my wedding, the day of my divorce, etc. However, the third happiest moment would likely be repeated by most everyone you meet: the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series. Seriously: everyone. Or at least 90%.

But even though us Boston fans are undoubtedly consumed by our sports teams, this fanaticism isn’t limited to Massholes. In fact, there are some places that may even be worse. After all, grown men wear dresses and pig snouts to support the Redskins in Washington. Detroit fans help out their basketball team by sucker punching opposing players. And infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman received death threats before he was forced into hiding… all because he interfered with a foul ball.

Some might think that our country’s infatuation with sports is strange: you have millions of people on the edge of their seats, fixating over an event they can’t control, with participants they don’t really know, in a game they’ve probably never played. Even though we may give ourselves credit for our team’s victory (“during the whole game, I didn’t move my right arm, because the last time I did, Favre threw an interception”)… really, telekinesis has yet to hit NFL playbooks.

So why are we so obsessed? Why do we set aside our Sundays, neglect our work, and force our arms to go numb? Why do we let two-point conversions and last-second threes and outcomes (over which we have no control) impact our mood? Why do we allow the fate of a foul ball decide how homicidal we want to be today?

Much of it has to do with the sense of community that comes with being a sports fan. Our teams serve as a common thread between fans, an easy conversation starter, and a way for us to showcase our townie pride and bash on our rivals. Our allegiances also grow stronger if there is a common enemy: for Bostonians, we collectively cringe when Peyton Manning’s 17th commercial comes on, and we all agree that the Yankees do indeed, suck. The rivalry is what makes is interesting, and it’s what draws us to our teams even more.

Finally, I’d like to go off on a somewhat-related tangent: As November nears, all of us will be forced to choose allegiances in another competition between opposing rivals. In this contest, however, the implications are far worse than a weekly depression because the Dolphins lost again. Instead, we have to wait four years to turn this one around. And while we eagerly anticipate the next Sox game at Fenway, our engagement with the upcoming election is minimal, at best. Not too many people plan on packing the bars to watch the debates. Not too many anticipate dressing up as a gun-toting book Nazi to support their favorite Russia expert. Very few people are on the edge of their seats.

So, a suggestion: As sports are so popular, let’s try it with politics. For this election, let’s get some form-fitting red and blue jerseys, and see how well our candidates do under pressure. How are Obama’s skills on the basketball court? Can Palin can shoot a moose with a bow and arrow? The ultimate decider could be an American Gladiators course, the true test of patriotism and strength. I want to see Biden battling it out with Siren. I want to see Palin jousting with Mayhem. I want to see McCain get lit up by Justice. If this doesn’t get people interested in the election… well, at least they’ll have football on Sundays to get them through the next four years.

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