Author Archive: kaiyen

The Pickens Energy Plan

I’ll admit – I haven’t read T. Boone PIckens’ book yet.  But I’m listening right now to him live on cnn.com and he’s making some remarkably intelligent comments about energy independence that really strike a chord with me.

During the Democratic primaries, I kept saying that my most important issue was energy independence.  Health care reform will take probably more than 2 terms – Bill Clinton made it one of his campaign points and didn’t get it done, not even close.  There is just too much to fight through, and, in reality, most people just don’t see the problem.  The people that don’t have insurance certainly feel it, but if you do, co-pays have stayed about the same ($15-30 for most people I know) and all we really see is that our paycheck goes down $40-$50 depending on the year.  The year-long amortization of increasing health care costs just doesn’t smack most people in the face.

But our energy issues do.  $4/gallon gas.  The amount of dollars spent on foreign oil is staggering but easy to comprehend (‘foreign’ always strikes people).  The debate about oil drilling in the US has been going on for years.  The concerns about natural gas, nuclear, and coal have been well documented.  The promise of fuel cells, electric vehicles, etc has been in the news for a long time, too.  It’s all back and forth but it’s there.

Pickens makes some simple and logical points.  I haven’t read his book so I’ll just summarize what I’m getting in this one broadcast:

  • We got a huge problem right now.  We are spending a tremendous amount of money on foreign oil.
  • We aren’t ready yet to go immediately to something like electric, solar, wind, etc
  • We can go stop-gap for about 10 years with natural gas on the big trucks alone.
  • If we were to go with natural gas on just new trucks (not all big rigs), they could go cross-country on just 10 fueling stations, and would decrease our oil consumption by something like 20+%
  • If you take the major wind and solar corridors and build like mad you could generate enough power to realistically hold up the grid, but they’d have to be built in the right spots, and start building them now
  • Natural gas is one of the biggest resources we have, and we don’t even have to touch ANWR or other contested areas to get it (people talk about how much oil is in ANWR but there is more NG our of shale elsewhere)
  • And aim realistic, don’t aim high.  Yes, off-shore wind gets you closer to cities, but they are too expensive.

I was just struck by his realistic approach to things.  I really need to read his book.

I am not, therefore I am

Just a random observation and thought – a while ago, while discussing exactly what ‘being bad at making coffee meant,’ I made that statement that ‘I am not a coffee snob, but I really do prefer…”

Before I could finish the sentence, a comment was made that if I say ‘I’m not a coffee snob’ then I therefore am a coffee snob.  I found the comment neither offensive nor accusatory, though I was a bit befuddled at the specific moment.

Maybe I am a snob.  But at least I’d like to think that there are degrees of snobbery, then.  Like, I enjoy a good Kona roast, and I can tell the difference between, say, Peet’s Reserve Kona (which I drink black to truly enjoy the flavor, which is so smooth) and a Safeway Kona.  I can also tell you that Kauai coffee is quite nice, too, with a lot of flavor but a tad bit bitter at the end with the two roasts I’ve had.

But it’s not like I will refuse to drink other coffee, nor am I a diehard, French-Press, dark roast guy, which is apparently what ‘real coffee drinkers’ prefer.

I do wonder whether caring about and having preferences about stuff like that make one a snob – that there is a very broad definition of what a snob is.  If one notices the differences between a Kendall Jackson Reisling and a Fetzer one – is that person a wine snob, even just a little bit’

The Road Thus Far

I will be revising and/or revisiting this post from time to time.  The goal is to go over what classes I’ve taken at the Leavey School of Business and why I’ve taken them when I did.  Perhaps a useful roadmap for others.  Perhaps not.

Some facts – I started in Spring 2007, and am pursuing concentrations in Managing People and IT, Leadership, and Entreprenuership.  I am also going to take some classes in the International Business track.  The concentrations don’t really mean anything – it’s unlikely someone will hire you to manage an IT department because you took the first of the concentrations I indicated.  But it helps guide you through your electives, to be sure.

In previous posts, I have talked about how I approached my choice in courses intially, and how that has subsequently changed.  This post takes it a step back and perhaps upward – looking at why I took courses in a particular order.  Some of the reasons are not mind-blowing – right professor, right time, needed a few more units, etc.  The ones that start to show up  more as you get later in my time at Leavey are the opportunistic ones.  Taking a class because I managed to get in.  That’s where the electives really get interesting.

This post is kind of long so I’m breaking it here

(more…)

Review: DR Palmer, Management, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

At a glance (please read review, as ‘at a glance’ it’s hard to rate professor Palmer)

  • Workload:  Moderate
  • Teaching Style:  Interactive
  • Interest in students:  Moderate
  • Relevance to outside world:  Low

Overall Professor Rating: 2

Overall Course Rating: 2.5

It is incredibly hard to summarize a review on Professor DR Palmer (who is different than Professor David R. Palmer, by the way).  His style is very off-the-cuff, his lectures meandering, and his attention span rather short.  At the same time, he’s the kind of person with whom I’d love to sit down over a couple cups of coffee.  But that doesn’t make for a good professor, really.  The course, too, is hard to rate.  The subject matter is really quite interesting from a research and practical perspective, but the way it was taught, by DR Palmer, made for a lower rating.

The Review

This is the latest of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University‘s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. That database can be a bit hard to wade through, and the comments are short and often just link to other threads, which are themselves pretty short and superficial. Only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.  I also just write whatever it is that I think is relevant or will be helpful to others.  That is my overall goal.

I’m also reviewing them in reverse order of when I had them for class.  This is mostly so that I am reviewing those whom I remember the best sooner.  This also means that at some point I might skip a few professors I took a year ago or just stop outright out of concern that I will not be able to provide a proper review (the downside of these longer reviews is that I do, after all, have a responsibility to do a good job at them). As of this writing, which is summer quarter 2008, I’m now going back to Fall 2007, so it’s a ways back.

The facts

I took Management 503 – Organizational Theory – back in Fall of 2007.  I have no idea what time I took it or what days of the week :-).  The course is loosely based on how companies are organized, how communications are handled within such structures, etc.  This is one of the required courses in the management track – basically, you need this and 501 and you can take everything else.  Interestingly, I have seen few of my 503 classmates in my other classes.  This is weird because one would think most people would get 503 out of the way relatively early in their coursework (as I did – my third quarter), and I should therefore run into them again later.  So far, I don’t think I have, though.

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.
(more…)

Review: Professor Bo Tep, Management Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

At a glance

  • Workload:  Light
  • Teaching Style:  Highly interactive
  • Interest in students:  Very high
  • Relevance to outside world:  Not sure.

Overall Professor Rating: 4

Overall Course Rating:3.5

Professor Tep is a completely different professor than anyone other you are likely to have at SCU.  He believes not only in experiential learning but also in spirituality and looking at things with a much more holistic perspective.  Can be off-putting to some.  The course is also very loose, though it is also apparently ever-changing.  Bo wants to introduce new ideas each quarter, it seems.

The Review

This is the latest of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University‘s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. That database can be a bit hard to wade through, and the comments are short and often just link to other threads, which are themselves pretty short and superficial. Only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.

I’m also reviewing them in reverse order of when I had them for class.  This is mostly so that I am reviewing those whom I remember the best sooner.  This also means that at some point I might skip a few professors I took a year ago or just stop outright out of concern that I will not be able to provide a proper review (the downside of these longer reviews is that I do, after all, have a responsibility to do a good job at them).  I am now back two quarters from my current term.

The facts

I had Professor Tep for Management 538 – Managing Groups and Teams – the Winter 2007.  Professor Tep is very up front about the class, which is rather important considering his rather unconventional style of teaching.  He sends out an e-mail a couple of weeks before the class stating that it’s an experiential course, rather than one about how to do project management.  He reiterated this at the start of class, that we would be talking about our experiences in managing teams.  Still, we lost about 40% of the class after the first few weeks.

I took 538 on Monday and Wednesday nights, at 5:30PM.  I had this class immediately prior to another class with a losse structure, but not in a spiratual sense (see my review of Chacko’s Finance course ).  I also took it in the same quarter as 512, taught by Cheryl Shavers, and the contrast was almost frightening.

A couple of things to note – Bo has changed the class a bit, giving it a bit more structure.  I’m glad to say that some of this is from feedback that I and others provided to him.  I really enjoyed the class but I think it needed a bit of tweaking so hopefully other students have enjoyed it.  Also, Bo and I occasionally have coffee so we still stay in touch.  That doesn’t make this any more of a subjective review, in reality, but just fyi.

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.
(more…)

Review: Professor George Chacko, Finance, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

This is the latest of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University‘s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. But only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.

I’m also reviewing them in reverse order of when I had them for class.  This is mostly so that I am reviewing those whom I remember the best sooner.  This also means that at some point I might skip a few professors I took a year ago or just stop outright out of concern that I will not be able to provide a proper review (the downside of these longer reviews is that I do, after all, have a responsibility to do a good job at them).  I am now back two quarters from my current term.

The facts

I had Professor Chacko for Finance 455 in Winter Quarter, 2008.  It was the 7:05 section (he also taught a 5:30 section the same days) on, I think, Mondays and Wednesdays.  The course is technically titled ‘Investments’ but Professor Chacko outright stated that regardless of what the school decided to call the course he would have taught the same material in the same manner (more on the ‘material’ in a bit, as it is indeed flexible enough to be used in several different style classes).  In fact, he taught a course in the spring that was a ‘696 experimental’ course that was basically just more of the same.

FNCE 455 is the second of two required courses in the discipline.  The first, 451, which I took the previous quarter, is about evaluating cost of capital, net present value analysis, etc.  455 is much more practical in many ways, examining specific cases on topics such as portfolio construction, payoff diagrams, and other financial analysis from the perspectives of a fund manager or a personal investor.

455 is an entirely case-based course.  We covered about 7 or 8 cases through the quarter, from books written by Chacko (and others) while he was at Harvard Business School.  We would do a write-up before each case, really as motivation to read it (I don’t think he actually read or graded them), and then discuss the case during class.  Work was generally done individually.  The final exam was also a case write-up, but much more in-depth and obviously done without a class discussion.

I took 455 when I did both because I needed it as a requirement and because I had heard good things about Chacko.  So my goals were relatively even (as compared to ‘taking it just because it was available’ or something like that).

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.

(more…)

Taking the middle road

In a previous post (since lost in a botched wordpress update) about my ‘strategic’ plan through my MBA program, deciding what classes to take, etc, I was debating my overall approach.  The question was whether to take the more challenging professors so that I’d ostensibly (important word) learn more and get more out of those classes, or to try and take some easier ones to keep my load more level.  The opinion among my fellow classmates is pretty split, for what it’s worth.

At the time, my inclination was to take the harder classes, so that I’d get the most out of things.  Since then, however, I have learned a few things.

First, just because a professor is ‘interesting’ and ‘challenging’ doesn’t mean he or she is good.  One professor I had supposed really made you think more, but he also didn’t cover any of the course material.  He also challenged students to think critically and voice their opinions.  However, that just devolved into actual arguments with him over semantics and meaning.  It was ridiculous.  All of this would have been fine, except that we were still quizzed on the course material, I seemed to be the only person taking the reading seriously, and I wanted to go over the course material.  So a professor that is merely “interesting” isn’t good enough.

Second, some professors that are tenured – and this goes for any school/discipline/etc – are just riding out the wave.  They lose track of why they are teaching.  And sometimes they lose sight of how to structure a course.  There is one professor, in economics, who, depending on whom you ask, is either really challenging and makes you learn a lot at a fast pace or is just mean and difficult for the heck of it.  While I would love to take the class twice – once with someone else and once with him – to find out which of those two is his actual approach, I have no interest (nor much respect) in taking a class where the professor is difficult just for the heck of it.  So, again, need to read between the lines.

Finally, there are some disciplines in which I am simply weak.  I am not good at Finance.  The complexities of portfolio construction, cost of capital – that’s just hard for me.  I get the basic tools but the harder ones just fly by me and I have to work really hard.  Does that mean I take the easy professors’  Actually, no.  But I do take the ones where it’s a bit more open and loosely-structured of a course, where I can absorb information without being overloaded with assignments.

Fortunately, for Econ, I found a professor that was a good middle ground between one who is known for being relatively easy and the one who is extremely difficult.  And in general, I still do seek professors who will challenge me.  But I am now a lot more careful about what ‘challenge’ means and think about how I learn, how I want to interact with teachers, etc.

My reviews, over time, will illustrate the lessons I’ve learned in choosing professors.

Review: Professor Cheryl Shavers, Management, Leavey School of Business

This is the fourth of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University‘s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. But only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.

The facts

I took Professor Shaver’s class in Winter Quarter, 2008.  It was the 5:30 section, Tuesday and Thursdays, I think.  Already Winter seems like a long ways away.  The course, Management 512, is titled the ‘Social Psychology of Leadership’ but is best described generically as a leadership course.  Professor Shavers does go over the material out there, but it’s not research-based.  The book introduces some of the research concepts out there, but essentially Shavers challenges each student on how to handle certain situations.  She poses problems and asks us what to do.  The course is pretty loose, mechanically.  A bit of reading, some questionnaires, and each group has to do a presentation on a particular case.  There is also a final individual paper.  But the course is otherwise discussion-based.

My motivation for taking the course was two-fold – one practical, the other programmatic.  First, it was an requirement for the leadership concentration at the school.  So I intended to take it at some point.  Second, it was available that quarter, plain and simple.  So I took it.  However, many of the students in the class are taking it just as they are finishing up their time at Leavey, and you’ll often have students taking Capstone (the final class in the program) sitting next to you.  It’s actually a nice mix of students, though, and really breaks one free from the first year or so of requirements and core courses.

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.
(more…)

Followup: Almaden-Quicksilver Park hiking (Mockingbird Trailhead)

One thing I forgot to mention in my earlier post on one of the Almaden-Quicksilver hiking trails is that you come upon some interesting old mining facilities along the way.  In particular, there remains the foundation of what was one of the deepest water pumping stations that helped keep the mines usable in the area.  Not much left, but kind of interesting nonetheless.
old silver mine foundation