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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Good luck 

To everyone waiting to hear from HBS today, and Stanford and Kellogg over the next couple of days (plus everyone else with decisons imminent).

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Getting somewhere 

Took myself off to the doctor yesterday morning and he confirmed the infection is back. I'm now on antibiotics that, among other things, are used to treat exposure to anthrax and other high grade nasties. I think he's aiming for the equivalent of a tactical nuclear explosion for bacteria. I've resigned myself to more time off work (pain, sleep deprivation and the side effects of the anti-biotics having left me fit for little), rearranged a meeting for the foutth time in three weeks and accepted that I'm going to be spending more time in the office on Saturday than I'd originaly planned.

My Financial Aid letter arrived yesterday (despite DHL's on-line tracking claiming that it was still in Cincinatti at the time). In my enfeebled state it prompted a bit of a "how on earth am I going to be able to afford this?" moment, but I had a sit down and a cup of coffee, pulled myself together, and managed to fill in the application form for my I-20 last night. The joys of regulations mean that the budget that the Financial Aid works off can't include expenses before pre-term, but that the one that OIP works off has to include them (if I'm understanding the system right), so the amount I have to be able to demonstrate I can cover form my own resources is c$1k more than the 10% contribution that Wharton requires. When it comes to the visa interview, I'm going to have to be able to show that I can cover this 10% +$1k, despite having already paid out my tuition deposit and, potentially, up to three months of rent (not including the security deposit, which isn't included in the budget anyway). So it all adds up. I was kicking myself for not having got myself moving sooner so that I could have got the visa interview out of the way before I started paying for things, until I realised that as financial aid letters have only just started going out, it wouldn't have made any difference.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

This is getting beyond a joke 

The ear infection that hit three weeks ago left me with a bit of a bunged ear, bit it was gradually unbunging and was no longer painful, so I'd stoped worrying about it and was just waiting for it to clear itself. Then, shortly before bed time, the searing pain started up again, for absolutely no apparent reason. So I'm here, with the clock approaching 2am, trying to balance a hot water bottle on the side of my head, hoping the painkillers will kick in some time soon, and debating whether schlepping half way across the city to the out-of-hours medical service will be more or less awful than my GP's office the morning after a four day weekend. And it's going to mean at least another half day of work, due to the need to get some sleep if nothing else. Anyone know where to get some new eustachian tubes?

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How come even long weekends aren't long enough? 

Easter weekend in the UK has the Friday and Monday as holidays, making it a lovely long break. This year's was an hour shorter as we switched to summer time on Sunday, but even so there was plenty of empty time and I had lots that I planned to do to fill it. Somehow it didn't work out that way though, and lots of my to do list remains undone.

I did manage some important stuff though. My deposit check etc went off on Saturday, and according to the tracking facility has made it to the US, if not yet to Admissions. (The tracking for my Financial Aid paperwork shows that it's made it as far as Cincinnati.) My Kellogg admit binder has been turned into a file for all my Wharton paperwork (admission letter, financial aid stuff, bskewl identification dossier etc) and my filing has found its way into the filing cabinet rather than sitting in a completely disordered pile on the floor. Parts of my flat have even reached a state of cleanliness and order that makes them fit to be seen by other people, although probably not to the level where they're fit to be seen by my mother.

More pleasantly, I had lunch on Saturday with Megami, who it was really good to meet. Great company, an accomplished food orderer, and skilled at not showing horror at either UK restaurant prices or my chopstick-using technique :) And I got home on Saturday evening to a correctly recorded video of the first new Dr Who. Not only was this cracking TV, and I would guess the inspiration for approximately half of the country's Easter Sunday sermons, it also confirmed that 'northern-ness' (in the Englsih sense) is a quality which trancends galaxies, which can only be a good thing.

So, a good weekend. Just a shame there isn't more of it still to come.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Wheels turn slowly 

Got an e-mail from the admissions office to say that Kroll has completed the verification process, but has not been able to verify salaries for my previous organisation because they have a policy of not giving out salary information. So copies of my beginning and ending payslips have just been faxed over to Philly, which should hopefully give them all the necessary information to complete the process. I'm beginning to wish that I'd added the admissions fax machine to my Friends & Family list - I suspect it's vying with one of my colleagues for 'best friend' status :)

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Congratulations and commiserations 

as appropriate to everyone who got decisions today. I'm looking forward to meeting the new Wharton admits soon. As for Poweryogi, what can I say?!

Speaking (or at least typing) of Wharton, I got home this evening (somewhat delayed due to "a naked trespasser on the line") to find my US$ cheque book (or should that be check book?) waiting for me. So I sat down with a silly grin on my face and took care of my deposit. I honestly don't think I've ever been happier about writing a cheque. Cheque, deposit form, ethics statement, transpcripts etc are now all parcelled up and ready to be sent off on Saturday (it's a public holiday here tomorrow). Then when I opened up my e-mail, there was a message to say that my Financial Aid letter is on it's way. Once that I arrives I can send my I-20 paperwork over to the Office of International Programs and get one step closer to my visa.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A long night ahead for some 

Good luck to everyone waiting for decisions from Wharton or LBS tomorrow (I believe it's just those two). I'm really glad that I'm not sitting on the edge of my seat anymore, but I'll be thinking of you tomorrow. Right now, I need to get some sleep. Hope you manage to get some too.

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Blogs and business 

Interesting piece in the latest Knowledge @ Wharton about blogs.

The article makes a brief mention of Google Adsense, which is what generates those little ads at the top of the page (unless you're reading this through Bloglines or similar, in which case you're missing out). I am pleased to be able to report that I am just $0.38 off having paid for my verification fee through this! Not a huge sum by any means, but not bad as money for old rope goes.

I had a conversation with some colleagues about the whole blog 'phenomenon' a few weeks ago, prompted by one of them having been featured in the blog of someone who was on a course he was running. I didn't 'fess up to having one, but it did get me thinking about their marketing potential for my current organisation. We've batted ideas about discussion boards etc around before but have concluded they're just too risky, for a number of reasons, but there might be some mileage in blogs. Might have to see if I can get some wheels in motion before I leave.

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What, no chocolate? 

There’s been quite an interesting thread running on the B-week boards about the freebies sent with admissions packets. Apparently someone got a mug full of chocolates from one of the clubs at Kellogg – maybe I should have waited longer to decline my place!

Neither Wharton nor Kellogg went overboard on the freebies. There was a Wharton car sticker in the admit pack and at Winter Welcome we got a $15 voucher to spend in the Wharton Store. The marketing cynic in me assumed that voucher redemption was used as a predictor for yield, as people who think they are unlikely to go to a school are probably not going to want a school branded t-shirt, but I never got round to asking anyone about this. Please feel free to confirm/deny if you can – enquiring minds want to know (or at least this one does). And if the information isn’t used for this, wouldn’t it be fun to try it and see if it works?! (Yes, I know I’m a geek. When I used a Direct Marketing agency for donor recruitment the rest of my team used to ooh and aah over visuals etc whilst I formed an immediate bond with the agency’s numbers guy and got excited about regression analysis – sad but true.) At DAK everyone got a t-shirt, a Frisbee and a pencil. As singers tend to have a pencil in every bag/pocket, the latter has come in handy.

In general though I’m pretty distrustful of freebies. Everything has to be paid for somehow, so unless it’s been donated or sponsored, chances are every gift is just adding $$ to my fees, which I can live without.

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News just in 

Wharton's named the new Director of Admissions & Financial Aid.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Visas 

Business Week has an interesting piece on student visas, which might be worth a look for anyone who is going to need one. I was pleasantly surprised by how positive it was - given that it's a Q&A with an immigration lawyer I was expecting more of an 'it's really hard, you should get professional help' type piece, but it isn't.

I've had a look at the forms for applying for my F-1, and they don't seem too bad. What I do find amusing, and slightly bizarre, though, is that I don't have to submit a 'supplementary non-immigrant visa application form' on account of the fact that I'm female. This form is required of all males aged between 16 and 45, as well as everyone from a small number of certain countries. Looking at the questions on the form, it appears to be routing out potential terrorists. Now, whilst I have no objection to not having to write every country I've visited in the last ten years in a space only slighlty larger than a postage stamp, I find it strange that my lack of a Y chromosone is the only reason I don't have to do it. I had dinner on Saturday with a group of people, including a former Prison Governor who was telling us about his experience of holding female terrorist suspects in his male prison, and we've had more than a quarter of a century of advancing equality since then.

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Amusing take on management jargon 

in today's Dilbert

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It's a bit quiet round here 

The last few days have been literally pretty quiet due to the after-effects of my ear infection bunging up my left ear. The silence is copeable with for the time being, the return of the bad-enough-to-wake-me-in-the-middle-of-the-night pain wasn't, but that seems to have abated. When I saw my doctor last week he was muttering dark things about hospitals and did I have private medical insurance, which makes me think I'm going to be shelling out £ to avoid waiting for weeks on end. I'm usually not given to unnecessary worry about health things, but we have a family history of ear trouble, so they are one of the few things that I get a bit paranoid about.

Things are more metaphorically quiet on the B-school front - just waiting for everything to work its way through the systems. During a rare moment of lucidity among the throbbing ear and sleep deprivation I did manage to go through my credit card statements and find that I'd been charged twice by Kroll for the verification (I had all sorts of problems with getting the system to accept my card, resulting in me paying over the phone, but it looks like it did take an on-line payment after all), so I've been making enquiries to get that sorted out. But that's it at the moment, other than getting nervous by proxy for everyone getting decisions in the next few days. Good luck all!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Politics and admission decisions 

When it comes to national political elections, the UK works on the sort of semi-rolling decision making process favoured by some B-school admissions departments. There's a deadline which a decision has to be made (ie an election has to be called) but it can happen any time before then. As the last General Election was in 2001 the next one doesn't have to be until 2006, but the consensus of opinion is that we'll have one this year, with May 5th being the most likely date. (Local elections always occur on the first Thursday in May, and getting people out to vote on two different days is more than most politicians would hope for.)

I'm very much in favour of the 'one fell swoop' approach for admission decsions, and I think I'd much prefer it for elections as well. At the moment, with an election undeclared but in the air, the general chattering and jockeying for position amongst politicians and the media is starting to make the B-week boards look rational and mature. And we most likley have another three and a half weeks before we get a formal announcement, assuming May 5th will be the day. I really just wish they'd get on with it.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

And we move a little bit further down the road 

Got an e-mail this evening to confirm that my financial aid stuff had been received. This was reassuring as I hadn't actually watched the fax go through and so there was always the possibility that there'd been a glitch of some kind. (I'm a bit mistrustful of machines at the moment, mainly due to a VCR which seems to sense when I really want to record something and decides not to do it.) The information in the e-mail conflicts a bit with what's being said on E-talk (the admitted students discussion board) regarding whether award notification letters have to wait for the University to finalise the student budget or whether they can be done based on the provisional budget, but I'm happy to sit tight an wait to get a letter at some point. International students an award letter in order to apply for an I20, which we need to get a student visa. Wait times for visa appointments in the UK aren't that long (about nine days at the moment, I think) so there's not any time pressure at this point in time, but I know people from countries where there's a much longer wait have been starting to get a bit anxious.

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Who says Philly isn't the centre of the universe? 

During the past three weeks I've been letting a lot of people know about where I'll be heading at the end of July. Some knew about my overall B-school plans so it was just a case of confirming destinations, others didn't and it was completely new news. While it does feel sad to be steppign down from things, confirming that I can't be involved in future plans and generally facing up to a few months of 'lasts', I continue to be overwhelmed by just how positive and supportive everyone is and how excited they are for me. (Sometimes a little less excitement would be good though, having been on the receiving end of a bear hug from my vicar as I was in the process of trying to empty out an urn of boiling water without scalding anyone.)

One thing I've found is that roughly every fifth person I tell seems to know someone in Philadelphia who I 'really should get in touch with'. If the social conventions of a hundred years ago were still applicable I think I'd be taking a suitcase-full of letters of introduction and spending most of the first semester taking tea with people.

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Two down, one to go 

I finally managed to fax off my financial aid forms (and accompanying documentation) this morning. With verification alread in progress this just leaves my deposit cheque (along with ethics form, official transcripts, and other bits that have to be sent as hard copies) to go. The cheque is the only element holding things up, and that should be sorted out withing the next couple of weeks. I'm really looking forward to being able to write it.

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Theoretical ponderings 

I know that some people are getting heartily fed up with the whole HBS 119 thing, so let me start by saying that this post isn’t directly about that. It does however come from a chain of thought that was inspired by some of the discussions around it, so forgive me from starting out from 119 territory.

Some of the discussion has centred on who owns the information and whether an individual has a right to see information that is, after all, about them. Other discussion has concerned itself with security and the issues of holding information about people in an insecure manner In the UK we have a piece of legislation called the Data Protection Act (there’s equivalent legislation in other EU countries) which gives individuals rights regarding the information which is held about them and places responsibilities on the organisations holding that information. One of the responsibilities is that information has to be held securely, and one of the rights is that individuals have access to the information that’s held about them (subject access). Naturally, there are a whole load of exceptions when it comes to subject access. MI5 doesn’t have to tell me what they have in my file, to give an example.

So my train of thought started wondering about the whole HBS 119 thing from the security angle and wondering whether if this had occurred in the EU, complaints would be being made on Data Protection grounds. Then I started thinking about it from a subject access point of view. There are subject access exemptions which mean that schools don’t necessarily have to reveal information about past or present pupils. There’s also an exception which means that exam results don’t have to be disclosed prior to their publication date. But I’m not sure that there’s anything directly in the legislation that would mean that a B-school could refuse to provide an applicant with details of what’s on their file (references probably excepted) if the applicant requested it. (Schools in the EU may of course be requiring applicants to waive their rights, although I don’t know if they do or if indeed they can.)

So, at least in theory, an applicant to say, LBS, could try to use the DPA to get their decision early. In all likelihood this wouldn’t be very practical though. Data controllers have up to 40 days to respond, and it’s very likely that in most cases there’s less than 40 days between a final decision being made and that decision being communicated. Not to mention that such a request may not be looked on very favourably by the school. If though you were dinged by a school and had no intention of re-applying (and therefore nothing to lose) could you get a copy of your file? I wonder.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Stretching credulity 

Two days of enforced sofa rest has led to me watching much more TV than usual. Monday's big entertainment news story was the 'leak' of the first episode of the new Dr Who series onto the internet. If you've never come across Dr Who before, it's a cult BBC sci-fi series that ran between 1963 and 1989, and there's been a campaign for it to be brought back ever since it was cancelled. It was famed (and loved) as much for it's dodgy 'special effects' as much as anything else, and I think that a lot of people have a soft spot for it. And it naturally has the diehard fans which such series always generate. Personally I think it 'went off' in its later years, but I was a big fan in the late 70's and early 80's. (I never found it particularly scary though, but I was seriously freaked out by the bushy eyebrows of the person who did the sports results that were broadcast immediately before. To this day, I maintain a liking for 'horror'/monsters/blood 'n' guts etc, and a problem with overly heavy eyebrows.) So I'm looking forward to the new series and hoping that they haven't made a complet mess of it.

What I am finding difficult to swallow though is the fact that this 'leak' occurred the day before the official publicity launched. Call me a cynic (and I won't argue with you), but there's just too much of a coincidence of timing. The BBC can protest all it likes, but I smell guerilla marketing wearing eau de rodent.

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The saga continues 

Watching the escalation of the HBS/Applyyourself debacle over the past week has been interesting. Clearadmit has a good summary of links to the the discussion, MBAboy did a really interesting post on it from a philosophical perspective and Poweryogi has linked to a discussion going on over at slashdot. One of the 119, who saw a ding letter, has demonstrated his entreprneurial flair at cafepress.

If I'd been waiting for a decision from one of the Applyyourself using schools, I don't think I'd have checked, but the decison not to would have been driven by eleventh commandment concerns, I don't think I'd even have got to the point of considering the ethics of the situation. I think my thought process would have been somehting along the lines of - HBS is going to be alerted to this, they're most likely going to be able to tell who's accessed the information and they're not going to take very kindly to it. That would have stopped me before I even got to a right/wrong consideration.

There's been huge amounts of debate elsewhere about whether the 'HBS 119' (plus the handful from other schools) should have done what they did, so I'm not going to add to it. What I find more interesting is the reactions of the schools, particularly HBS as that's where most of the attention has been focussed. Firstly the use of the term 'hacker' immediately puts a certain spin on the situation, which focusses all attention away from the schools and the software company. If someone breaks into my house, then they're most likely a burglar. If I go out and leave my backdoor wide open and someone then walks in, I can't necessarily make that assumption. OK, they probably shouldn't be in there, but there might be a valid explanation for their presence, and even if they are there to swipe the family silver I need to take some responsibility for the fact that I didn't make my house secure. I think the schools and the software company should be taking more responsibility for the fact that they failed to lock their backdoor.

I also think the whole thing has been played very badly from a media point of view. OK, there was naturally going to be media interest, but if it had been played differently in the first place, maybe the legs could have been cut off the story. Afterall, only a very samll proportion of the overall applicant pool tried to get in. An even smaller proportion saw anything concrete, and a smaller proportion still were 'peekers' who were potentially going to be admitted. If the numbers had been put in context and if emotive language like 'hackers' had been avoided then maybe things would have played differently with the wider media. And then, decisions could have been made out of the spotlight and without so much need to publically save face. After all, if you've branded someone a hacker and made it clear that you take no responsibility for information being accessible in a way that it shouldn't be, you can't admit them without being seen to condone behaviour that is at best dubious, at worst illegal. If on the other hand you make efforts to dim the spotlights and then get out your torch so that you can make a proper investigation of what actually happened, you can give yourself breathing space, look for explanations rather than quickly judging guilt, make better decisons, and learn from mistakes.

Finally, I wonder how brookbond, the person who originally tried the backdoor and then told others it wasn't locked, feels about how the whole thing has played out.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Happy International Women's Day 

It's one of those days that I always feel I ought to mark somehow, but usually never do. This year was no exception - I've spent most of it wrapped up in a duvet on the sofa cursing the inefectiveness of my antibiotics. And I don't think watching old Buffy episodes to escape from the drivel of daytime TV really counts somehow.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

One out, all out 

The back still hurts, but seems to be getting better. A bit of creativity with my sleeping arrangements last night enabled me to keep a hotwater bottle against it and helped me to actually get some sleep. More hotwater bottles, hot baths, Ralgex and pain killers have dealt with the worst of it during the day. But my left ear has decided to come out in sympathy and develop an infection, making it feel like someone has been pumping air into my eardrum whilst simultaneously inserting a hot poker. And as medical science has yet to develop an antibiotic that my body doesn't object to, I'm in the 'it'll get worse before it gets better' phase.

In the almost three years that I've been living by myself I've become a big fan of being a one person household, but it's not much fun when you're ill. There's a lot to be said for having someone else around to do the shopping, wash the dishes, mop my fevered brow etc. (or to give me a kick up the backside and tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself). But the absence of such live-in help I'm resorting to phoning out for pizza and crawling back to the sofa for some continued self-indulgence.

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Housework is overated 

Between welcome weekends and work I haven't spent much time at home in the past few weeks, so this weekend I thought I'd better get round to doing some of the things that I'd been letting slip - like watering plants before they die, checking that there's nothing in the huge pile of unopened post that actually requires any action, and generally making the place lok a little less like the world's most comprehensive collection of dust and paper recycling. I'm not quite sure what I did, but I certainly managed to do something to my lower back which is now making moving, or even standing up, extremely painful. I'm hoping that Ralgex and a hot water bottle will do enough to enable me to at least make it out of bed in he morning.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Getting going 

I managed to get my verification for Wharton going earlier this week (despite the Kroll system objecting to my credit card) and someone just phoned to check my details for my current employer. The person who answered the phone heard my name and 'human resources' thought it was a sales call and put the caller through to me. I was able to put him through to the person he actually needed to speak to, and it seems to have been pretty painless. I must say, he wasn't that clear on the phone what he was calling about or who he wanted to speak to, which could make things interesting when he calls my former organisation, unless HR there has improved dramatically in the last few years. Hopefully it should all proceed pretty smoothly.

One of my jobs for the weekend is to get my financial aid form done so that I can get going with both funding and my visa, and I need to sort out the best way to pay my deposit.

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Some possibilities should be foreseen 

Went out last night with some of the othe UK-based Wharton admits and Alex from the admissions office,who's over doing r2 hub interviews. Venue a little lacking in decent beer and with a bit too much background noise, but it was fun to see people. Some interesting conversation on the HBS/Applyyourself debacle and the power of the internet. Needless to say, great relief from Alex that Wharton doesn't use that system. General comments onthe interviews suggest that there's an interesting crop of candidates, which bodes well for the future class.

The UK is currently in the grip of a 'cold spell' (last week a relatively small amount of snow was being refered to a 'extreme weather' by the train companies) but despite pretty accurate weather forecasts some people seem to be incapable of taking appropriate action. I got off my train this morning onto a platform that evidently no one had thought to grit, my feet slid out from under me and I found myself sprawled on the floor. Thankfully I managed not to rip my trousers, but a predict a beautiful bruise on my left knee by tomorrow and probably some painful muscles too.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Speaking in tongues 

A few postings ago I was commenting on trans-atlantic language issues. Shortly after I wrote that, I read a magazine column by someone who originates from Yorkshire (which is also my homeland) on unexpected language issues. Yorkshire, and the rest of northern England, still maintains a healthy dialectical tradition, and although you tend to know that some words and phrases are dialect rather than standard English, there are others that you only become aware of when you get a bemused look from a southern friend or are challenged when trying to use them in a game of Scrabble. In the case of this particular writer he'd refered to someone 'giving backword' and been met by total incomprehension on the part of his wife. (Anyone wanting to try to deduce the meaning, please feel free to do so via the comments section.)

What brought all this to mind was a blog entry I read recently about the misuse of the term 'scientist'. On my less serene days I get annoyed by similar misuse of 'charity worker'. I have a friend who is on the music staff of an opers company, another who teaches in one of thecoutry's more exclusive schools, and another who's a medical research scientist. The organisations they (and I) work for are all registered charities, which makes us all 'charity workers', yet what we do and who we do it for are very, very different. There's also a horrible overtone of 'pious do-gooder' which comes with the phrase and implied value judgement about what 'charity workers' are meant to be like. Still, I suppose 'businessman' gets abused just as much.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Getting used to the view 

The software on my work PC was upgraded at the end of last week, and I got to the office this morning to find that the friuendly neighbourhood IT guy had left me with a picture of the Philadelphia skyline as my wallpaper, as well as some spiffy new software. It's a view taken a dusk from the Art Museum area (I think) and really rather lovely.

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Taking a lead 

Leadership was one of the things I highlighted as a priority when I looked at what I wanted from a business school. One of the big attractions of Wharton was the Leadership Ventures programme, which consists of experiential learning opportunities ranging from meditation to expeditions to some of the world's most remote spots. Business week has an article which highlights the Antarctica venture and one of the student diaries talks about the up-coming inaugraul sailing venture.

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