Oracle Chronicle

The day finally arrived for me and my Applied Portfolio Management classmates this week. We were off to Nebraska to meet with the Oracle of Omaha himself, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the world's greatest investor, Warren E. Buffett. This is truly is one of the most interesting personalities of our time. Here's a man worth in excess of $40 Billion dollars who's still at work well into his 70's, lives in an ordinary Midwest home, drives a Lincoln and spends his time playing bridge and enjoying his family.

On the first day of our two-day trip we toured two of Berkshire Hathaway's businesses, Borshiem's Jewelers and the Nebraska Furniture Mart. The managers who ran these firms were of one mind in their reverence of Mr. Buffett and his ethical approach to doing business. As Susan Jaques of Borsheim's told us, "It takes 37 years to build your reputation, and you can lose it in 37 seconds." She said she considers this every time she faces an important decision. It was interesting to note that Mr. Buffett is not a micromanager, he picks good businesses with great management, buys them at low prices and then takes his hands off the wheel and lets his managers do their jobs.

The next day our meeting with Mr. Buffet consisted of a 90 minute question and answer session and an informal lunch with him afterwards. He delivered his Q & A with wit and wisdom and humility. From the perspective of an academic, it is quite possible to take issue with a lot of what Mr. Buffett stands for. A certain Rotman prof even regards him as nothing more than a fluke, a 5-sigma event, literally the luckiest investor that ever lived. My feeling is that this prof is clinging to the Efficient Market Hypothesis like Ashlee Simpson to her singing career. But Mr. Buffett, in turn, doesn't especially care for academics either, having little in the way of formal education himself. The point is that he gave us a different perspective on the things we were taught here at B-School. Maybe markets aren't efficient, maybe diversification isn't always the way to go. Don't always believe everything you're told.

All in all, I can't possibly think of a better way of finishing off my Rotman MBA experience. This was truly an unforgettable once in a lifetime opportunity. Thanks once again to John Watson for picking up the tab on this round.

Here's a shot from our lunch with Mr. Buffett at Gorat's Steak House:

I can't tell you exactly what Mr. Buffett said, but what he recounted to me that day over roast beef sandwiches was more than just a stock tip. It was no less than his own personal super-secret recipe for Kwan. Rod Tidwell once defined Kwan as "Love, respect, community.... and the dollars too. The package. The Kwan."

Well, Warren Buffett, you are my ambassador of Kwan, man.

My New Job

I'm happy to report today that my job search has come to a successful conclusion. I've accepted a position as an Associate Financial Engineer with Algorithics Incorporated. Check out the link for info on the company if you are so inclined. I'm very excited about this opportunity, as it is incredibly well suited to my skillset. It will be largely finance-related, but will also require some math skills and a degree of sales proficiency. This is a very well respected company and they're doing some very exciting work. I'm not just drinking the Algorithmics Kool-Aid at this point, I'm taking it intravenously from an I.V. I'm wheeling around with me wherever I go.

In hindsight, choosing the Rotman specialization in Financial Engineering & Risk Management paid off nicely for me. Especially beneficial were Tom McCurdy's Financial Modeling & Trading Strategies course and John Hull's Financial Risk Management. There's no way I land this job without that background. Again, for those of you who might be interested (I'm quite aware that many TAML readers are not) Rotman's website describes the specialization thusly:

You will learn about derivatives markets and how instruments such as futures and options can be used for risk management. You will learn about risk management from the perspective of: a corporate treasurer interested in hedging exposure to interest rates, exchange rates and commodity prices; a fund manager who wants to change the nature of exposure to financial markets; and a financial institution that trades derivatives and is faced with an increasingly complex regulatory environment. You will also learn how to price a wide range of derivatives instruments.
For anyone in the first year at Rotman or on their way here next year who might be looking in, my advice is in addition to getting to know your classmates and the class ahead of you, get to know your profs. In my case, the interview at Algorithmics was set up through a contact of the aforementioned Professor McCurdy. Thanks Tom. It's immensely satisfying to see something you've worked towards for almost 2 years finally become a reality. As Hannibal Smith used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together".

Detroit Redux

Detroit Tigers opening day festivities went off as planned last week. Nobody in our group got seriously injured or arrested while we were downtown, and isn't that really all you can hope for when yours truly joins up with a group of Detroit's finest low-lifes for a pub crawl around the new Comerica Park to celebrate the arrival of baseball and spring weather? Now, baseball and beer are a natural match, and in fact I find it impossible to watch a game without beer because, let's face it, 90% of the time nothings happening so you need the beer to make it tolerable. I'd like to describe it in greater detail, but frankly I don't remember much after the 3rd or 4th inning.

Thanks on this trip go out to Jay for the hospitality, to Murphy for making the long drive across town to join us for Wrestlemania and late-night White Castle and to TAML's favorite baby, Thea, for her overall cuteness.

In an unrelated sidebar, I'm giving my NBA nickname-of-the-week to the New Jersey Nets' Brian Scalabrine - aka "Air Veal". That's almost funny enough to make me forget where Vince Carter plays and root for the Nets to squeek into the playoffs. Almost.


Looks That Kill

That's the least appropriate thing I've seen since that redneck country band played "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" at the NBA All-Star Game halftime show.

It's shaping up to be a very busy April for me. Apart from my job search being in full swing and final exams approaching like the blinding headlight of a train in a tunnel, I have a couple of trips in the works.

Next weekend I'll be in Detroit for baby seeing, garage drinking and Tigers opening day festivities. I'll be correcting a grievous oversight, as it's been way too long since I've been down on Chrome Bolt Drive.

The following week, I'll be joining my Portfolio Management class in Omaha, Nebraska for a visit with the World's Greatest Investor, Warren Buffett. This trip, in which I'm honoured to be included, was made possible by John Watson. (more about Mr. Watson's extraordinary philanthropy here) Along with Mr. Watson, Dean Martin and Laurence Booth, we will be touring some of Mr. Buffett's businesses, joining him for a meal and participating in Q & A session with him - I can't tell you how pleased I am to be a part of this. It's a great way to finish off my Rotman experience.

Speaking of the job search, a fellow MBA blogger I've noticed recently, Peiheng, has posted an excellent four-part primer of MBA finance careers. If any of you out there are on your way to B-school later this year, it would behoove you to check this out. Probably the hottest, fastest growing sector he discusses is hedge funds. Although Peiheng correctly observes that hedge funds rarely participate in the traditional MBA recruiting process, I would take issue with the following statement:

The hedge-fund industry hires very few MBAs, though, as the work requires a sophisticated knowledge of financial markets and because many investment bankers compete for such jobs.

Here at Rotman, there have been a number of hedge fund jobs available, but you have to do your own research and networking - these companies will not come to you. I can't stress the need for doing thorough homework on these companiesahead of time though. Nobody wants to get involved with the next Portus. That kind of situation is more prevalent than you might think. Here is a not so short list of hedge funds where the manager has committed a fraud. I'm usually not a fan of the government over-regulating things, as it tends to eventually morph into an ineffectual bureaucracy that only ends up raising the price of the good or service to the consumer. But in this case, tigher oversight - in my opinion - is overdue.

Happy Easter everyone.


The Basketball Post

One of the things I hoped to accomplish with this blog was to have it be a resource for people who are thinking about doing an MBA and considering attending Rotman. I've tried to give a non-censored insider's perspective and post some B school-related commentary and links along the way. As you may also be aware, the official Rotman site also hosts student journals. The journalists do a good job, but are limited by their non-blog format (no photos, no links) and I can only assume they aren't really at liberty to criticize Rotman when appropriate, being that the journals are posted on Rotman's website. I've had a lot of great feedback from prospective MBAers and others on TAML. I thank everyone who has taken the time to e-mail me or to post a comment about the Rotman or business-related stuff, but today March is here and it's all about the roundball. So without further ado...

Firstly, a belated review of this year's Dunk contest. In a word - meh. I thought it was better than last year's snoozer, which I wrote about here, but still largely disappointing. There were some very nice dunks, especially the Amare Stoudamire off Steve Nash's head jam, and Josh Smith giving props to the 80s by donning the old-school jersey of fellow Hawk Dominique was a nice touch, but the whole event had no flow. The "birdman" saw to that by missing the same dunk about nineteen times. I think they need to change the rules so that never happens again. I also like Magic Johnson's suggestion to increase the prize money to something meaningful to an NBA player. Bring back the past champions over the last few years and put a million bucks up for grabs. Then you have something.

Traditionally the two seminal events of my February that temporarily chased away the winter blahs were the dunk contest and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The dunk contest is waning, and the impact of the swimsuit issue has been diluted by the omnipresence of the cruder, creepier likes of Maxim, Stuff, and FHM. Like Renton said in Trainspotting "its a shite state of affairs".

In other hoop notes, the NCAA tournament is fast approaching and I'll be hosting a March Madness pool on CBSSportsline.com this year. I'll post a link once the brackets are announced later in the month. Watch out for the Tar Heels this year - they won't be stopped. In Canadian University hoops, my UVic Vikes are ranked 5th in the nation and rolling through the Canada West Tourney.

As usual at this time of year, I'll also be keeping a close eye on the B.C. High School Basketball Championships. This will be easier to do from Ontario this year then it was in '04 thanks to Live Webcasts of every game! I can't tell you how happy I am about this development, but its going to cut into my studying time in a bad way. Alas, it does not appear the West Vancouver Highlanders will make the tournament this year. Things today just aren't the way were back in the day when the circa-1988 trio of Weitzel, Gurney & Hughes dominated on the court and with the ladies. (Actually the teams I played on never made the Provincial Championships either)

The greatest basketball movie ever made, (and what Sports Illustrated calls the greatest sports movie ever made) is being re-released on DVD today with a whole boatload of new extras:

  • Audio Commentary by Director David Anspaugh & Writer Angelo Pizzo
  • "Hoosier History: The Truth Behind the Legend" Documentary
  • Deleted Scenes With Introduction by Director David Anspaugh & Writer Angelo Pizzo
  • Milan vs. Muncie Indiana High School Championship Game
  • Photo Gallery
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
You know I love those DVD extras, so I'll be picking up this baby very shortly. Incidentally, I think my favorite basketball movies are, in order: Hoosiers, Hoop Dreams, The Basketball Diaries (an excellent film, but it loses points because Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't even come close to pulling off the basketball scenes - as The Sports Guy put it: "He dribbled higher than Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf") and finally, the 70s classic, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

Finally, I present the reasons why the city of Vancouver was screwed over by the NBA with regard to our "franchise" The Grizzlies. Like a divorce or the death of a loved one, it has taken some time, but I'm finally ready to talk about it.

1) It's a minor complaint in the grand scheme, but the first regular season game the franchise played was on the road. The NBA made Vancouver play its inaugural game at Portland. Who ever heard of this happening? It was a slap in the face that was a portent of what was to come.

2) The Grizzlies franchise was not allowed the first overall pick for the first 5 years of its existence. This was an absolute killer. If you award a city a franchise, it should have every chance to win that the other franchises do. The problem at the time was that when the Orlando Magic where awarded a franchise they drafted Shaq and Penny in consecutive years and got to The Finals right away. Other perennial losers didn't like this (hello Washington, I'm looking at you) and petitioned the NBA to handicap the Grizzlies and the Raptors. So, even though the Grizzlies were last overall in each of their first three years, we could never draft first. This bit us in the ass in 1996 when we finished last, won the draft lottery but ended up with Shareef Abdur-Rahim instead of Allen Iverson.

3) The incident in 2000 when the Grizzlies were robbed of a victory over the Lakers in L.A. I remember this well, Vancouver led by 1 point and L.A. had the final possession. What should have been the final shot went up and missed then the clock stood still at 1.3 seconds as Shaq grabbed the rebound and put it in. The replay clearly showed the clock did not run for a least 3 seconds when the whistle never blew. The L.A. announcers chalked it up to just a little "home cooking" from the scorers table. The Grizzlies went ballistic and eventually filed an official protest with the NBA that was denied. Yes, it was just one game, but a win over Shaq, Kobe and the eventual World Champions in L.A. could have done a lot to turn the franchise around.

When the franchise moved to Memphis people said Vancouver just wasn't a basketball town. People like me know different. The NBA never gave the city a fair shake.

Finally, finally on a lighter note, I'd just like to say that my favorite sports mascot of all time is the Denver Nuggets' Rocky the Mountain Lion. He's got this schtick where he makes a half court shot backwards over his head, then shrugs his shoulders as if to say "what's the big deal". It's classic.


Fear of an Advanced Derivatives Planet

The winter blahs are in full effect here in Toronto. Today when I was walking past Flight Centre I found myself transfixed by that big board with the names of all the cities on it. All the places you suddenly realized you would much rather be right now. You can never get the flight for anything near the price that’s listed, but that didn’t matter. I was staring at that list the way an Atkins victim would stare at a TGI Friday’s menu – you know, the one with all the pictures. Las Vegas, Cancun, Veradero, I had my palms and nose up against the glass. Ibiza, Athens, there was a large oval of condensation forming on the glass around my mouth, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aries, I started to weep quietly to myself. Eventually someone had to come out from behind the counter and ask me to leave.

Thanks to Dwayne I am now officially hip to the new show “Tilt” about the poker culture in Las Vegas. One of the best things about the show is that the eminently likeable Michael Madson is one of the stars. Tilt is produced by ESPN and is not on Canadian television, but you can download the episodes here. Jay Lovinger, a writer a ESPN.com’s Page 2 rightly points out that

1. none of the characters on the show were remotely likeable -- they are all cheaters, or paranoids, or socially maladjusted in the extreme, or sellouts, or vicious psychopaths, or some combination of the preceding -- a problem which, if not addressed, might eventually sink the show, dramatically, since viewers would have nobody with whom to identify.

(see my discussion of Kill Bill below to see why I don't agree with this)

2. the central premise -- that the best poker player in the world, a man "who can see into the souls" of his opponents, would have to cheat in order to beat "home-game heroes" (is) absurd.

3. the poker playing was dangerously unrealistic -- the winner of every key hand started without a pair or even a face card (6-4 suited, 4-3 suited and 10-6 unsuited), a recipe for fiscal disaster if ever there was one.

Jay, your pink slip from ESPN is on its way down from upstairs.

Is there a hotter trend in pop culture right now than poker? Not only is there an ESPN writer now dedicated strictly to poker, but you have the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour and Celebrity Poker on TV, plus books and instructional videos all over the place in Chapters. For my money though, the best poker related entertainment ever produced is Rounders.

At school, I am finding Prof. John White’s calculus-laden Advanced Derivatives class, by way of understatement, to be “very challenging”. From time to time I have to remind myself what an honour it is to study under such a high caliber faculty, but as the late, great Jonnie Carson would say, this class is some “whacky, wild stuff”. Here is a taste of some of the topics we are covering.

- Wiener processes and Ito’s lemma
- The Black-Scholes model
- Numerical procedures: Binomial & trinomial trees, Monte Carlo simulation; finite difference methods
- Exotic options
- Martingales and measures
- Interest-rate derivatives
- Real options

It’s not that I don’t find the material stimulating, but this course challenges me intellectually and academically like no other course at Rotman has. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Wiener processes are much less delicious than they sound.

I finally broke down and bought the Kill Bill Volumes 1& 2 DVDs this week. I could stand to wait no longer for the mythical KB Box Set to be released, which has been rumoured on the message boards to be chock full of special features. I am a big fan of those little extras. If it’s a movie I liked enough to buy, I’m usually fascinated by all the little nuances.

The KB2 DVD has a nice little “making of “ documentary that illustrates my point. Apparently Michael Parks’ character, Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, is the exact same guy he played in From Dust Til Dawn (the Sheriff who walks in on the General Store robbery at the very beginning). And did you know that Parks also plays Esteban the Mexican pimp in the second movie?

In this documentary David Carradine of the title role expresses the opinion that it’s not the violence of Tarantino’s movies that are their defining feature, but rather it’s the look into the minds and hearts of violent people that make them unique. Pretty insightful, no? That got me to thinking that the non-violent characters in Tarantino movies help to achieve this end. They are two-dimensional, they work mind-numbing jobs and worry about things that don’t matter just because they don’t have the sack to do crimes and murder people. Take the role Tarantino himself played in Pulp Fiction – he was a boring, hen-pecked coward. All he cared about were his good sheets and his gourmet coffee, which made the Wolf, Jules and Vincent more appealing characters by comparison.

Finally, be aware that Flava Flav is part of the cast for Surreal Life 3. Not that I can in good conscience recommend the show, but seeing Flava in that Viking hat cracks be up for some reason.


Many Meetings

Greetings from Vancouver where I'm spending the holidays visiting friends and family.

Christmas reading this year consisted of some light fare entitled "Quantum Investing: Quantum Physics, Nanotechnology, and the Future of the Stock Market" by Stephen R. Waite.

WILL: You f*ckin' people baffle me. Spend all your money on these f*ckin' fancy books. You surround yourselves with 'em and they're the wrong f*cking books.
SEAN: Then what're the right f*ckin' books, Will?
WILL: Hey, whatever blows your hair back.

This is one of those books that does just that, or at least it would have if my hair were a little longer. Despite the intimidating title, its the best thing I've read in a long time. A ton of frankly startling insights into the future of technology. Of particular interest to MBAs, Waite evaluates the accounting industry as hopelessly out of date with regard to valuing intangible assets. Here's a taste:

(Stern School of Business prof Baruch) Lev says it is currently acceptable practice to "mindlessly" write off all investment in knowledge or intellectual assets. Accounting, says Lev, has lost its credibility for many reasons, and intangibles are one of the most obvious.

Although the actual value of companies' intangible assets has risen since 1980, the value of those assets in corporate financial reports is diminishing ...modern-day financial statements ...are as useful as an eighty year old road map of Los Angeles.

But without further distractary, here are the winners of the first annual TAML awards (scroll down to the previous post for all the nominees)
Best Band: The Walkmen. If you're not hip yet - get hip.
Best Movie: Return of the King, natch (It's the only movie ever to receive 5 thistles from TAML)
Best TV Show: The Sopranos. No explanation necessary.
Best Canadian Athlete: Peter Reid. This guy has won the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon 3 times, and he finished 2nd this year. He's Canada's answer to Lance Armstrong - and nobody knows who he is.

Best Pop Culture Happening: After careful consideration, this one goes to Ron Artest. Ben Mathis-Lilley encapsulates my thoughts on the matter here. It generated a lot of finger wagging and tongue clucking, but Ben and I feel that this was an event to be enjoyed.
Bonus Category - Condiment of the Year: Your nominees are Caesar Dressing, Corn Salsa, Ketchup and BBQ sauce. All of these condiments had very solid years, and I wouldn't want to imagine a world without any of them - the living would envy the dead. But ultimately, because of its versatility, the award goes to Corn Salsa (and because I like to say "Saal-Saah").

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the dozens And Dozens of TAML readers out there.


Saturday, Wait

It's Saturday and first half exams finished up this morning. I just banged off 10k upstairs on the treadmill in a semi-respectable 47 minutes, replacing the restless, spastic feeling in my legs I've had all week with that good, tired feeling. Now it is time to watch some football. I'm joined here today by a fridge full of Carlsberg, a bag of microwave popcorn and the sofa. The Steelers are giving only 10 points to a thoroughly stinky Giants team and I'm all over that action. The Giants have lost 6 straight, and the Steelers have won 11 in a row. There's nothing to do now until the Rotman year-end party tonight at Lounge 88 but chill out, watch the game and write in my blog for the first time in ages.

For anyone who's interested, I've recently switched my sports betting account from Sportsinteraction to Pinnacle Sports. Pinnacle's lines are -105 vs. Sportsinteraction's -110. That means your paying $10.50 to win $10 on an even money bet instead of $11 - big difference.

Speaking of betting on sports, I see Mark Cuban is starting a hedge fund based on sports gambling. This sounds like a good idea, sports gambling is an inefficient market, and therefore somewhere you can make money and Mark is certainly a bright guy. But I don't understand how he will get around the problem of the casinos kicking his people out once they figure out what they're up to. To the casinos that would be akin to counting cards, and they won't let anyone bet if they think they have an edge over the house.

Other things I've noticed recently, the Economist is calling the folks in Private Equity the New Kings of Capitalism. They say Private Equity players are the new junk bond traders and investment bankers of this decade (whatever this decade is called). This is a very good introduction to Private Equity, what they do and how they do it, even if I don't quite agree with the premise.

On a lighter note, probably my most-linked blogger Tony Pierce, busts out with more on what's wrong with music today. The money quote:

and i thought about the punk scene, which there isnt one, and i started to see that without strong metal and punk influences, rock just winds up being everything that isnt slutpop or rap.

As promised, here are the nominees for the first annual TAML awards for 2004.

Best Band: Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, The Killers, The Walkmen, Wilco
Best Movie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Garden State, Kill Bill 2, Return of the King (ok, maybe ROTK wasn't technically released in 2004, but the DVD just came out with 40 minutes of new footage)
Best TV Show: The Apprentice, Kenny vs Spenny, Lost, The Sopranos
(notably absent - The Trailer Park Boys)
Best Canadian Athlete: Steve Nash, Brad Richards, Peter Ried (triathlete), Adam Van Koeverden (olympic rower)
Best Pop Culture Happening: Janet Jackson Super Bowl Wardrobe Malfunction, Red Sox beat Yankees & Win World Series, Tara Reid Exposes Breast by Mistake, Ron Artest Looses it in Detroit

If you want to vote, or have an idea for a nominee or a new category, leave a comment.

Finally, in deference to my trip home to Vancouver on Tuesday morning, I'm posting the lyrics to what is possibly the greatest drinking song ever conceived of by men, "The Crawl" by Spirit of the West. It's about a pub crawl that goes from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove on Vancouver's North Shore:

Well, we're good ol boys We come from the north shore. Drinkers and carousers, the likes you've never seen. And this night, by God, we drank til there was no more. From The Troller, to The Raven... with all stops in between.

Well it all began one afternoon on the shores of Ambleside. We were sitting there quite peacefully, with the risin' of the tide. When an idea(r) it came for-to mind to usher in the fall. And we all agreed next friday night, we'd go out on the crawl.

Well we planned to have a gay ol' time, the cash we did not spare, We left all the cars at home and paid the taxi fare. I got out to Horseshoe Bay a little after five from a table in the corner, I heard familiar voices rise.

The spirits, they ran high that night, old stories we did share. of the days when we were younger men, and never had a care. The beer flowed like a river and we drank the keg near dry. So we drank down all our glasses, and were thirsty by-and-by!

Park Royal Hotel, The Rusty Gull, Square-Rigger, and Queen's Cross. We started off with eight good boys, but half had gotten lost. And you'll never keep the lads together, when there eyes began to rove. And there were just the three of us that made it to Deep Cove.

We arrived out at the Raven, just in time for the last call.The final destination of this, the first annual crawl. We dug deep into our pockets, there was no money to be found. Nine miles home and for walkin' we are bound.

And we're good ol boys We come from the north shore.Drinkers and carousers, the likes you've never seen. And this night, by God, we drank til there was no more. From The Troller, to The Raven with all stops in between.

Update: Stupid Steelers!


Guestblogging from Detroit

Gents: I am flabbergasted by the lack of constructive reporting that is supposed to be coming out of Toronto. It seems that our fearless journalist is either holed up in the local watering hole, drowning in his sorrows, madly in love with some new squeeze or has just stopped caring about TAML all together.

You know what I say? "NONSENSE"!

In his absence, I will pick up the pen and donate my time and resources toTAML. First, I'd like to touch on the labor dispute in the NHL these days.You know what I say? "NONSENSE"! I listened to both Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenall yesterday and both of those guys don't have a clue. Jayman's prediction, no season this year, replacement players next year and then an agreement that will bring peace to the NHL. Far-fetched you say? It worked in the NFL and in MLB......

The Death of Dime-bag Darrell. Shocking and completely devastating. How someone could do that to a person is just beyond words. I was a big fan of Pantera and Dime will be missed. This will change everything about attending live shows now. Cheap tickets are a thing of the past because now there will be more security and more hassles. To the ballsack that caused this, I hope you rot.

Fatherhood. I'm digging it, it's all I live for anymore. To be able to roll around on the floor with your kid is the best feeling in the world. I also think that little Thea is going to grow up a metal-head, she has taken a liking to my Iron Maiden DVD's and she's a big fan of "Number of the Beast".

Anyway hope all is well with everyone.

We'll check you out soon.jw

Clearly, this character needs to start his own blog. Hang in there, exams are almost over - coming soon: New year predictions & the first annual TAML awards.


Of Efficient Markets and Grilled Cheese

Last week the Globe and Mail ran an article about how people are using their blogs to find work. This phenomenon seems to be mostly limited to IT job-seekers at present, but you never know. It seems like a trend that is bound to spread to other functional areas, including finance. It's a great way for an employer to quickly get to know an applicant, what with "organizational fit" (being liked) becoming more and more important these days. Although I shudder to think about what a potential employer might think of me based on some of the things I've written here.

The fall recruiting season for permanent jobs is pretty much over now here at Rotman. I interviewed with four firms, but didn't receive an offer. That's okay though, because although it certainly would have been nice to have a job and a salary locked up at this point, I think it will give me the opportunity to cast my net a little wider. Fall recruiting is dominated by large organizations, primarily investment banks and consulting firms. These are companies that hire a number of MBAs almost every year, and have a good idea what there staffing needs will be 8 to 10 months down the road. Smaller money management firms, hedge funds, and many others do their hiring on an as-needed basis, so I'm still optimistic there will be firms hiring in the Spring. These are typically jobs I'll need to go out and find for myself - they won't be posted at our Corporate Connections Centre. From all accounts the Canadian economy is strong and demand for MBAs is up this year. Stay tuned.

Turning my addition now to inside the classroom, let me preface this by saying that the last thing I want to do is slag Rotman. This is head and shoulders the best MBA finance program in the country, and the quality of the instruction is simply outstanding. What I'm learning is going to add a lot of value to my future employer (I know you're reading), but even so, its frustrating to hear finance professors discuss market efficiency. The EMH (Efficient Market Hypothesis) implies that all public information is reflected into a stock's current price. The implication is that neither fundamental nor technical analysis can be used to beat the market. Our professors will diligently present both sides of the argument, but in most cases its easy to detect where their allegiance lies. There are notable exceptions, but they believe markets are efficient. Some can barely hide their palpable disdain for technical analysis, even though out in the real world investment firms, for some reason, continue to pay people to perform this kind of work.

One of the most interesting things I've read lately, which I happened upon via MBANews, is a paper suggesting that option writers will purposfully manipulate the price of a stock. The paper was authored by Sophie Ni, Neil Pearson and Allen Posteshman. From the abstract:

This paper presents striking evidence that option trading changes the prices of underlying stocks. In particular, we show that on expiration dates the closing prices of stocks with listed options cluster at option strike prices. On each expiration date, the returns on optionable stocks are altered by an average of at least 16.5 basis points, which translates into aggregate market shifts on the order of $9 billion. We provide evidence that...stock price manipulation by firm proprietary traders contribute(s) to the clustering.

Here is the link to the full article (PDF format). This is something I've known intuitively for a long time, but to see it formally presented in this way is reassuring. Now, does this sound much like an efficient market?

There are lots of interesting things going on in equity markets now. The IPO market is heating up again, a la the roaring 90's. In the past 3 months alone there have been 2 issues that have tripled from their offering price, 3 more that have doubled and 6 more that have increased at least 50%. The next big one looks like Portal Player, which is set to go public this week. "People want a piece of the iPod, and they haven’t had too many chances". Should be interesting to watch.

I usually enjoy writing about pop culture, but this is one of those weeks that makes you ashamed to be part of the human race.

I've always felt that we need more award shows, celebrities in general are too hesitant to pat themselves on the back. Case in point, this weeks American Music Awards where a rambling, incoherent, off-balance Anna Nicole Smith stole the show on the red carpet, as a presenter and backstage afterwards. She even upstaged Kanye West when he whined publicly about losing for best new artist.

All this was even topped by last night's Vibe awards, which erupted into an orgy of stab-crazy violence. I have to conclude that getting that many rappers together in one place just isn't such a good idea. At least some sanity was restored to the world when EBay stopped bidding for this grilled cheese sandwich that looks like the virgin Mary, once the bidding reached $22,000.


Today's Gratuitous Baby Photo

comes to us from Michigan, U.S.A.

This is Jay & Kaori's baby girl Thea. Damn right she's cuter than yours.


Lovely Beverages

As David Letterman is fond of saying, I don't think there's a man, woman, or child alive today who doesn't enjoy a lovely beverage. Sometimes though, it is possible that a person could enjoy too many lovely beverages. He could also spend too much money, waste time, get behind in his classes, not exercise and not write anything in his blog for two weeks. When you try to live your life a certain way for an extended period, let's say at least for a 20 month MBA program, there is the possibility of getting distracted. Without enough discipline its way too easy to take your eye off the ball.

When we were expecting an unusually volatile day in the markets, one of my old bosses at CIBC used to say "keep your stick on the ice today". I feel a little like my stick is off the ice these days. I'm just cruising down the rink, I'm gazing up into the crowd checking out the blonde sitting behind the net, and meanwhile Scott Stevens is lining me up for a concussion-inducing hip check. November then, is going to be all about buckling back down. I need to avoid that check like Tara Reid needs some double sided tape.

I'll stop referencing pop culture now just long enough to express once again a sincere thank you to all our veterans. Remembrance Day is November 11th - and still not an official holiday in this province for some reason. Remember, we owe them a debt that can never be paid back.


15's Company

Yesterday the Rotman Rugby team made the 2 hour drive to London to play in the U of Western Ontario's MBA Rugby tournament. Teams were there from the Ivey School of Business (UWO), Ivey Alumni, Fanshaw and from Cornell University, who made the trip up from New York State. We were a little undermaned, but we managed to win one game out of three and generally make a pretty respectable showing. Yes, we played three games of rugby in one day. It was not good times this morning. In fact, I felt like that time Jack Tripper tried to dance and fool around with his gym instructor and not let her know he was so stiff from lifting weights that he could barely move. The late John Ritter was such a great physical comedian that I start to laughing everytime I think about that scene.

Its times like this though - almost too sore to climb out of bed this morning - that make me wonder if maybe I'm too old to be back at school. Maybe I just don't fit in on a University campus anymore.

No. No way. On second thought, I'm good.

The tournament was followed by an awards presentation in the Rugby clubhouse (congrats to the Ivey Alumni team for taking top spot), where the MVPs from each team, as tradition apparently dictates, were made to chug beer from a game worn rugby boot. The world has finally found a good use for Lucky Lager. I suspect the boot may even have improved the taste if they were using Lucky. After that all the teams drank a little beer together, and sung a few songs. It was worth the trip just getting to meet the MBAers from other schools out on the field and in the bar. Great group of guys.

Elsewhere, this Greatest Canadian debate is really rattling some cages. I'm on the record in this matter from last year picking Terry Fox, Billy Bishop and John A. MacDonald as my top three. Some people though, are taking it too seriously. Andrew Coyne from the National Post can't understand why Don Cherry is on the list. It's simple. People voted him on, in Cherry's own words, to piss off liberals. Others aren't taking it seriously enough. Winnipeg radio dj Hal Anderson got his listeners to vote him on as a stunt. Now, maybe Avril Lavigne doesn't deserve to have her name next to inventors and Prime Ministers. But maybe to the people that voted for Avril, her music means more to them than anything any of the others did.

Speaking of music, I can't stop listening to Franz Ferdinand. Get hip and check them out. The band says they picked the moniker to wipe the name of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand from the face of history. He was credited by many for starting World War I.


The Subway is a Porno

Short post this week. Keeping busy with schoolwork and interviews and living life Toronto style - whatever that means. I went to see Interpol, one of my favorite bands of the 21st century at The Docks this week. Great show and a cool, fun crowd. Yes, there are still bands worth going to see these days that wont charge you $75 for a ticket, but it seems like they are getting harder and harder to find.

Other than that, its business as usual here. I've got my intern and the entire TAML research staff working on a major feature on comic books. Look for it soon. In the meantime, go read the best thing I've seen all week: Tony calling Avril out - somebody had to say it. The money quote is "when ashlee simpson is more punk rock than you someone has led you astray". After all, none of her real fans are happy about this.


Don't Be Journalistic Girly Men

Rugby season kicked off this week, and I took part in my first game since high school. The Rotman team played against fellow MBAers from our archrival Ivey School of Business (University of Western Ontario). For those of you hip to Rugby, I'm playing Lock. This seems to consist essentially of getting down in the scrum, getting trampled on when mauls go bad, rarely touching the ball, and hitting people all game long when they try to run at you. Like the narrator said in Fight Club "I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. And then I ran some more." We ended up losing but we kept it close most of the way. After the game, as is the Rugby code, both teams drank together at the Ballroom. "Hey, aren't these your teeth marks on my leg"? Fun day.

The National Post came out today with another girly-man in a slap-fight style attack on political bloggers. It continues to irk mainstream media that bloggers just exist, let alone that they are getting more and more attention on the political scene. Heaven forbid, bloggers were actually given credentials to cover the recent Democratic National Convention (as if they were actually real journalists). The blogoshere recently fact checked Dan Rather's ass causing him to issue a public apology over faked documents pertaining to Bush's Vietnam War record. But this doesn't seem to matter much to J. Kelly Nestruck though. Nice article J..

Although this blog is by no means in the class of the best political bloggers, like Instapundit, Vodkapundit or Michelle Malkin, I don't like seeing them attacked by hacks like J.. No, my purposes here are much more modest. Mostly its just a way for my friends and family back in Vancouver to keep track of what I'm up to, and for people considering doing an MBA to get a first hand perspective on the experience. It's also just a vehicle for me to spout off and practice writing.

In another Rotman-related item. I have an interview this week with a certain large Canadian financial institution. It's for a great position, so send me out any telepathic positive mojo you can spare on Thursday afternoon.

Since I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, two books I read and enjoyed this summer were The Number by Alex Berenson:

In the wake of Enron's spectacular implosion, the scandals
surrounding the collapse of Tyco's stock price and revelations that WorldCom
inflated its earnings by $9 billion, many wonder how independent auditors could
have overlooked such huge discrepancies in financial records. Others ask how the
SEC failed to spot corporate fraud and errors of the accounting firms on such a
scale when reviewing the annual reports. New York Times reporter Berenson
provides eye-opening answers to these and other equally disturbing questions in
this hard-hitting and well-documented study. Against a background of the decline
in independent investment research and the shift in client base for investment
houses from individual investors to corporations, he charts the ascent of
earnings per share-"the number"-to measure companies' health.

and A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market by J.A. Paulos:

We like to think not only that mathematicians are smarter than
the rest of us but that by dint of their mastery of numbers, they hold the key
to understanding the baffling mysteries of the universe. Alas, Paulos
(Innumeracy) says that's not always the case. As the author relates in this
funny, insightful little volume about attempts to bring order and science to the
free-for-all that is the stock market, he himself was once a big investor (in
WorldCom). Despite strong evidence to sell, he desperately hung on to his stock
as the price plummeted, proving that a head for numbers doesn't always translate
to Wall Street know-how. Through most of this book, Paulos discusses various
methods for predicting markets and offers thoughts on why people keep trying to
perfect them.

Also, In my continuing effort to keep readers abreast of the retro 80's music scene, check out this post reviewing The Killers latest offering from one of my newest favoritest blogs, Off-Wing Opinion.

"That's great" you might be saying to yourself, "but what's is the newest, cutting-edgiest trend in technology this week"? Answer: people are downloading and reading TAML on their portable devices.


Big Losers and a Big Winner

Today is the annual crosstown football matchup between the York Lions and the UofT Varsity Blues. Little hope remains to the faithful in light of our recent performances though. So far this season, the Varsity Blues are 0-3, losing by a combined score of 216 to 22. Last season the Varsity Blues went 0-8, giving up 438 points while scoring just 42. That's a combined 0-11 since I arrived on campus. Not only do we lose, but we take traumatizing poundings week in and week out. Combining that with the current sorry shape of Varsity Stadium gives you a good idea of just how drunk one needs to be to enjoy a football game here these days.

One of the many things I looked forward to when I came to UofT was watching some university football. UVic, where I did my undergrad, did not have a football program - although they are historically the best basketball school in Canada, and had some great teams while I was there - so I was jazzed for some football. UofT has, in fact, a very impressive pigskin pedigree. We've won 2 Vanier Cups and 4 Grey Cups here over the years. Can't help but be a little bitter.

In Rotman-specific happenings, Michael Dell was at Rotman this week making a breakfast speech. He spoke a good deal about the early history of his company, and the thinking behind the key decisions he make early on that sent Dell on its super-successful trajectory. My impresson of the man was that he absolutely relished swimming against the tide. He'd flash a satisfied smile when he recounted being advised by analysts against entering the server market, an endeavor which proved to be a huge success. He loved to be told he couldn't do things, and continues to be extremely talented in business strategy, thinking several moves ahead in each "game", anticipating what his competitors will do in each situation, and having his next move already thought through. All in all, not a bad way to spend a morning.

Also, the new Rotman video is up on the website. Yay Rotman!


Ring, Ring Goes the Bell

Welcome to year two of TAML, it's back to school time once again for yours truly. The first week of my second (and final) year of graduate education is at hand, and already recruiting season is in full swing. I've been to three recruiting functions in the last three nights. Monday was TD Securities, yesterday was RBC Financial and tonight was Scotia Capital. I've had so much practice with schmoozing over the past year or so that I could literally teach a class.

For those of you who actually read this blog for the inside MBA scoop - demented as that may be - my major will officially be Risk Management and Financial Engineering. My courses for 2nd year will consist of the following:

Security Analysis & Portfolio Management
Financial Institutions & Capital Markets
Options & Futures Markets*
Game Theory & Competitive Strategy
Applied Portfolio Management
Advanced Derivatives
Financial Risk Management
Risk Moderation & Trade Strategy
Special Topics in Accounting
and Intregrative Management Challenge (described earlier here)

*taught by Prof. John Hull, probably Canada's foremost expert in derivatives

There is, no doubt, a lot to look forward to this year. For starters, we will be hazing the first year students in a way that will make Dazed & Confused look like an MBA-style wine and cheese. (kidding, of course) But there are also plenty of real things to be excited about. Next week Michael Dell will be at Rotman to give a talk and have some breakfast with us. I'm going to be playing some Rugby this year with the Rotman team, we'll be playing against other MBA programs and the plan is to finish the year with a big tournament at Duke University in North Carolina. Lastly, in what will be a huge honour for all involved, our portfolio management class will be travelling all expenses paid to Omaha, Nebraska in April to hang out with Warren Buffett. We will be spending a couple of hours with the world's greatest investor running exercises, touring some of his businesses, and going to lunch.

Yes, lots of great good stuff is still ahead. I'll have much more on all of this in the weeks to come and hopefully a job waiting for me at the end of it all. Stay tuned.

Hockey Talk

Well, hockey season is over. A little earlier than usual this year. Around here folks celebrated the big win by assulting cops and injuring seniors. Got. to. love. this. town. It wasn't all violence and rioting though, big laughs abounded last night as confused Hollywoodians in town for the film festival had their limosines and taxicabs surrounded by drunken, flag-waving, face-painted, woo-hooing partyers. These people had no idea the World Cup was even taking place alongside their schmooze-fest, let alone why someone was standing on their hood in a speedo and a Canadian flag cape, shouting "we're number one" at them.


Link Fest

It's kind of quiet in here these days. We're now into the dog days of summer, or as Lileks puts it:
the apogee of summer, the point when it seems so ordinary it must be eternal. The point when you feel as if there are hundred such days behind you and another hundred ahead.
I've mostly taken the summer off from blogging - and the traffic to my site has dropped off to almost nothing as a result. I promise, however, to get back to posting on at least a semi-regular basis come September. At that point there will be much more to talk about. I'll be back at school, moved into my new place, and trying to plan the next five to ten years of my life. In the meantime, here's some odds and sods to keep you occupied.

I think my three favorite blogs right now are Ace of Spades, Barking Moonbat Early Warning System and, for some Canadian content, Ghost of a Flea.

If you are interested in the capital markets, I highly recommend Bill Cara's blog. He's had some great opinions lately about the Google IPO.

There's also an American soldier now blogging live from Iraq. This guy gives the straight dope about whats going on over there. He's a brilliant writer and extremely intense - not for the faint of heart. Here is an excerpt:

On raids my job is to cover my PLT's ass while they assault the
target house. If all hell breaks loose I'm there to provide a rein of 7.62
cover fire. I have an A.G. and and A.B. working with me. The Assistant
gunners job is to be my second set of eyes and to point out targets to me,
tell me rates of fire, sectors of fire, etc. He carries the Tripod, spare
barrels and a shit load of ammo. My Ammo Bearers job is to carry a chunk of
my ammo and he pulls rear security on my gun position, makes sure nobody
sneaks up behind me and shoots me in the back.

Go there now and read.

Mark Cuban's blog BlogMaverick is cool. He talks about technology, owning an NBA team and his new reality show.

Bill Clinton is also keeping a blog. Let's have a peek at what he's up to these days when he's not signing books:
When "This is my life" was played, Kevin (Spacey) declared the club officially dead and we went to a hetro hotspot. Big mistake. I had to dance with dozens of drunken English women in their twenties and thirties. That's not bad. Until they try to forcibly kiss you by the dozens. That's not bad. Until there was a massive catfight between large groups of women over who was going to dance with me next. They were pulling each other's hair, biting, scratching, pulling each other's dresses off and I swear I saw one of them threaten other girls with her lipstick. I have no idea why, but it worked. None of the women came anywhere near her. It was unbelievable.
Good times.

George W. Bush has been asked by the CIA to discontinue his blog for national security reasons - probably a good idea.

Here's a neat puzzle: Try to spot three differences between the two pictures. Oh, those wacky Germans.

Finally, very best wishes from the entire staff at TAML go out to Kaori and Jay, who go into the hospital tomorrow to deliver their baby. All the best.


Celsius Zero

Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 911 is certainly getting all kinds of attention these days. Some people are hip to it, but others have brutally fact-checked his fat ass. Even so, it got me to thinking. If Bush was able to fix the election, knew in advance about 9-11 and staged a war just so that his buddies in the oil business would see some extra cash, then maybe he could also be responsible for certain other suspicious goings on in the world.

Specifically, I've never for the life of me been able to figure out how it is the Vancouver Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup. So like Mike, I did a little investigating.

The first place to start was the closest the Canucks ever came to winning - the 1994 Cup Finals. It turns out the referee for that game was one Terry Gregson. It turns out Mr. Gregson is a big fan of the game of golf. Just like President Bush. (Bush is actually shown golfing in F911) Mr. Gregson's website brags: "For 10 years I ran golf tournament for the Children's Wish Foundation and was able to raise significant funds." Sure Gregson, "significant funds" eh? You must think we are all pretty stupid if you think we can't put two and two together.

Does anyone else think it was a coincidence that Todd Bertuzzi's suspension for the entire playoffs opened the door for a team from the state of Florida to win the Stanley Cup? The very same state where Bush's brother is the governor and the place he stole the election? Now Bush is going after Bertuzzi in court, just like he did to Gore in 2000. Clearly the attempt to put Bertuzzi in jail is a ploy keep The Cup out of Vancouver for years to come.

In fact, you have to assume the Canucks were infiltrated by Bush operatives as far back as the '70s and '80s. Just who the hell was in charge of those lousy draft picks and illogical trades? I mean, come on, Barry Pederson for Cam Neely? I think Mike Keenan must have in on this somehow too.

If you're still not convinced, just let the photographic evidence do the talking:

It's the 1982 playoffs, and the calls have got so bad that Roger Nielson has resorted to waving the white towel. Over his right shoulder, behind the glassy poles, in the yellow t-shirt clearly stands a thirtysomething Bush smirking and laughing as his plot unfolds as planned. It's crystall clear.

Maybe I could make this all into a movie and take it to Cannes next year. Palme D'Or, here I come.


Blogging will be light this summer. I'll likely be limiting my posts to times when I'm actually doing something interesting, or when something goes on in the world that bears noting. In this case its mostly the latter.

By way of mandatory update, I made it back from Vegas with moderate damage to both my liver and bankbook. Smarty Jones can take credit for keeping me out of total bankrupcy. I can't say more, because as we all know what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas. One photo has been approved for release however, I call it "unknown man relaxes poolside":

I'm working here this summer. I'm working with some very talented people and putting a few bucks away against those ever-mounting tuition bills.

I can't believe its been 10 years since the Canucks played in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Nothing has come close to it for me as a sports fan before it or since. The next biggest sports moments for me personally would have to be Canada's hockey gold medal in 2002 and Ben Johnson's gold medal in 1988. Like in '94, I can still remember where I was on those days and how it felt to be watching.

Tomorrow night is another game 7 of course, and what can you say about the Flames fans this year. They have really taken it to another level. Only hockey it seems has the unique power to bring us together like this as Canadians. Case in point was game 7 of the Calgary-Vancouver series earlier this month. Ed and I, and a ragtag group of Canuck fans who were for one reason or another unlucky enough to find themselves in Toronto, gathered at the bar to watch. When the Canucks scored in the dying seconds to send it into overtime, not only was I hugging Ed (who isn't exactly a "hugger"), but I was hugging other men who I had never met before.

You have to be envious of all the fun they are having in Calgary right now, yet I can't help but suspect that it would be an even bigger party were it either the Canucks or Leafs who were about to win the Cup. Of all the cities in Canada, those are the two where the party would be just utter pandemonium. Ottawa hasn't had a team long enough to be truly tortured the way fans are in Vancouver and Toronto. And its not like Edmonton and Montreal aren't great hockey towns, but they've both won The Cup multiple times - the festivities just wouldn't be at the same level.

As for "the goal that wasn't" in game 6, assuming the officials had the same views we had at home (and they did), I just don't see how that can't be a goal. Jes Golbez agrees with me, but strangely enough, the Calgary Sun doesn't. Hopefully it will be quickly forgotten when Calgary wins tomorrow. If they don't, however, I predict we will be hearing a lot more about it over the summer from the conspiracy theorists.

One last thing that's been bugging me: Today was the 60th anniversary of the D-day invasion and ceremonies were held in France to commemorate it. A number of Canadian veterans (guys who were actually serving in WWII) were forced to pay their own way to France in order to attend - just disgraceful. We in this country owe our veterans a debt we can never pay back, and we aren't even trying. Couldn't we have taken the money out of Adrienne Clarkson's budget?


As the final grains of sand are about to pass through that skinny part of my First Year MBA hourglass, I'm putting the finishing touches on the last piece of the puzzle - an essay on business ethics of all things. Once I put this to bed I'm off to watch the Canucks and the Flames in game six tonight. The Canucks will win tonight of course, everyone knows that when the Flames play the Canucks get together in the playoffs it always goes 7. Diehard fan that I am, I still believe that the Nucks win this series. As Christopher Moltisanti says: they just need to "Keep their eyes on the Tiger." Love this game, love this team.

To quote the same movie two posts in a row, "It's all happening!" The very good news today is I'm now officially hooked up with a great summer gig. One that should provide once in a lifetime experience and allow me to pay back some of my ever-mounting student debt. To celebrate, Im off to Vancouver next week to kick it on the West Coast. I'm gonna get do all my favorite Vancouver stuff and see all my favorite Vancouver people - so I'm very stoked. Sushi at Tanpopo, Grouse Grind, Stanley Park Seawall. Too bad its too early for a nooner at Nat Bailey Stadium. After that me and a few of the boys are heading down to Vegas. Yes, just me, and all my degenerate alcoholic gambler friends, what could go wrong? I even know about this great private poker game, its supposed to be especially for rookies.


I went to see the matinee of Kill Bill 2 today on the Imax big screen. You've got to love Quentin Tarentino. All his movies have such great style, but especially Kill Bill 1 & 2. Great music, great dialogue, great clothes - so funny and violent. Why aren't there more movies like this and fewer of the kind Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy put out these days? Kill Bill 2 just makes it fun to go to the movies again. Tarentino doesn't treat you like you're stupid. He know's you grew up watching kung-fu movies and spaghetti westerns and he gives you what you want to see. I urge you to see this film before people start talking about all the best scenes and ruin it for you.

Here's a tip: don't buy the KB Vol. 1 DVD yet. It's got just a bare bones of extra features. Wait for the combined Vol. 1 & 2 to be released, which will be packed with extras.

Finally, the CBC is putting together a show called The Greatest Canadian. They let you nominate your favorites on their website, then they profile them on the show and you vote for your favourite American-Idol Style. I had a scroll through the CBC's suggested nominees, and its amazing how many athletes and entertainers are on this list. Can you really see choosing an athlete or entertainer as the Greatest Canadian to Ever Live? It's Celine Dion - "The Supreme Canadian Being!" Best to ever draw a breath! I admit I had never given it much though until now, but my top choices are Terry Fox, Billy Bishop and John A. MacDonald.


It didn't take people long to start trying to cash in on the Todd Bertuzzi incident here and here. Pick a side and have your credit card ready. (hat tip: Trev)

The first year of my Rotman MBA is drawing to a close. It is still too early to have perspective on the experience and I'm still too busy with my studies to take time to reflect much on it, or to think about the difference between where I was last summer and where I am now. Without any doubt its been a worthwhile experience, I can honestly say I've never been around so many bright, motivated, passionate, enthusiastic people in my life. When you walk in off the street and into the Rotman building it takes you to a higher level. Just being around the place keeps me challenged and stimulated. But is it everything I hoped it would be going in? Probably too soon to tell.

The Integrative Management Challenge course held the first session of union labour negotiations this week. Our team was up against a union rep from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. We had a negotiations class in the second quarter, but this experience is of much more use. Being up against these professional negotiators is like attending a lecture about how to swim, and then being thrown in the deep end of the pool to apply your knowledge. That said, our union counterpart is a classy guy and a pleasure to deal with.

One of my regrets from first year, is not blogging more. The funny thing is a really enjoy writing, referencing pop culture and keeping track what I've been up to. As Lester Bangs said in Almost Famous:

"I used to do speed and sometimes a little cough syrup and stay up all night writing and writing, I mean like 25 pages of drivel about, you know, the Guess Who, or Coltrane, just to f#@king write."

But that's tough to do when you have an exam or a paper due the next morning - the writing that is. Taking speed with cough syrup is just good common sense.


You may be tempted to laugh at this photo, but you'd better think twice. Richard Simmons is taking on Ultimate Fighters now.

Further to my insane Right Wing ramblings in a recent post, here is an excellent commentary by James Lileks on those who protested the one year anniversary of the liberation of Iraq this week. Definitely worth a read.


For those of you who are hip to the New York City rock scene (Hives, Strokes, White Stripes (yes Jay, I know they are from Detroit, but its the same damn thing)) you should also check out Interpol (lyrics to "NYC" posted below) and The Walkmen on your favorite file sharing site.

I had seven faces,
Thought I new which one to wear,
But I'm sick of spending these lonely nights
Training myself not to care.
The subway is a porno.
The pavements they are a mess.
I know you've supported me for a long time,
Somehow I'm not impressed.

But New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)

The subway she is a porno.
The pavements they are a mess.
I know you've supported me for a long time,
Somehow I'm not impressed.

It is up to me now, turn on the bright lights...

But New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)
But New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)
New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)
New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)

had seven faces,
Thought I new which one to wear,
But I'm sick of spending these lonely nights
Training myself not to care.
The subway is a porno.
The pavements they are a mess.
I know you've supported me for a long time,
Somehow I'm not impressed.

But New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)

The subway she is a porno.
The pavements they are a mess.
I know you've supported me for a long time,
Somehow I'm not impressed.

It is up to me now, turn on the bright lights...

But New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)
But New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)
New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)
New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)


I got into a scrape today with a militant Starbucks employee. Today their coffee of the day was what they call "fair trade" certified. My comment to him was that if Starbucks really wanted to make a positive impact their coffee should be free trade certified. This touched off a debate during which he may or may not have spat in my coffee. My main point was only that if the coffee did not have to be fair trade certified (whatever that means exactly) it would presumably be cheaper. Starbucks would therefore be able to buy more of it, which would increase the overall wealth of our hard working Central American coffee producing friends. Buying less at an artificially inflated price does a disservice to both the buyers and the sellers (taken as a whole). I did not, at any point, bring up the fact that I am presently studying economics at the Masters Level and he is presently working at Starbucks. Even so, he was having none of it, insisting instead that greedy, rich, capitalists were the reason coffee growers lived in poverty.

The Economist says it better in this article from last week. Here is an excerpt, but I urge you to read the entire thing:

But goods and services are not just lying around waiting to be grabbed by the greediest or most muscular countries. Market economics is not a zero-sum game. America consumes $10 trillion worth of goods and services each year because it produces (not counting the current-account deficit of 5% or so of the total) $10 trillion of goods and services each year. Africa could produce and consume a lot more without America producing and consuming one jot less. It so happens that the case for more aid, provided of course that it is well spent, is strong—but the industrialised countries do not need to become any less rich before Africa can become a lot less poor. The wealth of the wealthy is not part of the problem.

To believe otherwise, however, is very much part of the problem. For much of the 20th century the developing countries were held back by an adapted socialist ideology that put global injustice, inequality and victimhood front and centre. Guided by this ideology, governments relied on planning, state monopolies, punitive taxes, grandiose programmes of public spending, and all the other apparatus of applied economic justice. They also repudiated liberal international trade, because the terms of global commerce were deemed exploitative and unfair. Concessions (that is, permission to retain trade barriers) were sought and granted in successive negotiating rounds of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. A kind of equity was thus deemed to have been achieved. The only drawback was that the countries stayed poor.

Towards the end of the century, many developing countries—China and India among them—finally threw off this victim's mantle and began to embrace wicked capitalism, both in the way they organised their domestic economies and in their approach to international trade. All of a sudden, they are a lot less poor, and it hasn't cost the West a cent. In Africa, too, minds are now changing, but far more slowly. Perhaps that has something to do with the chorus that goes up from Africa's supposed friends in the West, telling the region that its plight is all the fault of global inequality, “unfair trade” and an intrinsically unjust market system.

Is it possible I'm starting to take this MBA thing waaaaay too seriously?


At Rotman this week we began the Integrative Management Challenge. The IMC stretches through the fourth quarter of first year right through to the end of the program. The premise is that teams of four compete against each other in guiding a company through a complex business simulation. Each team is responsible for all the decisions of the firm, and is accountable to a real-life board of directors, made up of business leaders and Rotman alum for their performance. Our labour contracts will be negotiated with actual union negotiators and we will produce our own strategy, marketing and operations plans to maximize profits over a simulated 3 year period. The IMC finally gives us a chance to integrate everything we have been studing in first year, and its another chance to do what people here at Rotman do best - compete with each other. Our first task this week is to go through the complicated and highly policital process of picking our teams. Those who are interested can find out more about the IMC via the link.

One more Rotman-related note today. This business school is Messenger nation. It's all about continuous connectivity. These people have it on all the time, even in class. They have 100+ people on their buddy list, and if you are in a study group, you are expected to be available on Messenger pretty much 24-7. "Hey Don, I couldn't get you on Messenger at 11:00 last Friday night, what was up?" "I was drunk."

Well, Steve Moore finally got what he had coming to him last night. In retrospect, I should have known trouble was brewing. When I sent my TAML intern to Vancouver to interview the Canuck tough guys last week about possible retribution against Moore the conversation went like this:
TAML: So any plans in the works for Moore?
Brookbank: It was not necessary to lay a concussion on Markus. Out on the ice Monday, I could get upset. Things could get out of hand. Then in self defense, I could do something to you that he will not like, right there.
TAML: Oookay... Mr. May?
May: Every man! Every man has to go through hell to reach paradise.
TAML: What do you mean by that?
Bertuzzi: (Grabs the microphone) He's gonna learn about loss. (Walks away)

Now Moore, of course, got more than he deserved, but that's only because Bertuzzi hurt him much worse than he intended. But Moore had to expect something to happen to him. You can't just put the leading scorer in the NHL on the shelf with a cheap shot and not expect a reaction.

The good news is Bertuzzi has agreed to come to Toronto and hang out with me to ride out his suspension and wait for the heat from the police investigation to die down. Thursday night we're going to get some Colonel Chicken and some Heineken brew. Then we'll watch Survivor All-Stars and the Canuck game on TV. I've got the fold out all set up for him.


Pick up your big names
Drop a couple mil before the deadline
Those dudes are outta shape, I wish they took away the redline
Start to charge the fans a grand to see them play
Cuz you trade em all back just for Brandon Reid's legs
Huge save Cloutier, the youth of Alex Auldie
but with Jovy, Ohli, Sopie, do we really need a goalie?
Put away the riot gear, cuz this is the year
Brian Burke for PM and Crow for premiere!


If I could be anywhere on the planet this week....

I'd be in Rio.


Super busy this past week in MBA land. The third quarter wrapped up with exams and papers coming due one after another. In addition, the Rotman International Trading Competition went down yesterday and Friday which took a huge commitment of time and effort of the extra-curricular variety. The RITC attracted twenty teams of four this year. They came from Canada the U.S. and the U.K. You can get all the details from the link if you're interested. I got involved by qualifying to take part the previous week in a trade-off with the other Rotmanites. The competition consisted of four trading cases which were ingeniously and fiendishly designed to test both your quant skills as well as your instincts. The highlight of the weekend was definitely the open outcry case on Friday night. Rotman's atrium was made into a commodity-style trading pit and the teams used runners, hand signals and the old-style hand written tickets to trade a ficticious simulated equity index. Action in the pit was hot and heavy, and continued on in a similar fashion when we got together at the bar after. Congratulations to the team from Penn State University for taking home the top prize.

Last weekend's NBA dunk contest was a huge disappointment again. I remember back in the day (mid to late 80's) when the dunk contest was one of the sports highlights of the year. I would fire up the old top-load VCR, tape that thing and watch it over and over frame by frame. All the West Van Highlanders would be talking about it for weeks. Now we're hearing from the pundits that they should retire the dunk contest, that its all been done, there are only so many ways you can dunk a basketball. Bullshit. That's like saying we should stop writing movies or books or making movies because its all been done. The problem is there's not creativity in the NBA anymore. Give me the Dominique Wilkinses and Spud Webbs and Michael Jordans, and to a lesser extent the Terrence Stansburies and Kenny "Sky" Walkers over these chumps any day. I'll save my extended rant on everything else that's wrong with the NBA for another day.

Its a proud day here at TAML, if you type the words "Thistle" and "Rotman" into Google, this page is now the number one response. Possible new catchphase for this blog: TAML - combining Thistle and Rotman in the number one way on the web since 2003. It just rolls off the tongue. Seriously, if I'm ever going to get enough traffic on this site to retire off its ad revenue I think I need a memorable catchphrase or slogan. Any suggestions?


It's TAML coming to you again direct from Toronto, the nation's leading producer of dirty snow. Looks like I dropped the ball on the whole Janet Jackson "nipplegate" thing, all the jokes have been made and all the fingers have been wagged. I feel a little bad, because when watershed events in pop culture such as this go down, people look to TAML for analysis and reaction - and I was nowhere to be found. Instead I'll direct your pop culture-savvy attention to the hottest thing on the internet right now - William Hung.

In MBA land right now there is a distinct lack of focus. My attention is still split between coursework and hunting down that elusive summer internship. BusinessWeek came out with an article last week about the growing importance of summer internships for MBAs. It essentially said that the summer internship that you do between your first and second year of an MBA is increasingly leading to offers of full time work upon completion of your degree. You do good work over the summer and you have a job waiting for you at graduation. I think people at school were getting a sense of this even before the article was released. Rotmanites keep a very close eye on things that effect the supply of and demand for internships (the economy, the stock market, the number of people getting fired a la CIBC's David Kassie for corruption/scandal).

The important point here is that there is now even more pressure to find a good summer job. Not only do you need a good internship to gain experience and make some cash over the summer, but now your prospects for work after graduation are weakened if you don't find one. In addition, the process of finding a summer job is becoming more drawn out than I had anticipated. Out of 270 first year students at Rotman, only about 40 have found internships as of today. (although not all 270 are looking, some plan to travel or do other things over the summer) The folks at the career centre say not to panic, and that more than half the summer hiring takes place after April 1st, when companies' summer HR needs come into better focus.

In conclusion, I can't remember the last pop song that came out that was any better than "Hey Ya". Everybody likes it. It has that genre-spanning, white guy-black guy-old guy-young guy all shaking it in unison like a polariod picture appeal.

Update: serendipitous to the above post, you can also check out William Hung feat. Outkast "She Bangs Remix 2K4"


It's a hard Hobbit to Break.

Nice to see City of God and 21 Grams get props from The Acadamy, but where is Sean Astin's supporting actor nomination for RoTK?

I don't know who will win SuperBowl XXXVIII, but be smart and take the under - no way these teams will score a combined 38 points. I've also got my money on Team Euphoria in the Lingerie Bowl. Is the Lingerie Bowl demeaning to women you might ask? No. (they are well padded and its voluntary) Is it demeaning to football? Perhaps. Dwayne, I dare you to leave a comment.


Today is Robbie Burns Day. To help get you in the mood to celebrate, I'm posting the lyrics to the song from which this blog takes its name: The Old Sod by Spirit of the West. It references Robbie Burns, tartan, t-towels, and various brands of scotch - what could be more Scottish?

Robbie Burns Day should, in my opinion, be elevated to the status of St. Patrick's Day. Who would object to another holiday where drinking is the main focus? Burns was a hero for the people - a simple peasant farmer who wrote from the heart. So move over Chinese New Year and time to get off the late-January holiday mountaintop MLK - make way for Burns! Well, I'm off to the pub for a Famous Grouse neat.

The Old Sod

from the old sod to the new land we came over by the score
we cut the ties said goodbye and closed the old world door
we settled on our praries in your cities and your towns
there's another oatmeal savage every time you turn around

there's none more Scots than the Scots abroad
there's a place in our hearts for the old sod
there's none more Scots than the Scots abroad
there's a place in our hearts for the old sod

we soon found our own kind, formed clubs and social nights
and we practised on each other just to keep our accents right
for there's more tartan here than in all the motherland
we came 5000 miles to the gathering of the clans

there's a bar in the rec room in the basement of our house
a little shrine to Ballantynes haig and famous grouse
there's a sprig of purple heather from the land that once was mine
and Robbie's on the t-towel with the words to Auld Lang Syne

Canada's been good to us we've a living and a home
we've all got central heating and most are on the phone
i'm a citizen of both countries and I'm very proud to be
the thistle and the maple leaf are the emblems of the free

there's none more Scots than the Scots abroad
there's a place in our hearts for the old sod
there's none more Scots than the Scots abroad
there's a place in our hearts for the old sod