Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Almost done with term...

I said "Merry Christmas" to someone for the first time tonight. Until tonight "Christmas" was one more project on a list of giant projects to do in December:

Study for IT Project Management Exam
Finish Editing IT Project Management Paper
Finalize 2009 IT Budget for Work
Cram for Accounting Exam
Christmas Shop
Remove Air Conditioning Unit From Window

This is the first year that I have bought almost everything online-although I don't generally enjoy shopping I enjoy buying Christmas gifts. I will visit craft bazaars and go to the Maul and visit bookshops to find trinkets and necessary objects for my loved ones. This year I haven't had the time to do so and that makes me sad. I had a horrible dream a few weeks ago in which I had showed up at my parents house with Nothing purchased for anyone for Christmas. In my dream my dad castigated me for spending all my time reading silly novels instead of getting things done.

It was a horrible dream and obviously it was all about my anxiety about not being able to do a proper job of Christmas shopping. But here's the thing-I haven't been spending all my time reading silly novels-I've spent all my time studying for Accounting and attending meetings for my IT Project Management class. While working full time.

Well, I thought, wasn't that the goal-to be an "engaged" (some would say slightly psychotic) MBA student? Apparently the opportunity cost for doing so includes Christmas Shopping. I am sad of that, but I can remember this and shop for presents for my loved ones some other time.

A year ago I had just gotten into the program. Now I am in the middle of it. It still scares me a bit (I have to take Statistics next term!) but even though it's going to suck for a while I don't think it's un-doable. Apparently flaky, literary, sci fi Cantabridgienne can handle Activity Based Costing and Work Breakdown Structures.

I am not happy about the fact that I have sub-standard gifts to give this year. But having finished one class I can look forward to actually baking cookies and listening to Christmas music and pulling my youngest nephew *away* from the Christmas tree. Of course I want to give good presents, but since I've started MBA school, I myself have put a premium on presence and getting to see my niece and nephews without worrying about a paper due or a problem set.

So, I'm sad that I had to shop online for Christmas gifts, but this is because of a temporary thing (MBA School). This temporary thing is good for Cantabridgienne in the long run and I think that my family understands that. Especially since even if I give less than stellar gifts I will be able to be there body and soul when we bake Christmas cookies, and watch the kiddos rip through all the presents, and eat Christmas dinner.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Storage Attached Network

Today I learned what a Storage Attached Network (SAN) is.

My employer is merging with another firm that provides the same services we do (Fee-Only Wealth Management). I can say this now publicly, since the press release has gone out. As part of this merger deal we need to find a way to share network resources with this other firm located in New Jersey. My job has been to work with a colleague in the New Jersey office to find an outsourced IT partner that would provide us with a way to do this.

We had a potential outsourced IT partner in the office today to present their proposal. They had e-mailed us the proposal previously and a component of it was, apparently, a Storage Attached Network. What is a Storage Attached Network?

I decided I should figure this out. I did online research. As far as I could tell, this was a box that housed a bunch of RAIDed drives and could hold a big honking amount of data. Great. But how is this different from any other network attached device (a NAS or a Snap or a plain ol’ server with lots of disk space?)

The outsourced IT partner had brought in an army of consultants from Dell to explain to us why we wanted a SAN. They had PowerPoint slides. They had jargon, all of which, they assured us we would be unable to understand (I love it when my vendors talk down to me!) but which they felt compelled to fling around. In the middle of their talk one of my colleagues mentioned that he used to work for EMC and, y’know, write software to deal with This Sort of Thing all the time. We think that might have shortened their talk a little and perhaps convinced them that we weren’t idiots.

They succeeded in explaining to me at least that a SAN was a very cool thing indeed, but they didn’t answer my fundamental question of what it was. And ultimately, as cool as the concept was, no one succeeded in convincing me or my colleagues why having one would help us with our main goal-being able to share network resources with the office in New Jersey.

I didn’t actually understand what an SAN was until later in the day when I wandered over to my colleague’s cubicle to ask him what he thought of the presentation. During our discussion he explained that SANs used to be wicked expensive and that no outfit smaller than American Airlines would be interested in one until (apparently) recently. “They don’t have Ethernet connectors. They have these funny looking things with light and fibers…” he said “Fiber optical connection?” I asked. “Exactly.” So that’s what one of these is. It’s a big honking network attached device that connects through fiber optics. Fiber is faster than Cat 6 (Ethernet) cable. That’s not a difficult concept to absorb. But somehow I hadn’t gotten it from Wikipedia’s article. The article did mention fiber networks, but it lead me to believe these were old school (from the 90s) and therefore I was unsure how relevant this information was in 2010.

The Dell guys, who talked at us for an hour, didn’t mention this. The outsourced IT provider didn’t mention this. But in a five minute conversation with my co-worker I figured out what the big deal was*.

What have I learned from this? Well it reinforces some of the happy teamwork memes I’ve been so busy absorbing at MBA school. Reading stuff on the Internet is not always enough. Sometimes you need an actual human, or, more importantly, a human who knows you and knows how to explain things to you to help you understand things.

*It also has other neat features which I gathered from the presentation, but those are mostly interesting from a disaster recovery point of view and don’t necessarily make it any more attractive than NASes and don’t explain why these things are so farking expensive.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Happy Thanksgiving

To paraphrase Martin Amis, no one but Tolstoy can write about happiness and still be interesting. I believe there’s some truth to that (to quote the man himself “All happy families are alike…”) This is therefore going to be a rather boring post.

I have never really been a fan of Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, we’d usually fight the traffic between New York and Massachusetts to come to Grandma’s house in Beverly. There we’d dress for dinner and eat New England food-mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, turkey and pies. Nothing had any garlic in it. I always felt that it was a silly ritual. And my sister and I always had Homework to do over the weekend. This is not to say it was never fun. One year my mom had read that the best thing to do for a turkey was to soak a pair of men’s briefs in butter and put them over the bird. So she went out and bought a pair of XL BVDs to put over the bird. I could hear her laughing from several rooms away and came into the kitchen to see what the fuss was about. And dessert was always interesting. Dad would bring Mozart balls (chocolates with hazelnuts and almond paste) and the weirdest fruits he could find in Brooklyn (star fruits, kiwis and quinces) to eat along with grandma’s pies. But the holiday has never been a favorite of mine.

For the past few years I’ve quit going down to New York for Thanksgiving because it’s not much fun at all and they’re going to see me again in a month. Even staying up here and having it with friends, it’s still not my favorite holiday. This year I found myself looking forward to Thanksgiving for the first time in-ever*. It would be a chance to relax and eat a lot among friends and not have anything to do for Work or School. I mentioned this to my best friend, who was hosting this year-along with her husband and she agreed-“I’m actually looking forward to Thanksgiving this year-when have you ever heard me say that before?” Never.

This year Thanksgiving was different for me than it had been in previous years. I feel that my friends found it different as well. Instead of “Oh God! We’ve got to have Thanksgiving. Round up the usual suspects!” It was more like a holiday. It was like a Sugar Mags breakfast date that went on all day. I haven’t seen much of my friends this term so I was looking forward to a day of eating good food, drinking good beer and enjoying my friends’ company. That’s more or less how it worked out. There were small crises-the liquor store wasn’t open so I donated an extra 5 pack in my fridge, the vegetarian stuffing had to be re-done (Thank you!), the bean dip wasn’t baked long enough to suit the chef’s taste (it was delicious though) and one of our friends had brought his computer up, because his reinstallation of Windows XP had not gone by the book and he wanted my help.

Normally, since people frighten me and I don’t know what to do in unorganized social situations I would have been glad to have an OS reinstall to do. This year I didn’t need it as an excuse to flee company, because I was actually happy to see everyone who showed up. I joked to my friend, who had brought his computer up that I felt like I was in high school again—all the polite company is downstairs but he and I were upstairs in the office trying to find a driver for the PCI bus.

But it’s not like I spent the whole time upstairs being anti-social. The hostess came to visit me and brought me beer and let me know when the pies were about to be cut so that I could go back downstairs in time. Other friends arrived with more pies (and tales of bouncing nieces).

I didn’t miss the cooking experience entirely either. I toasted some nuts for a friend of mine and watched and smelled as he made a nice sauce out of them with some wine and garlic. I also admired the bird. I don’t eat turkey or bacon, but a turkey covered in a bacon lattice with rosemary still smells heavenly. The chef is not only a wonderful cook but is also very aware of his wife’s friends’ dietary restrictions (I’m a seafood vegan, another friend is deathly allergic to milk, one of us is likewise allergic to nuts and another has a problem with spices.)

The chef had prepared to make much more food than was needed. When he said “we don’t need the salmon” I pointed out that I would eat it as would another friend. When the other friend arrived she thanked me for being pro-salmon.

Dirty jokes were made. Love lives were discussed. When the time came to eat everything was set on the table. I said that I felt like we needed to say grace. We agreed a toast would do “To Avoiding the Evil God for Another Year and To Good Friends!” Glasses were clinked. We agreed that part of the point of grace was to let people know it was okay to eat. And then we began to pass plates. It’s true we were all hungry and it’s true the chef does good work, but it was like a race to fill one’s plate. “How many brussel sprouts? How many scallops? With or without hollandaise sauce?” “Pass the shallot butter.” “CS Lewis wrote that then there was nothing heard for an hour but ‘pass the salt’ and the clinking of plates.”

Later, a neighbor came to borrow a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine. She knew she could count on us because she had seen me, the hostess and another friend headed back to the house with a 12 pack of Harpoon IPA and said “Hey!” while lifting her harpoon beer bottle to us this summer.

I mentioned to a few friends that this was a better Thanksgiving than we had all previously had together. Perhaps some of it is that we all are grown to be comfortable being ourselves—as opposed to defensive or unsure and we can just eat and drink together.

*not counting last year, when we had Green Cat Day with Indian food, Sondheim and chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

A year ago I had just moved up here and had finally sent in my application to UMass Boston's MBA program (but hadn't yet been accepted!) I had Thanksgiving with a good friend of mine from college. We ate Indian food. We made chocolate chip cookies. We drank a lot of beer. We sang Sondheim. We did not, in fact, dye the cat who lived at the house where my friend was house sitting-we only photoshopped the cat so it looked like we had dyed her.

Now I'm Ms. UMB MBA*. I bitch and moan a lot about school because it is time consuming and it is not always fun. But I feel like I have found my feet there. This is not at all down to anything UMB has done for me. This is due to my having been lucky enough to have good fellow students to work with as team mates.

It is true that my employment situation is far from ideal, but I feel that even the little MBA work I have done has given me more confidence and improved my relations with the friends/work partners I have at my place of employment. I say this hesitantly because they have a tendency to lay off my friends.

But we are all about being thankful now-not negative. I am thankful that when the professor in last night's class tried to launch a program to give us a demo (and we all suggested that perhaps he needed task manager) one of my classmates made me giggle by suggesting "I think it needs a nap."

I gave half of a ten minute presentation last night about a business case. While it wasn't "fun" in that it made me nervous and tied my stomach in knots, I enjoy collaboration and I enjoy feeling that we did a good job.

My sister drove her three children up to Massachusetts this summer so that they could hunt for hermit crabs on the beaches she and I had gone to as children and so they could see their Tia Cantabridgienne. My mom came along as well to help child herd. It was exhausting, but I'm awfully glad they did it.

My sister has also gotten a smartphone and joined facebook. So I can see pictures of her kids online or she can MMS them to me. Also, this makes it easier for us to share snarky commentary.

And of course, obviously there are my friends. Two of them got married this year, which gave me the opportunity to reconnect with old college friends and meet some of my facebook friends in meat-space (and their dogs!). I haven't seen enough of my friends these past few months because I am up to my eyeballs in MBA stuff, but they are still there (I'll see some of them tomorrow) and they are the duct tape that keeps me together. It's not just that they will lend me their iphones or advise me on editing problems--it's also that they will ask my advice on computer problems or trust me to water their plants and they will make me laugh until my tummy hurts.

*Well no, not really. After this term I'll have a whopping four courses under my belt and two that were waived out of eighteen total. I still have very little clue as to how the College of Management functions and I haven't talked to the IS department about declaring a specialty. But I can find classes in two buildings and I've started to get an idea about to think about the concepts presented and how to explain them to professors and my employer as well as what to expect from a class workload-wise. Or to put it another way, arriving on campus no longer fills me with dread of the unknowable.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Phone Fail!

Today, for the first time since September I had a weekend day on which I could totally goof off. I don't have my Accounting Class this week and I don't have to do the homework for Project Management this week because I've already done it. I have to present the business case the class has to read on Tuesday and my partner and I have been working on this for the past few weeks. So I've already done the reading (to say the least).
My buddies picked me up at 8:30 and I rode to Gloucester with their fluffy dog (in his pirate sweatshirt) on my lap.

We met up with another friend at Sugar Mags. Fritters were eaten. Coffee was drunk. Cohen Brothers' movies were discussed. All ate hollandaise sauce. While I like my academic life, it gives me great joy to discuss things other than Work Breakdown Structures, Critical Paths Risk Registers and Asset Impairment. I'm glad MBA Cantabridgienne exists, however it's nice to be plain old Cantabridgienne sometimes too.

We went shopping in Gloucester and bought several things. I went to Walgreens and discussed hair care products with two large men (both of whom have longer hair than I do.) I bought a bottle of water (because I was thirsty) and I put it in my purse. Because I live in New England, I prefer all my bags to be water tight. So even though this was just a handbag, it was water proof. This was problematic as I didn't close the top of the water bottle I had bought completely. One friend pointed out "you're dripping" and I noticed that I was carrying around a bag full of water-*with my iphone in it!*

I am clumsy and I am hard on my phones. They fall out of my pocket. I drop them. This is part of why I didn't own an iphone until last year. When the iphone first came out I thought it was a lovely invention, but it was more like a device I'd want to keep encased in velvet in a climate controlled safe than something I'd be willing to carry around all day. I finally caved because I realized that I needed the extra functionality that an iphone provides (more so than crackberry) and my iphone is one of the hubs on whic my life turns. It allows me to do what I need to get done be it socially, for school or for work.

Given all that I took the demise of my phone rather well I think. My friends did all they could to dry it off. They agreed to take me to an AT&T store and one of them had a spare iphone 3G which he could lend me (so that no matter what I could at least get telephone calls.) This was a big deal. As mentioned above, I have a presentation to give on Tuesday and I need to be able to talk to my partner about it in the interim. This was a bad time to have phone fail.

And this is why my friends are awesome. Because I'd spent a morning with them eating Sugar Mags breakfast and because they were helpful and reassuring and because one of them keeps all his old hardware (and so had a replacement phone for me) this was no big deal. I mean it kinda sucks but, I can still get phone calls. And ultimately, even if I do decide to upgrade now it's no big deal. But this is all no big deal because I spent the day hanging out with friends. If this had happened after a day of Accounting homework it would have been a horrible crisis.

As it was, I and one of my friends took the dog to the beach (before going to the Maul and the AT&T store) and the dog ran off the beach and dirtied his new sweater by finding a dead shark to roll in. Well, these things happen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So Howzit Going?

I am miserable, tired and cranky. Taking two courses is apparently much more effort than taking one (even if that one is MGT 650.) I miss having people around. I miss having breakfast at Sugar Mags and walking the dogs on good harbor beach afterwards. If I am not too busy to see people then I am too tired and bitchy to see people. This of course is a feedback loop and it makes me even crankier.

Work in my company is always busy this time of year (there’s lots to be done for clients before year end and there are budgets to be made and strategic planning to do) and I’ve felt like I don’t have the energy for it.

Tonight in Accounting class as I struggled to stay awake a thought occurred to me. “I don’t want to be an MBA candidate anymore.” All right, Cantabridgienne, I thought to myself, what would you prefer to be instead?

Clearly the first, obvious, answer was a kept woman. Since we’re daydreaming (although given that I was falling asleep I was close to “night dreaming") I imagined myself blearily kissing my theoretical keeper as he headed off the rat race (and an equally theoretical corgi jumped up into the warm spot on the bed) before going back to sleep until ten and then rising to walk on the beach with the (theoretical) dog before eating things covered in hollandaise sauce for breakfast. What could be better than that?

Certain problems with this plan occurred to me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we’re experiencing a severe dearth of Sugar Daddies on the North Shore right now. Also, this theoretical Sugar Daddy would probably expect that I would provide certain services for which I have no aptitude and in which I have no interest. He might want me provide weird sexual favors or he might want me to clean and wear high heels and makeup (ew). Worse, he might want children (shudder). But more to the point, even if there was some wonderful millionaire who was happy to keep me as a trophy wife in spite of my disinterest in things like cleaning or decorating I have no interest in being a lap dog. It’s not that I have a problem with providing devotion or saying “How was your day dear?” It’s just that I don’t want to be in a situation where no one ever asks me “and how was your day dear?” No one ever asks the dog that. And while it would be nice to be fed and cared for, I feel like if I was (even under the most ideal circumstances) I’d be a pet. I don’t want to be a pet. I’m way to fond of my independence. So clearly I cannot be a kept woman.

The next alternative that occurred to me is that I could go back to Bunker Hill finish my Database Management Certificate, get Oracle certification and go be a DBA (that’s Database Administrator-not Doing Business As) somewhere. I could sit in a back office and never have to talk to another human being again during business hours. This plan has a certain appeal. For one thing it’s more easily done. (In fact this *was* my plan before I ditched it to go to business school). For another I’d never have to do another group project again. I’d never have to edit a group paper again! I’d much rather do SQL problem sets than Accounting problem sets. I’d never have to take any course that scared me. This is a failure point.

If I did this I’d be choosing my career path based on my weaknesses (avoiding dealing with people because they either scare or bore me) and I feel that this would be a bad idea. For one thing, I’m pretty sure employers would prefer to hire a 22 year old kid over me (because I’d be more expensive than a 22 year old.) For another it would get old quickly. I am not knocking DBAs but deciding to become one because you hate people (as opposed to because you like building databases and mining data) is a bad idea.

So apparently I’m stuck being an MBA candidate-even though dealing with other people scares me and this is a degree in Dealing With People. Even though I’ll have to take more classes in Accounting and I’ll have to take classes in Finance (the horror!) Even though I am not getting what I want out of my Project Management class and Accounting hurts my head and the thought of taking the rest of the classes I have to get through scares me.

Because it scares me it is the right thing to do. Or rather, because of the way it scares me it is the right thing to do. With a few possible exceptions (Statistics, Finance) these things don’t scare me because I’m not smart enough to do them-they scare me because they will be a pain in the ass to deal with. There will be Difficult teammates and schedules to juggle and there will be concepts I don’t get because I didn’t spend enough time with the text book. There will be ineffective professors and not enough sleep. But the thing is that none of this is stuff I can’t do. So I’ll keep at it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Perspective-A Conversation with Mom

I talked to my mom tonight. I don't get a chance to talk to my family on a weekly basis because of all of the schoolwork I've got this term. I had seen my parents a few weeks ago when they were in-state for a wedding Gloucester (I had been studying for my accounting midterm at the time. This probably made me about as much fun as a barrel full of tax-law professionals.) My parents know that I'm kinda stressed out-work is always extra Fun in fourth quarter and I've got two classes this term. While I am learning stuff in both of them, school is kind of stressing me out. The amount of time it's going to take to complete my degree is starting to depress me. Accounting is Hard-and it's an intro course. This means that I'm going to have to take several more advanced courses that make my head hurt in the same way. My IT Project Management class (for which I had high hopes) is not actually teaching me very much.

It was this second concern I talked with my mom about. I am concerned that while I may do well enough in this class (most of the work is team work and my team has some solid members, I've actually done some project management work before etc) what is going to happen if I sign up for a class that this professor offers in something I *don't* already know how to do?

My mom's advice, while not particularly applicable in this situation is worth noting anyways. "Who's the most senior professor you've had? Find the most powerful person you know and tell them about your problem." This advice worked brilliantly for navigating a New York City Public School. I can see it working in a variety of settings (which is why I'm mentioning it on the inter-webs) but it's not going to help me out right now.

Mom's second remark was that I should always remember that "In literature and in life people make mistakes..." This phrase is the start of an essay question from a literature exam. I can't remember whether or not this is from an exam that she took in college or from one of the New York State Regents exams she had to grade (or maybe both?) It doesn't really matter. It's a classic start to a literature essay question and it is a truism. It's one of the things that we say to each other. It's a "cultural object" (to use MBA speak) between us. I have no idea whether mom says this to everyone she deals with or just to me. It doesn't matter. When she said it it put me at ease.

I can't tell you exactly what it means to means to me (if I could it wouldn't be *special*) but part of what it means to me is that I can use the same brain that I used to analyze Sartre and Camus to analyze next year's technology budget or business school case studies and Accounting problem sets. Part of is just the high five or the handshake we can give each other over speaker-phone. You are still my mom and I'm still you're daughter. I am still a literature/language person even if I'm taking Accounting this term.

My snarky response was that while you may learn in your undergraduate education that "in literature as in life people make mistakes" in you MBA education they teach you how to profit from other people's mistakes. Mom laughed at this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Perspective or the MBA Progam one year in

On the shuttle over to UMB tonight I realized that it’s probably been about a year since I sent them my application. I am awfully glad I did (obviously). And I wonder why the Hell I didn’t get off my butt and do this three years ago. I mean, I know why I didn’t do it-it was going to be too hard, I couldn’t possibly be smart enough, and the biggest one-what if I failed or didn’t get in?

Well it certainly is hard. Even when it’s easy it’s hard. What does that mean? It means that there’s no getting by on Native Brilliance. Even if I know that I (or I and my team) can slam-dunk* something, there’s still prep work to be done. Even if I can see that this paper is going to write itself I’m not going to wait for the night before it’s due to start it (like I used to as an undergrad…)

I have certainly learned a few things in the past year (not all of which are on the curricula of the courses I’ve taken.) Things like-bring snacks, if something’s bothering you, you should probably bring it up, analyzing business cases is no different than analyzing literature, etc. My assumption going in-that I was getting a degree in Stuff I Already Knew-has proved mostly false. In general I am glad of that.

It’s true that the class I had looked forward to taking the most-IT Project Management-has not taught be to be a better project manager (all it has taught me a bunch of buzz words and acronyms) and that some of the things that they are teaching are, I feel, of questionable value (how many times to I have to hear about MBTI and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and are these things really going to make me a better manager?)

However, my Accounting class has taught me a decent amount, not just about accounting, but about business in general. It has taught me to reframe the things I already know. It provides a clear framework for making decisions. It’s an interesting class to take along with IT Project Management because they deal with some of the same concepts (particularly when talking about costs). Ironically, I was rather hoping that the Project Management Course would provide me with a better framework for making decisions, but all that course has done is muddy the waters (you can use these three complicated metrics to determine what the project will cost and if it’s on schedule BUT you’re still just guessing. Oh and IT Projects almost always run over budget.)

The thing that strikes me the most about the Accounting class is that the professor is always saying that Accounting doesn’t drive strategy-it supports it. This means that if the owners decide that they are going to finance a new initiative with magic beans and fairy dust accounting has to come up with a way to, well, account for all of that. I work in IT (theoretically anyways.) The same principle should apply there. IT doesn’t drive decisions-it just supports them. Somehow, that’s not how it works. Whether it’s because accountants are more meek than IT staff or because IT, unlike Accounting, involves real physical things as opposed to just numbers it seems to me that where I work and in the cases I read there is a feeling that IT is driving the bus. Furthermore, from my own experience I have to say that sometimes that’s true (and things would just be so much easier if they let us drive more often!) However, where I work often it’s Compliance that’s driving—so maybe accountants just rolled over when they should have been more aggressive (see also Enron.)

The thing is that while I miss having more free time to sleep in, eat things covered in hollandaise sauce, walk on the beach, see my friends etc. I don’t regret school-even when it makes me miserable and jumpy. It’s true that I wish that I’d done this three years ago. It’s also true that I can see why some of my friends might look down on an MBA. Taking Accounting and Finance classes is hard, and succeeding at passing them is satisfying, but it would be much more personally satisfying to take classes in writing or literature. There’s no getting around that. However, I picked a path and the Masters Degree on that path is an MBA. And the next time I hear someone sneer about how an MBA is not a "real" graduate degree I'll bring up Accounting.

*I’m afraid that Business School has probably not improved my metaphors

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Birthday to Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni was first presented on October 29, 1787. It was not, I believe, initially well received. Saliari in Amadeus said it played only nine times. It was one of three collaborations between Wolfgang Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte. The three operas on which these two men collaborated—Cozze fan Tutte, Le Nozze de Figaro and Don Giovanni are often rated some of the best operas ever. Because this is a blog, I’m going to be lazy and not provide citations. Google it. When I was a kid reading my parents big book of Opera, Don Giovanni was listed as the best opera ever. Why?

Well Mozart wrote the book. I like Gilbert and Sullivan and I like Verdi, but Mozart wrote some of the best music ever. To make a musical theatre work really great it’s best if the librettist and the composer collaborate (see Gilbert and Sullivan.) And I think there’s some evidence that they did-at any event they produced three operas together.

But why is Don Giovanni so awesome-why not Figaro instead. After all, Le Nozze de Figaro is comedy and romance and Don Giovanni is dark comedy and people behaving badly.

I have to admit that I was initially drawn to the opera by the super-natural element of it. The Comandatore comes from beyond the grave in the final act to demand that Don Giovanni repent. The Don refuses. What are these sins for which he must repent? Well he’s a womanizer-he’s Don Juan, he’s a jerk to Leporello his faithful servant (when he gets caught sexually harassing Zerlina for the third time he claims that it was Leporello and threatens to kill him) and he killed the Comandatore in a duel.

I hate to try and defend the guy, because there’s no question that he’s a narcissistic asshole, but nothing he does (with the possible exception of seducing ladies of quality-Donna Anna and Donna Elvira) fall out of the norm of expected behavior for noblemen in the 1700s. They mistreated their servants and seduced/raped girls like Zerlina all the time. They got into altercations and killed each other in duels every now and again.

So why exactly is he such a problem? I have spent a while thinking about this and I don’t have an answer for it. Perhaps it’s just because an Opera needs a plot point on which to turn. I have given some thought to the other characters as well. Zerlina is the bride to be who Don Giovanni almost succeeds in seducing with La ci darem la mano. She and her husband to be (Masetto) present themselves at first as poster children for marriage. After their encounter with the Don they quarrel repeatedly. I find this dynamic interesting and actually reflective of real human behavior in a way that a lot of musical theatre isn’t.

The interactions between Don Giovanni and Leporello are also very real. Even though Don Giovanni mistreats him and is ready to kill him at one point in time Leporello is re-seduced by the Don’s charm into continuing to serve him. He is the most interesting character in the whole mix because although he realizes his boss is a dick he wants to be like the Don and he’s incredibly loyal. A smart, loyal servant is worth his/her weight in gold.

The rest of the characters are, I’m sorry to say, mostly annoying. It’s not really clear how Don Giovanni ended up in Donna Anna’s bedroom but she’s got a grudge against him. Her fiancĂ© and the only tenor in the opera is just there for decoration. Don Elvira is an annoyed ex girlfriend.

And somehow, in spite of these annoying characters this opera often gets chosen as the best opera ever-how is that? Well if you can’t figure that out pull Samuel Ramey singing fin ch’han dal vino or la ci darem la mano and you will have your answer. Don Giovanni seduces-that’s his nature. He seduces Leporello to remain in his (the Don’s ) service and Mozart and Da Ponte have provided him with the prettiest words and notes possible so that we, the audience are seduced by him as well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Accounting Dork Moment

I get so little joy out of my Accounting class that I thought I should write this one up. I hate my Accounting class. That's not Accounting's fault. I like the precepts of accrual accounting-they make sense to me in the same way that IT or Compliance make sense to me because they are logical and they have rules. I like rules. It's just that taking Accounting requires that I do math. I'm really bad at math. That's what Excel is for. Even with a calculator I am still bad at math. I do things like move a number from one side of the equation to the other and forget to switch the sign. To be fair, I haven't had to do any math since 1994 until Summer term (not counting the GMAT), so this is not entirely my fault.

So here's my happy Accounting story. My boss sent me an e-mail saying that he had about $10,000 of computer equipment on his balance sheet. He explained that he usually expenses computer equipment in the year it was purchased so could I help him figure out what this $10,000 of computer equipment was? I had a happy moment where I said to myself "Oooh! I know what he means. He means his non-cash assets are too high by $10,000!"

For those of you who are as I was until 2 months ago unfamiliar with the principals of accounting, things are usually expensed when they are "used up". For example-you buy a bunch of books you're going to sell. You sell them. Once you have sold them they are "used up" and you expense the cost you paid for them. Rent and electricity bills are expensed-you have "used up" a month's occupancy or a month's worth of electricity. The toner that you buy for your printers is expensed as is the cab fare that you paid. By telling me that the company usually expenses computers in the year that they were bought he was telling me that this $10,000 non-cash asset on his balance sheet was probably equipment that I had bought it the last year.

Normally, computers are not expensed. The company guesses what the useful life of the machine is, marks it as non-cash asset at its purchase price and then depreciates it over the course of its expected useful life. For example, If I buy a server for $15,000 and I expect that it will last 5 years it goes on the company's balance sheet as a non-cash asset worth $15,000 at day one and after a year it is written down by 1/5 of the purchase price-that is we estimate that 1/5 of it is used up so we say it is now worth $12,000 and we have an expense of $3,000 for depreciation. At the end of 5 years, it is worth whatever we thought its salvage value was when we purchased it (whatever we thought we could sell it on Craig's List for.)

I know this is not how things operate where I work because my boss has yet to ask me what the expected useful life of anything I buy is. We are a small non-public company so we don't have to follow GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.) I asked my boss when he showed up what exactly he was looking for with his query. After all, whenever I buy something I send the receipt to the bookkeeper.

Luckily, he didn't need me to do the bookkeper's job and match all my receipts up to make sure they totalled the asset value he had on the balance sheet-he just wanted to make sure that the number made sense to me. I told him it did and we both walked away happy. A rare and pleasant thing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Balance and Mental Health

As any of you who read this blog may have noticed, I have been going nuts since even before this term started about how to handle two classes and a full time job. As I've probably stated before, I have continued going nuts through this term-not because I'm not smart enough to deal with either of my classes, but because there isn't enough time to do the work for both of them, while having a huge commute and working full time and trying to keep up with my friends. The keeping up with friends thing is huge, because I would crazy without it.

These people-you people-make it worthwhile to keep breathing and validate my existence in a way that is much more important than my GPA. You install my air conditioner, laugh at my jokes, take my advice on PC cleanup, lend me your dog for a day, recommend good movies and books to me, offer me your textbooks, yell at me when I'm not eating properly, help edit my papers, bring your small children to MA so that they can hang with their Tia Cantabridgienne, answer the phone when I call at 10:30 and say "HELP!", take me out for a drink when I need it drive me to Sugar Mags for my Hollandaise sauce therapy and help me clean my apartment so that I can host parties.

So you help keep me sane. Part of my problem this term was that I realized that I have a lot of work to do, but if I don't see my people-my pack I go nuts. Seeing my people is as important as eating and getting work done at my job. The other side of the equation is that because I have such nice people in my life I owe it to them to be as good a friend as I can (within the restraints of working full time and getting an MBA.) Tonight good friends of mine who are going to be out of town for a while wanted to hang out. I've got a lot of studying to do for an Accounting exam next week (I've fallen behind because I had a paper and a presentation due in my other class and because I hate doing Accounting problem sets.) I was hard at work reading about bond amortization schedules (and finally understanding them) when my friends texted me and said "hey come out." Part of me really wanted to stay at home and study Accounting some more, but what tipped the scales was that I owe my friends some time. It's not just about me-it's about them (you all) too.

Once I framed the argument in terms of things I owed other people my course was clear. Clearly I needed to go out and meet my friends for a few beers. I'm not just joking about this (who wouldn't prefer a few beers with friends to a problem set on bond amortization?) My people keep me sane. As such I need to be good people to them as much as I can as much for my own sanity as for my obligation to them. If they/you want to see me, want your plants watered, your PC looked at, your dog taken care of for a day or two, then I am happy to do what I can to oblige you.

Having my pack has made me a much saner individual than I was previously. People don't scare me as much as they used to (now that I know that there are some people I can interact with, do business with and work with at school I'm less afraid of presenting myself to strangers.) I know that I'm not a total freak who is unworthy of anybody's time and who can't deal with humans. Having a pack and going to school has taught me that I had been judging myself by the wrong criteria (or the wrong set of people's criteria.)

I don't know how to sum this all up except by saying thanks for making me saner. I had been hiding in my cave in Cambridge and minimize my friend exposure because I was scared of what people would require of me in return for being their friend. That was stoopid of me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Things my Screen Saver Taught Me

I spent yesterday at UMB working with my IT Project Management group on the paper that's due Tuesday and the presentation that we have to give Tuesday. It took all day. I came home and spent a few hours editing the paper and then spent all of today editing the paper and talking with teammates.

As I pulled up various documents I couldn't help but notice the changing backgrounds on my computer's screen (the background is set to use photos from iPhoto's library and change them regularly.) Earlier today it showed a picture of me and my ex-boyfriend from Thanksgiving 2008. Now it's showing a picture of a family friend at a party my parents had in 2009. A month or so after I took that photo, the family friend (who was in good health and is younger than my parents) had a severe stroke while out jogging. The lesson I'm taking away from both of these photos is that time is short. Make sure you are spending your time in a worthwhile fashion.

As I mentioned I spent yesterday in a classroom at UMB. Even though it was a beautiful October day I don't think my time was ill-spent. I spent the day refining ideas with my team-mates. That is time well spent. It's fun to think together. It is the one thing that makes the rest of the pain and suffering (loss of sleep, loss of weekend, loss of social life, living on Odwalla bars etc) worthwhile. Yes, getting to put MBA after my name will be nice too, but in the meantime I have this-constructive collective thinking and good partnerships to keep me sane.

Last night I talked to one of my teammates on the phone about a paper part. At one point he asked me "are we having a discussion about capitalization?" I responded "Yes, we're having a discussion about capitalization at 10:30 on a Saturday night." Because we were having a discussion about what needed to be capitalized in the Work Breakdown Structure that he was working on. I did not say "and that means we both need to get lives" because neither of us would be where we were (discussing capitalization on a Saturday night) if this was not where we wanted to be.

I spent all of today editing a paper and discussing the paper and the presentation with teammates. As a result I'm beat. Would it have been more fun to have done something else with my Sunday (anything else-including cleaning the bathroom) absolutely. Do I feel like my time was ill spent? No. And in the end that's what counts. It's more important than grades or the name of the institution that gives you letters after your name.

But there are other components to time well spent as well-I dropped my Summer II course because two of my best friends were getting married last August. Getting an MBA is important to me. But I can take statistics anytime-I only had one shot at being a good friend to my friends who were getting married.

I am doing my best to make sure that my time is well spent. Right now that means doing a bunch of things that aren't much fun (paper editing & accounting problem sets) but I can't help but feel that i am putting my shoulder to the right wheels. And that's a nice feeling-perhaps it will help me unclench my teeth a bit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Well I for One Feel Much Better Now

I went to UMB to meet with my IT Project Management team today. We spent all day laying out the paper we needed to present and working on an outline. In my humble opinion, we should have done this exercise weeks ago. We spent face-time working together and we took all the tools we need to use out of the box and tried them together.

This was amazingly helpful to me. It also reinforced some of the things I learned in my first class namely 1) You learn more from your fellow students than you do from the proff 2) Do your heavy-lifting up front-if you do a good job in your initial planning phase you can reuse your work later on. 3) If one person is talking someone else had better be writing .4) Bring food. 5) take breaks 6) if at all possible-work on it until it is done—take all day if you need to because you have momentum if you keep working.

This is what is happens when teams work well together. Of course, the problem with working with other people is that they are people-not computers. They have other demands on their time or they may just decide to dick you over. I had concerns walking into today’s meeting. I’ve worked with one of my team-mates before and I know he is solid-the others were unknown quantities. I had a pretty good idea they were all smart-I just didn’t know how much effort they were willing to invest in this project we had to do. One of them had to leave early because he has to work on Saturday nights, but he had already signed up to write several parts of the paper so it wasn’t like he was bailing on us. The other three of them stayed until 7:30 and were helpful the entire time. We started getting punchy around 4:30.

I am not sure how helpful I was anytime after 6:00 PM, but even though we were all tired (and sick of sitting in UMB chairs-by the end of the evening we were all standing and I was doing a lot of bouncing on my heels to work off nervous energy) we were getting it done.

I like having partners who are willing to do the work. It makes the whole thing (Spending a sunny Saturday in a classroom and eating nothing but Odwalla bars all day) worthwhile.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

working some of the Jibblies out

Last night I left left work a few minutes early so that I could walk to school instead of taking the shuttle bus. This was a new development for me. It's true that places I'd rather be than work are mostly limited to jail, the emergency room and a dentist's office. But the idea that being at school-at UMB-was an okay place to be, a place I was more comfortable being to think things out (since my existence since about September 7th, when school started has mostly consisted of crisis, crisis and more crisis whether it be school related or work related) is a step in the right direction. Sometime in the end of Spring term, I started to feel like UMB was a place I went for unpleasant things to happen to me. Apparently I've gotten over that.

This doesn't mean I'm okay with my course-load this term. If you ask me how it's going any time in the next few months my response is likely to be "AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" but I'm not blaming UMB for that. I just mean that I feel like UMB is an okay place for me to be. I no longer feel afraid of being there. I don't feel like I'm a poseur who has no business being there. I don't feel formless dread. It's true I don't have many friends there, but the place itself is becoming friendly to me. That's a good thing.

Especially since I got back an Accounting Exam last night. I got a B. An 87. This is the lowest grade I've gotten so far. I am not particularly bothered by this. I briefly wondered whether or not this should bother me since all of my teammates, none of which I think are smarter than me, are all about maintaining their strait A averages. I'm assuming this means that all these guys got A's in Accounting. Well I probably won't get an A in Accounting. But that doesn't surprise me or concern me overly. I'm not a quant-I'm a verbal. I can understand recording revenue as earned and expenses as incurred, but if you ask me to actually compute some of this I'm lost. So while I'm a little disappointed about the B since I studied all weekend for this exam I'm not crushed-I could have blown it and I didn't. I can do better and, more importantly, I have more confidence in the program. Any university that gives me an easy A in Accounting is suspect. Again, it's not that I'm dumb it's just that my talent is not with numbers.

So yeah, we are normalizing our AAAAAAA! and it's working out well, sorta.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Jibblies

I had hoped a month or so ago that the anxiety I was feeling about taking two courses at the same time would dissipate once I actually started doing the coursework. That has not happened. One of my courses has lots of group deliverables and very little weekly homework. The other one has no group work and a heavy weekly homework assignment. My courses are on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and my Tuesday night course tends to run over which means that I miss the 9:30 train and have to take the 10:40 train (arriving at home at about 11:40.) This means that all my homework has to be done by Tuesday morning. I had an exam in my Wednesday course last week. I took Friday afternoon and Wednesday off to study for it (and studied all weekend.) Ironically, the more difficult course in my mind is the one with the lower course number (610 as opposed to 630) but it's Accounting and the other course is IT Project Management. I don't mean to boast or anything, but I've done IT project management (as have several of my teammates) but I've never done much with accounting. Also, it involves math-not hard math, but doing calculations-even with a calculator is just not something I can do after 8 PM.

I find myself with No Free Time. Worse than that though is the way my teeth haven't unclenched for the past 7 days and the feeling I had this morning (which is becoming familiar to me) of it being Sunday and me having a butt-load of homework to do and having to go into work tomorrow. Never mind all the other things that need doing-the mold in my bathroom or the dishes in my sink or the laundry or the cooking and grocery shopping (or the fact that I haven't talked to my parents in almost 3 weeks.) There's no time for any of these things because my time is spent on work-related stuff or school related stuff. I'm capable of working hard and I'm capable of working a lot but if I don't see my friends I will go nuts and if I don't go grocery shopping I will starve.

The combination of all these things makes me start panicking on Sunday-no matter how much homework I do it's still not all done by Tuesday. I wake up on Monday with my teeth clenched and my stomach tied in a knot. Tuesday and Wednesday I just roll with the punches-there's not much I can do but accept what happens. Thursday I am a zombie and by Friday I'm begging for mercy. I will do what I can-taking time off to catch up on homework-but things are interesting at work so if I take time off I pay for it when I get back.

Damn, this term is hard.

Friday, October 8, 2010

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

And I am feeling ambivalent. Obviously, I am not *anti* breast cancer awareness. One of my first jobs as a high school kid was working as a medical secretary at a breast-surgeon/oncologist's office. Some of the women who came in were only a few years older than I was (I was 17 at the time.) We even had one male patient. The clinic was on East 72nd street in Manhattan and catered to upper-class women. We had patients who were wives of famous men, broadway stars and at least one lady who sang at the Met. It didn't matter what these women did or who they were or how rich they were when they were sitting in the waiting room. They were all terrified.

So I wouldn't say that I am anti-breast cancer awareness. It's just that a lot of the stuff makes me cringe. I feel like the people who have designed this campaign have made certain assumptions about femininity none of which apply to me or any of my female friends. For example, I'm pretty sure we all hate pink.

I guess what's bothering me is that when an actual women's-issue gets airtime it does so with certain assumptions that don't apply to me or most of the women I know (including the stay at home moms.) It seems to me that the people in charge of the marketing campaign have sold it to the rest of the world with an overdose of cuteness (teddy bears and pink ribbons.) Um, neither I nor most of the women I like qualify as cute unless your definition of cute includes "has fangs." I realize that pink was the obvious color to choose for breast cancer ribbons but I feel that there's a "cutsie" meme pervading in the Breast Cancer Awareness culture (for lack of a better phrase.) And that make me angry. It makes me feel like some people felt that there the best way to make people think more about breast cancer (make women do their self breast examinations, make lawmakers and pharmaceutical companies spend more money on finding cures or early detection/preventative medicine) was to make the whole thing cute. Let's not have angry women demanding that we do something about this disease-let's make them sweet and cute.

I say this knowing that for breast cancer awareness to have gotten as mainstream as it has several angry women (many of them with no hair and single or double mastectomies) must have done some work in the past. I do not mean to belittle what they've done. And

In the end, however mad it makes me, I can forgive the cutsiness factor, and the lowest common denominator factor (ladies-don't you all just want chocolate?) to a certain degree because I feel it's intended to remind us all-survivors and other women that we are all women-no matter how many breasts we have and we all share some common interests-like making sure that legislators, doctors, and heads of pharmaceutical companies do the math on prevention, early diagnosis and least invasive/heroic healing of breast cancer.

That's far more important than where you like to leave your purse.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More Fun at UMB

Tonight I got my first introduction to Microsoft Project. My IT project management class is not going quite the way I'd hoped it would-my project team of five includes three people (including me) with some experience implementing IT projects and I had begun to suspect that we would all be better off if we didn't know a thing about IT-my suspicions were confirmed when we talked to the professor tonight. The professor is vague and unclear and always goes over time.

Tonight, as a special treat we got to go work in a computer lab on MS Project. The professor had a handout of things to do. The handout was written assuming we'd be using Project 2007. The lab had Project 2010 installed. Apparently they're a bit different.

Trying to get the project done was like learning a piece of new software while sitting in North Station. Instead of the announcements being "Now loading on Track 5 is the 5:40 PM train to Newburyport" the announcements were 1)the professor suggesting certain things and 2) getting them wrong and having someone else from the class correct him and telling everyone what to do (even though very few of my classmates have used Project before we are mostly IT types who are used to figuring out software and helping others figure it out. I would have been highly amused by the class offering usage tips to the Prof if I hadn't just been annoyed.) but even so the interruptions were mostly distracting. One of my team mates was sitting next to me-he spoke to me in soothing tones when it looked like I was frustrated. That helped.

But UMB? Get your ass together! I've taken technical classes at Bunker Hill and the lab write-up for what we had to do was always better written and (and this is important!) matched the software/hardware that was *actually* installed on the computers we had to work on. If I'm about to train people on a piece of software I make sure that it's installed on the PC(s) I'm about to train them on and that the training materials that I've written up correspond with what they are going to experience. I'm not a Rocket Scientist (or even a Rock Scientist) but this is common sense. Furthermore, I don't just hand them the training material and tell them to "have at" I lead them through the process.

So that was fun.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hippy Dippy

This was not the post I meant to write-I meant to write all about how I was settling in after 1 year of the Beverly experiment (official as of 10/1/10). But I don't have time to write that. I do have enough time to write this up-which I suppose does tell you something about how I'm settling after a year.

I got up at 6:30 this morning so that I could go meet my project team for my IT Project Management class in town. It was not ideal-we could only meet for 1.5 hours and the trip into town and back takes me 3 hours. But there are 5 of us this term and we badly needed to meet. This was the only period of time this week in which we could all be there so even though it was inconvenient and not at all enough time to discuss all we had to talk about into town I went. The team project for this class is to find an IT project that needs to be done and write up the project plan for whatever the project is-we don't have to implement it we just have to write up a document that we could hand to someone else who could then "make it so." The specifications are general enough so that if, for example, the project involves a web portal we don't need to design the portal-just list "Hire somebody to develop a portal" on the list of to-dos.

We were meeting so that the team member who had a project for us could explain what the project. He explained. We peppered him with questions. I would not call myself an experienced IT project manager. But I have done an implementation or two and the biggest project I've managed was the implementation of a document management system. And this project was a small scale DMS.

I love our DMS. It is my baby. I'm the person at our company who insisted that we needed one and as I mentioned above I oversaw it's roll out (and I have the scars to prove it!) Consequently, I think I can say I know something about the kind of project we were supposed to plan and what would make it work well. The list of requirements listed by the guy who's project this was set off several alarm bells in my head. Apparently I wasn't the only one.

After the meeting I spent about 1.5 hours on the phone with another team mate. We had worked together before and we were used to batting ideas back and forth over the phone. During this time we came up with several better project ideas than the one presented to us. It was a fascinating conversation. It would have bored most of you silly. During the discussion I mentioned how the Client (the people who want to implement this document management system) were being rather "Hippy Dippy" (without going into too much detail, they want the users to be able to file things however they please without imposing standards on them.) Normally, the phrase "Hippy Dippy" applies to me-my politics are far left, my apartment is a mess, I write and hang out with creative-writer types of people, I don't wear makeup, I dress comfortably and have a fondness for the Beatles.

However, apparently my love of free-flowing creativity apparently stops at the door labeled IT Project Management (If not there then certainly at the door marked Document Management Implementation-I was calling our DMS the "File Nazi"-and I meant it as a compliment until I was told that perhaps that nomenclature might not go down well with some people.) When I'm in project manager mode I want my terms defined. I want my deliverables defined ("What is the business need?") I need people to do the math (not-me I'm terrible at it). I need a few definite principles to which I can put my back. There must be rules or I cannot give you anything. But just as important, these rules need to apply to not just me, but whoever is using the...whatever the project is that we have just implemented. IT project implementation does not just involve installing a shiny new piece of software on everyone's desktop-they have to use it. They have to use it according to the rules under which it was designed or it will have no value. Somebody has to explain this to them. And if they design work arounds to avoid using it then the project will fail and I will have no sympathy for them.

It's funny, I was recently thinking that I cannot be anything other than Cantabridgienne-whether I was at work or at play. I've just had an illustration of this being untrue-I am not a free thinking Hippy when I'm in IT Project mode. Furthermore, a friend of mine and I were just discussing our various selves (to simplify-sometimes you're on *your* turf and things that would bug you in other situations do not worry you at all)and although I thought about it, I couldn't quite define the differences between my various selves (Work Self, Sugar Mags Self, UMB Self etc.) So I was pleasantly surprised to have one aspect of my personality illustrated. It's not the same as knowing what is my home turf-the one area where I have the confidence to state my opinions and follow through on my own ideas without digesting my own stomach-but it's a start.

And it's more than I knew a year ago about myself.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back in School

I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew this semester. I signed up for two classes instead of just one because 1)it seemed like a good idea this summer when I was taking a summer session (and therefore double-time) class and still having time to be bored (because it was slow at work and everyone I knew was out of town) and 2) Because I needed to see if I could do 2 classes at once-I have 16 classes (not counting this term) to do and I would like to get my MBA before I am 60. I picked two classes in subjects that I actually wanted to learn about. I have Accounting (that's a core requirement) and IT Project Management (which is an elective but since it's part of what I do for a living I thought it might help.)

The good news is that in the Project Management course I get to work with my reliable team mate from MGT 650 so I know at least one person on the team and i know he's reliable-I will not be left holding the bag. Accounting has no group work at all! So I have only one team to deal with. The bad news is that both courses carry a heavy weekly homework burden. Either of them alone would be no big deal but with both I'm still feeling twitchy. I have class on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. This means that everything needs to be done by Monday night. I know that it's Tuesday because that's when I have an anxiety attack. This Tuesday I was sitting on the Commuter Rail train headed into Boston when I got all worried that I didn't have the technical chops to take part in my Project Management course. I calmed myself down by reminding myself that although a good portion of the class are IT professionals there is no such requirement to *take* the class. Furthermore, one of my team mates is a waiter and I do desktop support (and occasionally IT project management) for a living. No, I'm not a developer but I do, in fact have some geek cred.

I calmed myself down from my latest "OhMyGodIt'sOnlyWeek3AndI'mAlreadyBehind#!" by scheduling next Friday afternoon as a half day off so I could catch up with whatever I was behind in (mostly Accounting Problem Sets.) The reason I was freaking out was that in spite of the fact that I wasn't being a slacker my homework was still not done on Sunday evening for the second week in a row. I prefer to deal with problem sets on the weekends during the day when I have the brain power to deal with them as opposed to after work. But even without being a slacker there are still things one must do and these things take time away from doing Accounting prob sets. One must visit the grocery store at the dry cleaners. One must unclog one's toilet one must visit the Maul and transact business there. And if you are me, one must see one's friends every now and again and go to the beach with one's Poodle therapist. Touching base with friends is as important as unclogging the toilet. I don't need to be a social butterfly, but I do need to see people every now and again or I will go mad.

So I do what I can to make all of these things work out-I can see I will be carefully juggling them all this term (not to mention my full time job which has projects-as yet undefined for me this Fall.)

While I am distressed to still find myself as twitchy as I was pre-term, I have to say some part of me is standing back and asking "Who are you and what have you done with Slacker Cantabridgienne?" My project management class has teams of five. This may just be because my 650 class team was a three-person team (they were supposed to be four but we blew the professor away with our first assignment so he let us be three) which, in the end turned into a two person team, but five seems to be excessive. Do you really need five people to write a 25 page document? Five people. Me and four nerd boys. Cat-herding.

One of them suggested a project for us to work on and put together a few power point slides for us to present to the class on Tuesday. Unfortunately, he made a faulty assumption. I told him so in e-mail-I quoted the syllabus at him. I used to hate people who did that sort of thing. I probably still hate them-when they aren't me. This is what I mean by who the hell am I now and what happened to slacker Cantabridgienne who got by on native brilliance (and the occasional font or spacing change to make the paper long enough)?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Haiku about tech support


I went to college
So that I could ask Google
How to fix printers

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blood in the water

When I arrived at school tonight I was feeling the same nameless dread that I had been feeling last term. I don't know why this happens but I have noticed two things about this free-form anxiety

1) it is all about my fellow students/ team mates. I am not as concerned about the professor.

2) I didn't feel this way Spring term (my first term). However, as the term went on I had good, well founded reasons to feel dread and I wonder if those are contributing to my current anxieties.

That's all beside the point though. I got over it. The class I sat through tonight is IT project management. I'm taking it because I'm hoping to be a better IT project manager. Not too surprisingly, there are a decent number of people in the class who are IT staff (although it is not a requirement and not everyone is- one of my new team-mates is a waiter.)

I mention this because during tonight's case analysis someone was presenting her group's finindings and she said (jokingly) that IT staff are all a bunch of Prima Donnas. I repeated what she had said to a fellow team mate (also IT staff) and then sat back with a smile on my face- waiting to see which of the IT staff in the room were going to bite.

I was particularly pleased that it was a nerd- girl who responded (although I wish she had left me out of it.) The me who watched all this go down and found it so amusing was a different person than the one who was digesting her own stomach before class.

Actually I'm recording this mostly to remind myself to calm down, because it can be fun.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Life is for the Alive My Dear or My Response to the 9th Anniversary of September 11

On September 11th 2001, I arrived at the office at about 8:30. I pulled up IE (because I was still using IE back then) and my home page was Before the page could load I went and made the coffee for the office. When I got back to my desk I saw that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At the time I thought it must have been a small craft piloted by a dope. I called my dad, who worked in Brooklyn with an office view of Manhattan.

“Dad the New York Times says that a plane just hit the World Trade Center.”
“What? (looking out the window) Oh my God it’s on fire!” And then the real fun began. I won’t go into the details-everyone has a story of what they were doing then and how it went down. Some of it was maddening some of it was (in hind-sight) comical a great deal was depressing.

I was not in New York City when the planes hit the towers. I was in Boston working at a soon to be dead dot com company. However, I am from Staten Island. Some of my neighbors growing up worked in that neighborhood or worked for companies with offices in the World Trade Center. I am happy to say that no one I know was injured or killed in the events of September 2001. I consider myself lucky in that. My sister biked by the World Trade Center on her way to early morning baking school an hour or two before the fun started.

I am a graduate of Stuyvesant High School. The school moved from 15th street to Chambers street my senior year. Coincidentally that was the year that someone first tried to blow up the World Trade Center. I’ve worked at Century 21 on Chambers Street and at The Strand Annex on Fulton Street (now defunct). When I worked at the Strand I used to eat my lunch at the plaza between the towers.

I mention all of these things to fend off anyone who says “But you don’t know what it was like!” Or “but you don’t know how they feel!”

It is now 9 years later. It is 2010. There is still a big gaping hole in downtown Manhattan-in a neighborhood I know well and for which I have much affection. I am very angry that there is still a big hole there. But the fact that the hole is still there is part and parcel of how the United States of America has dealt with the things that happened to us in September 2001.

It’s not like tragedy has never struck New York City before. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911 killed 146 people-mostly young women. The General Slocum Steam Ship went down in 1904 and killed over a thousand people-most of them women and children. It was the biggest tragedy (in terms of loss of life) until September of 2001. But neither of these tragedies were by design.

The US is a relatively young nation, which might excuse some of the nine year long temper tantrum we have thrown-but not much. My initial response to the events was something along the lines of “well yes it was bound to happen eventually.” And “The US should do more good in the world-if we are the world’s policeman than we should also do more good works. Then people wouldn’t hate us as much and be so interested in killing us.” Obviously, not everyone in the US thinks as I do. Instead of showing the world (the “Arab Street” in particular) that we are good people we have thrown two wars neither of which has resulted in us finding the people who blew a big honking hole in my hometown or generally improving the state of the world or our standing as a nation.

I am an existentialist. I believe in defining people by what they do. We were attacked by people we knew hated us. I am ashamed at our response. We now torture people. We now have an official surveillance state. We have warrentless wire tapping and we now allow law enforcement agents to blow down doors instead of knocking politely. There are “Transit Police” in Back Bay Station with dogs who look more like National Guardsmen than MBTA Cops. These men make me afraid.

George W Bush said that these people attacked us because they “hate our freedom.” Instead of proving that we are still a place where everyone is free to worship as they please, we now have nut-jobs railing against the “Ground Zero Mosque” which is not a mosque and is not at Ground Zero. If these people attacked us because they hate our freedom shouldn’t the proper response be to continue to offer freedom?

I was really hoping that by now instead of great gaping hole we’d have started to build something in lower Manhattan. I know there are tons of complications (who owns the land, the Widows, etc.) but I was really hoping that by now there would be something huge (and probably hideous-the more ostentatious the better) being constructed. Something that said to the people who knocked us down “We’re Still Americans-We Rebuild!” Instead we have become scared and less free. I am angry with us and ashamed at us for settling for this.

This was not what I intended to write tonight. I intended to point out that the best thing you can do for the dead is keep living your life-instead of always looking backward at them. The best thing that you can do to prove to the terrorists that they have not impacted your life-they have not “won”- is to go about your life and continue to grow and change.

I was having a discussion with my eldest nephew about the US Government and “Bad Guys” (he is 5) when half way through the discussion it occurred to me that he wasn’t even conceived in 2001 so he didn’t know about all that madness. He is a bright sturdy lad who likes Star Wars, sharks and dinasaurs. In him and his brother and sister I place my hope. For them “September 11” means nothing yet. They are good things that have happened since that date and they give me hope that we will get over this.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I grew up in New York City. I've lived in Paris but Massachusetts is the only place I've lived that I feel happy when I come home from a vacation.

I went down to Staten Island to visit my parents and be Tia Cantabridgienne for the weekend. As I'm about to crawl under the rock that is UMass Boston for the next three months I felt my family deserved to have a crack at me first. I was supposed to go down Friday afternoon, but all trains were canceled because hurricane Earl was ripping up Connecticut. So I went down on Saturday instead and arrived in time to eat an excellent dinner that my brother in law had cooked. After dinner he made litchi nut martinis-which look a lot like eyeball martinis. I ate all the stray litchi nuts and allowed my oldest nephew to work on his lamprey impression (with me as the shark.)

The next day was Attack of the Small Children day. I don't know how my sister keeps up with all three of them. We divided them (the baby went to have a nap with his mom, my niece went to watch Papa (as she calls my dad) make ice cream-I caught her running her tongue over the frost on the outside of the ice cream maker. I'm pretty sure my dad wouldn't have let me do that but she got away with it. And I got my eldest nephew. I wouldn't say that any one thing we did was exhausting, but by 4 pm I was ready for a nap. Apparently, overseeing quarterly reports or server migrations is less tiring than keeping up with a 5 year old. I found myself lying down by 9 PM and asleep by 9:30.

I was still beat when I went on a walk with my sister and her kids this morning and as soon as the conductor had checked my ticket to Boston I fell asleep again.

When the train arrived in Boston I decided to take it to South Station and walk to North Station (instead of getting off at Back Bay and taking the subway to North Station). I had determined that I had enough time to catch the next commuter whale either way but I wanted to walk a bit (tired as I was) after sitting on the train for several hours. Also, I often walk from South Station to North Station when I'm coming home from school (and getting impatient with the T) and I wanted to take the walk to clear my head.

I passed through Downtown Crossing. It's a horrible mess at the moment. There's a big gaping hole where someone started a construction project they couldn't be bothered to finish. There are closed store fronts.

When I first moved here in 1999, on of my first moments of "yup-this is my town-I live here happened at Downtown Crossing. I got off the train there (even though it was pouring rain) on a Friday night to pick up a book at the Barnes and Noble to read over the weekend. I walked in front of the space where the bookstore used to be and thought...well I'm not sure really what I thought except that this is home. I have to go back to work tomorrow and tomorrow night I start one of the two classes I'm taking at UMB this term. I'm not particularly looking forward to either of these things, but it is right and normal that I do them.

I'm home. Welcome home to me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And now for something completely different..

Reading my last few posts I'm struck at how depressing this blog is lately. It's like a visit to the neurology ward-all brain tumors and anxiety attacks. It makes me wish I could post something happy and sparkly involving unicorns.

I don't have anything to say about unicorns at the moment. But there's my apartment to make me happy. I've had very little experience with living places that actually felt like home (as opposed to the garage where I parked myself at the end of the day.) The last place I lived in Cambridge felt like home-that's part of why I was so bummed to leave (even given the circumstances.) The last place I lived by myself was in Paris. I had two studettes there-the first one was about the size of my cubicle and the second one-one floor up in the same building-was about the size of my living room. Neither of those felt like home.

This is home. It's small and it's messy and everything is an unfortunate shade of brown but it's definitely Chez Cantabridgienne. The books are unorganized-that's intentional. The book slave in me *really* wants to organize the books*. They should be grouped by subject matter and alphabetized. But there isn't enough space here so they are only separated out into fiction and non-fiction. In spite of the chaos I can find any book I need and I enjoy the jumble for now because it means that while looking for Sunshine or Pride and Prejudice I might re-encounter something else I might like re-reading.

Also, it can't be too badly organized because the first time my eldest nephew stepped into my apartment he found 60 years of DC comics, which he immediately (and repeatedly) wanted to peruse.

This is a place I'm happy to show my friends (provided they give me a minute or two to pull the laundry off the floor of my bathroom.) I've had two parties here in the last year and I've had my sister and her progeny here. And aside from the part where I kept stopping the baby from climbing my bicycle or farking around with the giant piece of rusted metal on the floor (A gift from my ex-boyfriend snagged during some Mass Ave improvement project-it says "Don't Dump drains to Charles River." They have signs like these on a lot of drains in Cambridge)and the pieces of broken glass in my kitchen from the corningware dish I broke in February and (apparently) the bottle of dad's beer that exploded (Mom had brought up a batch for me to give to my friends as a wedding present and they hadn't been able to collect it yet) it worked out okay.

There are a few collections of shells and rocks I've picked up on the beach and a secretaire I found with the help of a friend. And there is always coffee ready to be made, Ramen noodles, Odwalla bars, peppermint tea and beer. There's also always plenty of olive oil, garlic and pasta. Also, it's two blocks from the beach.

I am never content unless there's a largish body of water near by. I've made do with the Charles and the Seine, but they pale in comparison to the Atlantic Ocean. Since I have these things I am willing to put up with the commuter whale-even when class schedules put me on the 10:40 train. The city kid in me is weirded out by this development, but when I go back to Cambridge I don't feel homesick-I mostly feel annoyed. It's smelly and ultimately not all that cool and full of hipsters and Harvard students and vomit. It kind of makes me sad.

So I go home to look at my books and my beach and exhale.

*since non-fiction is mostly history I'd organize those chronologically. The fiction would be broken out by genre-Literature, Graphic Novels, Scifi/Fantasy and Mystery. *twitch twitch*

An Answer, For Now

When I'm stuck in a herd of slow-moving sheep on the subway platform or stuck on hold with some vendor I find my hands clenching and unclenching. This behavior releases nervous energy and keeps me from growing fangs and shouting at people.

The clenched teeth and stomach ache I woke up with this morning are the result of my brain clenching and unclenching it's fists. If this is true then the only thing that will make this go away is to start school again.

Either that or I need to have a torrid affair with someone. As they seem to be out of Torrid Affairs at BJs I guess I'll just wait for school to start again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Something is Upsetting Me

I don’t know what it is. I am having dreams where I try to accomplish something and fail repeatedly. I’m waking up with my teeth clenched and I’m getting twitchy and paranoid about doors.

There are a number of candidates for “What is upsetting Cantabridgienne?”

It could be Work. While work continues to be Delightful, and offer all sorts of interesting challenges, I don’t think that’s it. When I check in the corner of my brain where I keep work related thoughts I see apathy and despair-not panic.

It could be because I’m never going to get laid or be loved again*. Nope. That isn’t what’s causing me to climb the walls at the moment.

It could be because I’m 35 and have not yet found my life partner or bought a home and I work for someone who still hasn’t parsed that I’m his system administrator-not his office administrator (and because he signs the paychecks whatever he believes is true.) Nope. It’s not that. I don’t sense panic-there’s nothing to be done about that now. I am where I am and that’s where I’ll be until the wind shifts.

So it seems likely that the thing that’s giving me bad dreams and making me wake up with my teeth clenched is that I have to go back to school. I touch the part of my head that thinks about that sort of thing and I hear the sound of puppies standing on hot frying pans. Yup, it seems that we’ve found a winner.

Why am I afraid? School is good for me and I always used to look forward to September in high school and college. Even September at Bunker Hill and a new class in something useful didn’t scare me. Well… It is true that I have a tendency to be melodramatic, but there was really no need to invent drama in Spring Term 2010. There were plenty of legitimate panic attacks. At one point I was wondering how I would know it was Wednesday of I wasn’t having a MGT 650 crisis of one kind or another and by the end of the term my friends were suggesting therapy.

At the time I told them I was uninterested (but feel free to keep suggesting it.) So long as I do the work (and do it well) I can take panic attacks and the Malady of Doors. But. For crying out loud-term hasn’t even started yet and I’m already suffering the Malady of Doors. What am I afraid of?

I’m afraid of having missed a pre-requisite to one of the classes I’m taking. There was only one pre-requisite listed (the class is Change Management-cross listed in IT and OPS) but what if everyone is much more advanced that I am and everyone knows (except me) that you should take all your core courses (the required ones for everyone who gets to walk out the door with MBA after their name) before you take your electives? This scares me a lot. I don’t have a clue who I’d ask about it. I have former classmates’ e-mails and phone numbers but I'm not calling them.

I am afraid of running into/having to work with people who I would prefer not to work with again. Even after a term and a half, and without intentionally making enemies there are some people I’d prefer never to encounter again because they don’t do their work and I get stuck doing it. People who’s work you’ve gotten stuck with…even interacting with them in the hallway can be difficult. They can be charming or they can be nasty (either way because they think they can roll you). School is stressful enough. I admit that I am overreacting about being scared of running into these people. That doesn’t change the way I feel.

I am scared because I’m taking two classes instead of one. This is partly due to me being alone for a while this summer (since all my friends were off teaching somewhere or on difficult family business) and since I was taking one summer class twice a week and I still had plenty of time to be bored I thought I should try taking two classes.

Although I had initially planned on taking one class and learning to drive (as my second class this fall) it’s the right thing to do. Part of the reason that going back to school still scares me is that I still don’t know what the professors want from me (in terms of papers.) I wrote my first business school paper 3 times and I still wasn’t sure I got it right. I haven’t handed in a single thing that I felt sure of the way I could feel sure of a literature paper that I’d done well (and we are talking about the ones I worked on-not the ones I relied on “native brilliance” and creative spacing to complete) even though I put much more work into anything I’ve handed in at UMB than anything but my Comps at Carleton.

I suppose it’s great to never be satisfied and still get decent grades, but I really wish I had a feel for what I’m supposed to do in my 6-20 pages. Then I could know if I had done it or not. In a way, I feel like I’m still getting by on native brilliance-only I’m just working much harder. There is a guide online for what each paper should contain but it doesn’t help me much. It’s hard to write an executive summary, an intro, 6 hypotheses, a body and conclusion over things like “why don’t you just let go of the reigns and let your new manager get to work?” Or “The economy sucks right now.” I want to write something (or present something) and know that it’s right. I want to feel like this exactly what I should be handing in (or at least “this is as close as I can get.”) Instead I just have this vague feeling that I’ve worked my pants off so it had better be okay.

Back to why it’s scary-as I mentioned above, there was no need to invent drama spring term. I’m taking two classes. I’m afraid they will come with two flavors of drama in the form of two different sets of people I will have to work with. I tell myself that neither of these classes is 650 (which made me feel like I’d joined a small cult) and that both of them intend to teach me something other than How To Deal With Other Humans as a main point. But at the same time I’m pretty sure that the whole point of any decent MBA program is not to teach you accounting or the principals of marketing and change management-the point is to teach you to deal with other humans/ They do this by teaching you things like accounting or change management and making you work with other humans to learn them. So I’m scared of people I might encounter and the drama they may cause, and what this may do to my nervous system, my digestive system and my sleeping habits.

At the same time, I need to take two classes this fall so that I can feel the weight of them on my shoulders and do whatever needs to be done to cross two more of the 15 courses I have to take before I’m done off of my list.

I have reminded myself repeatedly that just because MBA school isn’t all fun doesn’t mean that it is not worth doing. Even if every minute of it is terrible (and it’s not that bad-sometimes it's even fun) finishing it will mean that I am no longer trapped.

When I was young-maybe as young as 16-I had considered MBA school and thought that while it wouldn’t be any fun at all I could probably hold my nose through it long enough to get a degree. I am reminding myself of this version of me and comparing it to myself 2006-2009 “Oh no-I’m not something (Smart? Diligent?) enough to get an MBA.” I find the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Yes I can do it-even if it takes forever. Yes it scares me. I have found a feeling-one of those emotions that doesn’t have a name-that works out to “Yes I can do this-damn it’s going to suck while I’m doing it.” And that’s the most hopeful feeling I have about next term. This might explain the bad dreams.

*And don’t tell me “That’s not True!” because it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not-it just feels that way and the whole discussion is beside the point.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I have a new friend

I'm not much into video games. I'll watch other people play in order to be social, but I'm not that interested in blowing things up and I'd much rather read someone else's adventure than choose my own. Tank Wars is the game I enjoyed best as a kid. I'd say it was my favorite game ever, but there's another, far more addictive game that I have recently re-encountered.

In 2003 or so a friend of mine sent me a link to a "super addictive game." As I mentioned, I don't really do video games, so I figured there was no harm in me clicking on the link. I'd fark around with whatever it was for 5 minutes and then get back to work. Except that my friend had sent me a link to Collapse! In case you're unfamiliar with it, Collapse! is one of those deceptively simple games where you click on three adjacent pieces of the same color and they (*poof!*) disappear. Because that in and of itself is not very exciting, at the same time more pieces are being added to the bottom and the object of the game is to keep the wall of colorful bricks from reaching the top of the screen. It's addictive-even if you're not that into video games.

I found it so addictive that not only was I dreaming of Collapse, I was walking around Cambridge choosing to step on similarly shaped/colored bricks in groups of three so that they would...well, what I expected them to do was unclear to me (obviously not disappear) but I couldn't help being drawn to sets of three. Eventually I stopped playing the game (I downloaded a freeware game that was much less cool than the online version and that killed my interest) until last week.

August is a really boring month in the Financial Services world. It's not a quarter end and most of the clients (and the staff) are away on vacation. It's even more boring if you do tech support-as opposed to client-facing activities (there's so little to do that during the lean years-when they cut salaries and lay people off I get paranoid about job security.) So since there was not much work to be done and there wasn't anything particularly interesting happening on the internet I decided to check and see if anyone had written a Collapse! app for iphones. It turns out someone had. While it's true I'm not that into video games, playing a game on your phone is a little less obvious than sitting in your cubicle reading a book.

I am pleased and slightly appalled to say that Collapse! is back and it's better than ever. I really feel bad sitting at work and playing games-even when there is no work but I also hate sitting there staring at the wall and I'd done every kind of boring preventative maintenance and data cleanup that I could think of to the PCs, the CRM database and anything else that's well-being was my responsibility.

As I was saying, I'm pleased to say that Collapse is alive and well and living at the App Store. It cost me $.99 and I have to say those were 99 of the best laid out pennies I've ever spent. "Got Time You Need To Pass-Try Collapse!-Makes Hours Disappear!" However, after less than a week's ownership of this little piece of software I'm a bit alarmed. I can always pause the game if something important is going on (this was one of the reasons I allowed myself to purchase it.) Things that are not important enough to pause a game so far include talking to my boss on the phone and de-training from the Commuter Whale. This morning I caught myself playing the game while at the beach. This afternoon I was trying to run the app on my computer-just so that I could play it on a bigger screen. That would be me- Cantabridgienne who prefers a 19th century novel to Super Mario Brothers any day of the week.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy “Liberation Day” to me

A year ago the Cambridge partnership dissolved. A certain young man told me that while he loved me very much he had been miserable for a long time (as had I). It may be morbid to be commenting on such an anniversary but I don’t plan on doing it every year-just this year. As it was one of the most unpleasant things that has happened to me, it’s worth checking in a year later to note that not only did it not kill me, I’m doing better than I was at the time.

That I got better is largely due to friends. I went to work the next morning still in shock and not really wanting to talk about it. Ted Kennedy had died that morning which added to surrealism of the moment. But I had one friend who always stuck her head in my cubicle and asked “And how are *you*?” in such a way that it always sounded like she meant it. I was pretty sure that the minute she did that I’d fall apart. Luckily for me, I happened to encounter her in the ladies’ room (instead of in my cubicle in front of all the support staff) so that when I did fall apart-crying and wiping my nose with the paper towels from the dispenser-I was at least in a semi-private location. This friend of mine had been divorced before-so she had an idea of what I was going through-and suggested that I take the next day off-she said she’d break my sad news to my employers (in case I needed more time.)

And then I was a mess for a while. My parents had always attributed any inclination toward melodrama in our family to “Lituanian genes” (I think this is because a great aunt of mine-who happened to be pure Lithuanian was likely to be melodramatic.) I have myself been inclined to be melodramatic (when a friend of mine disappeared for a year and I said I was sure something ‘orrible had happened to him he told me that I needed to stop reading so many 19th century novels.) In the language of those 18th and 19th century novels of which I am so fond, I believe you could say I suffer from an excess of sensibility. Also, while we’re at it I’m high-strung and have a tendency to panic (although that may be due to many years in a small business environment as much as innate nature.)

However I don’t think my behavior in between August 24, 2009 and mid-October 2009 was melodramatic per se-I was just miserable and didn’t know how to deal with it. So I wrote about how unhappy I was and shared it on facebook-bleeding all over the Internet.

I cried in front of people. They handed me tissues and hugged me. I tried to explain how miserable I was to my parents-in the end I just sent them excerpts from my blog. I'm not sure they got quite how miserable I was, but they took care of me. They sent me money for a deposit on my new apartment and my mom happened to be in town for the weekend I moved, so she helped me out a great deal. My parents are practical if not overly sentimental.

I did not panic over small things-in fact I turned down the first apartment I saw (something I still can’t believe I was cold blooded enough to do) because it didn’t feel like it would be home.

I had been afraid of people for a long time-in fact that was part of what was scary about having to move out. I would have to deal with people again (instead of letting the now-ex-boyfriend do that.) And, to be fair, I hold the bar for humanity awfully low, so that when coworkers expressed their condolences and listened to me talk for a bit about it I was pleasantly shocked.

But wait-even more fun. The summer of 2009 would have been an unpleasant one even if my partner hadn’t told me to move out. For one thing it rained an awful lot and for another I had to take the GMAT. Also, a friend of ours was arrested. But I think I can say that the worst thing that happened in the summer of 2009 was that Irving Liss fell collapsed one night and was taken into Mass General where they decided that he had a tumor in his head and he’d better have it out. I talked about that while it was happening so I won’t give the full story here. Still, the night that my suddenly ex boyfriend asked me to move out he also told me that when Irving died he wanted me to come with him to the funeral. Through a mess of snot and tears and beer I told him something like “of course-duh” thinking that the Alter Kocher had a few months left in him at least-maybe even enough time to go home for a bit-he was made of some pretty stern stuff. Even after they opened his head three times he could still joke with the nurse about her reputation.

I went home to New York for Labor Day weekend. I was due to come back on the Tuesday after Labor Day. I was standing in Battery Park about to go look at the little Dutch village when I got the call. I was looking out at the harbor on a sunny day in September when my ex boyfriend told me that Irving had passed that morning. He cried. I don’t think I did-I was still a bit shocked.

I got to use all the 3G capabilities of my new iPhone as I wrote to my employers (while on the Accela back to Boston to explain why I’d be out the next day.) When I got back to the apartment in Cambridge one of the newer tenants said “get out your best clothes for tomorrow.” I went out and bought lipstick (because I’d thrown out all of my cosmetics-I wasn’t likely to need to look pretty in my new single life) and tissues. And the suckage of being dumped was consumed by the greater suckage of losing a good man and we all did what we could to comfort each other. After the funeral (which was hard) this mostly involved drinking a lot and telling stories-so the Jewish man got an Irish man’s wake.

So, yeah, I was a bundle of raw nerves at the end of last summer.

This was not what I intended to write. I intended to say how much more fun life is now that I’m not going home to hide every day. I meant to say how nice it is to have a life full of Business School and nephews and friends and Sugar Mags, which I never would have had if I was still hiding in my cave in Cambridge. But maybe you’ve gathered that already from the rest of my blog.