The House of Random Crap
A clearinghouse for my crazed, deviant, trivial, irreverant & occasionally reflective thoughts.

Thursday, October 31, 2002  

It looks as though my job search might be winding down to a close. I had my 3rd coffee talk with the founder of TS Capital, and he again made a strong but not pushy pitch for me to consider joining his company. It wasn't an explicit offer, but more of a "soft" one. He didn't come out and say "We want to offer you a job", but he did say on many occasions that he needed someone like me on boardn (and even that he wanted me specifically on board), and today even asked me to bring Nicha along for a dinner meeting with him next time I am in Thailand. He asked me today how soon I would be able to start (he suggested after Thanksgiving so that I could take a break before I start work, as if I hadn't already taken an 11-month break!). We didn't resolve yet my exact title, but he did indicate that I would lead his corporate finance team, which is a major risk but also a humongous opportunity for me. At the moment, I am talking to a bank in Hong Kong that will pay a 6-figure salary and likely as large a bonus, so I'm hoping that TS Capital offers at least a healthy mid-5-figures plus equity to compete. I know I can't expect a gigantic upfront payday for a start-up, especially one that offers me a great deal of responsibility and a chance to work with some major heavy hitters (in investment banking vernacular, they are known as Big Swinging Dicks =), but I do have student loan payments to make, and Nicha and I want to save for a house and family. I would say chances are in favor of me taking this job sometime next month (just after the 1-year mark since losing my last job!). I'm quite relieved to think I'll be gainfully employed again.

On a lighter, funnier note, Nicha asked me last night why I planned to wear a suit instead of a Halloween costume to meet the company founder. I told her I was dressing up; I was going as an employed person...=)

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 1:32 PM |

Tuesday, October 29, 2002  

It's been a knock-down-drag-out affair as of late. I forgot how tiring the interview grind could be, and that in spite of the fact that most of the interviews I've had have been surprisingly gentle. The current frontrunner is a start-up merchant bank that hopes to evolve into a hedge fund/private equity firm that I will call TS Capital. It was started by a former Goldman Sach private banker and a former McKinsey consultant. Initially, I thought I would be interviewing for the principal position that my friend Saranta will be vacating, but after a set of interviews yesterday, I learned it would be for a manager-type position below the partner level. A bit disappointing, yes, but perhaps more appropriate given my qualifications. No doubt an issue I will have to deal with further I will say I am pretty impressed with the people I've met thus far. In 2 meetings, the Goldman partner has met with me for a total of 4 hours, not only to pitch his firm to me, but often just to take the time and shoot the breeze over coffee. The McKinsey partner is equally impressive, having a track history at starting several entrepreneurial ventures. What was funny was that he kept apologizing profusely for the non-descript office and the really ratty chair I was sitting on. For me, I thought it was a great; a start-up that shells out tons of its seed money on fancy trappings (as many dotcoms did) simply don't get it. I had the sense that this outfit is truly a start-up in every sense of the words. I was equally impressed with the people they gathered. I only had a chance to speak with 3 of them, but I thought is was a smart and really motivate group of people, eager to learn and willing to take a chance (rare qualities in Thailand, I must say). Nicha thinks an offer is imminent, and I am inclined to agree. We'll see.

Things are pretty interesting on the sports side. I was a bit disappointed that the SF Giants lost the World Series, but at least they lost to the Anahiem Angels, a hometown team. The incident in Game 5 where the Giants baserunner almost barrelled over 3 and a half year old bat boy Darren Baker (son of manager Dusty Baker) really warmed my heart. Yes, it was a near-calamity, but the fact that little Darren made it out ok and the picture of the Giant player grabbing the boy out of harm's way was almost adorable. The image of Darren in his dad's arms and crying his eyes out after the Game 7 loss almost broke my heart. On a more upbeat note, Thailand's newest sports superhero, tennis sensation Paradorn Srichaphan, is making front page news out here almost everyday. I just caught wind of this young man in the week or so before I came out to Thailand, and since I've been here, he's been going gangbusters. Notwithstanding recent victories over Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi (at Wimbledon, no less), he won the gold medal in tennis at the Asian Games, and just the other day powered past former #1 Marcelo Rios to take the title at the Stockholm Open (the oldest indoor title). I caught both his semi-final and finals match, and this kid is smoking! I always liked tennis, but never had that much patience to follow the sport. But there's something about this guy that has capture my (and this entire country's imagination). He's currently ranked #22, and could crack the top 20 after next week's Paris Open.

Not all is sunshine and puppies though. Cal suffered a 24-13 defeat at the hands of Oregon State this part weekend. It was a game that Cal essentially should have won handily. Now, they have to find a way to get primed for this weekend's game against Arizona State, currently the Pac-10 leader.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 3:58 PM |

Friday, October 25, 2002  

The last time I had a consulting case interview was back in late 1998, coincidentally, with McKinsey for their Thai office. I got dinged back then because, basicallly, my case interview skills suck. So what earthly reason exists to expect that my skills at consulting case interviews would have drastically improved?

None whatsoever.

What was supposed to be a 2 and half interview stretched into a 7-hour ordeal, causing me to postpone my interview with the Australian bank (more on that in a second). The extended session gave me a slight twinge of hope that I might actually make it into the next round, even though I knew I was blowing chunks the entire time. Alas, t'was not meant to be. I hate rejection. On an interesting note, I bumped into two friends. One was Pornchanok, a classmate from Kellogg Class of '98 who I hadn't seen or talked to since she graduated, and who is now a Project Manager at McKinsey. The other was Chariya, a friend I had met in my early days in Thailand through a close friend of mine from my Siam Commercial Bank days. She was one of my fellow interviewees. Unfortunately, we got routed to our rooms before we could exchange numbers, so I have to figure out a way to track her down.

Anyways, the head of telecoms at the Australian bank has to go out of town on Monday, which meant that we needed to conduct a phone interview this afternoon. I tried to schedule it early enough in the afternoon because the first private equity that I was supposed to meet on Tuesday was tentatively rescheduling a meeting for this evening (which as of this morning has been put off until some unspecified date next week. Because my McKinsey interview ran late, I tried to reschedule the phone interview for later in the afternoon, but because they were running behind schedule on their end, they have to put it off until Monday anyways. Only now, as we will both be out of Hong Kong, it will be conducted by phone. Confused? I sure as hell am.

As for the start-up private equity firm, I met the founder for 2 hours Thursday morning at the Regent Hotel. It was really an interview, has he spent the first hour talking about random things and the next hour pitching his vision and his company. I am astounded by how smart, passionate, and cosmopolitan this guy is, and impressed with his vision for his company. He asked for another morning meeting for this coming Monday, which unfortunately means that I don't get to meet the other principals yet or junior staffers. I hope this interview works out; I have a good feeling about this company...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 5:13 PM |

Wednesday, October 23, 2002  

On Tuesday, October 22nd at 3:38 pm PST, a 6 pound, 8.4 ounce princess was born! When I spoke to Pete last night (Bangkok time) at around 10:30 pm, Nicha and I were about to hit the sack, and Jane had been in pre-labor for 17 hours. Pete had managed 1-2 hours of sleep, and Jane much less. I got a call from Pete at 7:20 am my time telling us of this incredible news. Here are some initial pics of daddy and mommy with my brand new niece (as opposed to my dirty old niece, who Jessica replaces...). When Nicha and I saw these, we started sniffling and welling up big time. Congrats, Pete and Jane! We are so happy for you! By the way, we hope you took the time to feed the dog during this ordeal...

I was just starting to think that my life and this job hunt were getting under control when I get a call from one of my headhunters telling me that an AUstralian bank is looking for a senior associate to join their telecom team in Hong Kong, and are looking to find someone fast. So, in order to squeeze into the interview process, I have to cut my trip short and return to Bangkok this weekend to meet with this bank on Monday. This now puts all my plans into a chaotic state of limbo. At this point, Nicha doesn't plan on transferring up to Hong Kong, but will rather finish up the last year and a half of her contract with Bangkok Bank, which means if I get and take this offer, I spend another year and a half without my wife. The flip side of it is that the position pays fairly well (not as nice as Salomon, but very comfy). It looks like the next 2-4 weeks will be pretty crazy for me.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 1:40 PM |

Tuesday, October 22, 2002  

I was supposed to kick off my interviews today, but as it turned out, the company had to reschedule. The office manager tried to call me this morning, but couldn't get through, and it slipped her mind to try and call me again later. So I sit in a cab for an hour (the distance wasn't far, but the heavy rainstorm meant that traffic would be slow) and when I show up at the office, it looks as though every professional is in the conference room neck deep in a deal. So now, it looks like I've been pushed back until the end of week. I suppose I ought to be pissed, but I'm not. I could use the extra breathing room to do some additional reading on the Asian private equity environment. Also, I come across as very flexible, understanding, and easy-going in front of the office manager, who I hope will pass this tidbit along to the directors.

I also have an interview scheduled this Thursday with the founder of a start-up private equity firm. I met and spoke with Saranta, one of the exiting principals charged with finding a replacement. To my good fortune, she is not only a Kellogg grad who was also a Salomon associate in our Thai office (I met her last march at the Hong Kong Reugby Sevens after we both left the company), but she is also good friends with Lisa, and old friend of mine from my Siam Commercial Bank days (it was Lisa who referred me to Saranta in the first place). The opportunity to help built a firm from nearly the ground up seems extremely exciting, if not downright compelling. My only concern is that none of the principals has any principal investing experience, and it may very well be that the founder (a former Goldman Sachs partner) may have little to no corporate finance execution experience, which would make me the guy in charge of teaching the junior staffers/bankers (if not the other 2 principals) the ropes (or which I am on somewhat shaky ground to begin with!). Still, there is something undeniably attractive about building a business, especially a merchant bank what eventually wants to morph itself into a full-fledged private equity outfit. And as trivial as it sounds, having the title "Principal" (this means "partner" in finance-speak) sounds pretty cool!

In even more exciting news, my sister-in-law Jane is about to deliver her baby any hour now (if she hasn't already), so I will be an uncle soon! I love baby girls, so I know I will absolutely adore Baby Jessica (I would have been pissed if I wasn't the one to buy her folks the coolest gift on her folk's baby shower gift registry, and I'll be damned if I ain't the coolest uncle she'll ever have!). I tried calling Pete on both his cell and home phones earlier today, and since I couldn't reach him on his cell, I'm guessing he might have been in the delivery room! I'm on pins and needles right now...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 6:11 PM |

Monday, October 21, 2002  

If I ever had a worse birthday in my 32 years, I cannot for the life of me remember when. Yesterday was supposed to be a low-key day, with Nicha doing some quick household chores, and then the 2 of us heading out for lunch and a movie. Nothing spectacular, but really all I wanted or needed. Instead, her chores stretched out most of the morning, as her family's maid was incapacitated with a nasty fever. By late morning, she was pretty wiped. At about that time, I reminded her that I would be staying in a cheap hotel in the central business district this week, as it would be more convenient to conduct the numerous job interviews and lunch meetings I have scheduled from a centrally located base of operations rather than spend 40 minutes in a cab each way from her folk's place. Instead, it turned into a major arguement about how I don't appreciate staying at her parent's house and that I am not trying hard enough to adapt to her parent's lifestyle. We were both in a pretty pissy mood after that. While I brooded, Nicha decided to tell her father that I would be staying in a hotel this week, and that we would be moving into an apartment once I move out here. The both aired out a lot of things that needed to be said. Her father acknowledged that while he loves and accepts me as his son-in-law, he does not approve of my sleeping in, my tendency to keep late nights, and my aversion towards housework. He also admitted that his lifestyle is very rigid, and that it doesn't mesh well with my highly independent and mobile upbringing. The way I see it, he sees me a lazy, while I see him as inefficient and tradition-bound. He thought it was a good idea that I stay in a hotel (and that Nicha join me for the duration) and that we move into an apartment, as living under the same roof has made us both miserable. It's funny, because this is the same relationship I have with my mother: we love each other dearly, but close proximity puts us in cranky and arguementative moods, so we keep a distance and the relationship warms considerably. Likewise, Nicha's younger brother spends many nights staying in his company-owned suites and shows up at home for weekends so his late nights and sleeping in doesn't grate on his father.

Although this was a confrontation that came out of nowhere, it was an issue that I am glad Nicha resolved for us. However, I was still bummed out that my birthday would consist of nothing more than a dreary day at home. Nicha was in no mood to go out, and it started pouring rain in the afternoon, so going out was out of the question. Both Pete and Don called, as well as my friend Patty, which brightened my day somewhat. But the day had become such a miserable one that I lamented to Pete (as well as to Nicha a bit later) that my mood had become so foul that I would have been happy just to satisfy my craving for a Coke.

I took a nap for most of the afternoon, to be woken by Nicha who presented me with a tiny blueberry cheesecake with a single candle and a can of Coke. I almost cried; she's such a sweetheart. It made a shitty day a little less shitty. I was also pleased to discover that Cal defeated UCLA in Saturday's game by a score of 17-12, mainly due to an astounding effort by the Cal defense. Sadly, UCLA senior quarterback Cory Paus broke his ankle in the 3rd quarter, thus ending his season and college career.

Things were starting to look a bit brighter. And then my mom called. Things started out pleasantly enough, but I was determined to bring up the subject of my parents' feud with my brother Don which was sure to dampen her mood. That's putting it lightly. She much have referred to Don as "that goddamn kid" at least 2 dozen times, and would not listen to any of my suggestions about reconciliation between them. Nicha spent about 30 minutes on the phone, which calmed her down. As she wrapped up her call with talk of how she and my dad are finding time to take dance lessons and singing karaoke, she mentioned in passing that in a move to clear space for a karaoke room in the house, she and my dad trashed some of my childhood keepsakes and old investment banking pitches and models. Despite the fact that I had spent hours on my last visit weeding out the trash I wanted junked, my folks decided to unilaterally trash stuff that I deemed important enough to keep, without so much as a call. What really pisses me off was that a few minutes before, she had asked if I needed any monetary support from her and my dad. What the fuck?!? If they are offering to cough up a few grand to help me through a rough patch, they couldn't shell out $20 a month to cram my stuff into storage. That was really the major nail in the coffin on what turned out to be a seriously fucked up birthday. If I didn't have Nicha there with me, I would have thrown myself to the alligators for sure...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:43 PM |

Saturday, October 19, 2002  

I don't know if I should be pissed off at Thailand, Microsoft, or both. The bottom line is that organizing and cleaning up my Hotmail account is turning into an all-afternoon affair. For the last few months, I have been skirting the line with a stuffed-to-the-brim e-mail account. At over 150 e-mails, I was having a tough time keeping track of who I have been corresponding with and when, and I have e-mails that are over 10 months old. This is bad enough at any other time, but with neck-deep in the job hunt, I figure I need to clean out the inbox, and update my Palm Pilot with all the new addresses and phone numbers that friends have been sending me. Unfortunately, this has been a slower proposition than I might have hoped for. It's taken almost 3 hours to delete the first 20 or so e-mails, and I have well over a 100 to go. It has definitely put me in a cranky mood. [The 20 minutes that it took for Blogger to accept this post has not improved my mood!]

The rest of the day has been rather quiet. Nicha and I took her car to a garage to check for possibly residual damage following the massive flooding in Bangkok the other week. The garage belongs to a friend of her mother, and the owner and his wife have 3 young children, the youngest being a just-barely-able-to-walk 1-year old baby boy whom she fawned over for the 30 minutes we were there. It was really cute, as she has very strong maternal instincts; with me moving to Bangkok and my 2 brothers expecting their first children, I can sense that she's feeling the itch to start having kids of our own. It hit me that at this age (I turn 32 tomorrow), my dad had a 1-year old of his own (that being me).

After we left the garage, we went to "tamboon" (Thai for making a donation for religious/spiritual reasons) in honor of my birthday tomorrow. We stopped by the Foundation for the Welfare of the Crippled, which was formed under the patronage of the late Princess Mother. We went in to make a donation of Baht 1000, which is about $24. While this is fairly generous by Thai standards, it does seem a bit low to me, since I donate $24 a month to Save the Children as part of my regular charitable contributions. Also, the minimum contribution of the major donors wall was Baht 100,000, or $2,380. This is almost $400 less than what I paid for my Thai lessons at Berlitz. Though I have no regrets for taking the language classes (as I do need to develop some minimum level of competency if I'm going to live here for the rest of my life, and I am pleased with my progress), I can't help but wonder if the tuition couldn't have been better spent assisting handicapped children. I think I may up my donation a bit once I land a job...

Speaking of Berlitz, I wrapped up my course yesterday, not a moment too soon. I had a really fun time, and I improved my Thai a great deal, but the ordeal has left me extremely exhausted. I'm almost looking forward to job interviews this coming week. I thinbk I will spend the evening watching a few episodes of 24 with Nicha, or perhaps squeeze in a few hours of The Sims. Cal plays UCLA tomorrow, so I'm hoping Jeff Tedford, Kyle Boller and Company give me the birthday present I want (incidentally, this is the Homecoming Week of my 10th year college reunion; how old do I feel now?!?). Last week's 30-28 loss to USC was pretty disappointing, not only because Cal blew a 21-3 lead, but also because of a grossly improper and incorrect call that allowed a USC touchdown that even Pac-10 officials say was a terrible call. I'll be happy if Cal finishes with a winning season, and definitely with a Big Game win.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 3:39 PM |

Friday, October 18, 2002  

I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night, and wound up tossing and turning most of the time. When we were getting cleaned up, I told Nicha that it was like a joke I told one of my Thai instructors yesterday. When I was being taught sleeping positions ("on my back", "on my side", "on my stomach"), I told my instructor that I sleep like "moo bping" , which is Thai for roasted pork on a skewer, which is constantly flipped over and over as it is cooked. Like my instructor, Nicha couldn't stop cracking up. She made me tell the same joke to her mother, who had an identical reaction. She said my sense of humor was definitely becoming "more Thai."

I guess one of the reasons I was so restless is that I will be going through a string of job interviews next week, including one with McKinsey and Company. I received a confirmation e-mail and schedule from the company yesterday, which indicated that they will administer a 1-hour multiple choice test to assess my problem solving thought process and business acumen, followed by a 1-hour case interview (prsumably with a VP or director). That thought definitely affected my dreams last night, and Nicha and I discussed it this morning as I was making the bed:

Me: I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was being interviewed by Bangkok Bank [my wife's company] and they gave me a test!

Nicha: How did you do?

Me: Not well at all.

Nicha: Why?

Me: Probably because I was wearing only my underwear in the interview.

Nicha: [laughter]

Yes, I do have very strange dreams...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 9:03 AM |

Thursday, October 17, 2002  

"This is a unique manifestation of democracy which is superior to all other forms of democracies..." - Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (Iraq's key decision-making body)

What a truly glorious day it is for democracy! In Iraq's "democratic" election Saddam Hussein wins another 7-year term in a landslide victory by a margin of 100% over his rival: no one at all (or no one without a bullet in his head). This only goes to show that his popularity has increased since the 1995 vote, when he garnered only 99.96% of the vote, which only makes me wonder: did some small minority write in his mustache as a dark horse candidate?

All sarcasm aside: American-style democracy isn't always the cat's meow. After all, we also have American-style lawsuits. Read about 10 of the more absurd ones here.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 8:53 AM |

Monday, October 14, 2002  

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." – Wendell Phillips (1811-1884)

Last month, Americans waited with baited breath, praying that the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center would pass without incident. This is a natural human response, especially for people as symbolic as we Americans tend to be. It is, however, an illogical one. Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups do rely heavily on symbolism to get their brutal message across, but they are also highly proficient guerillas and tactical fighters; though they are willing to sacrifice lives to complete a mission, there is no reason to expect that they would attack an alert target on such an auspicious date. Rather, it makes more sense to let the anniversary pass lull people into a sense of complacency, and attack where few would expect it.

Like what happened this past weekend in Bali, Indonesia. Setting off multiple, simultaneous bombs in a night club located in a tourist haven known to attract honeymooners and young people is as horrific an act as any, including the WTC attack. The most current count of the dead stands at 187, most of them being tourists from Britain, Australia, Germany, and Singapore. By all accounts, the scene is one of mass carnage, with limbs and charred corpses scattered about and a nauseating stench lingering in the air. Indonesia is on shakey enough ground as it is economically and politically, but a shock to its fragile tourism could drive the country further down it's economic hole, and further fueling the types of discontent that result in widespread violence and terrorism. Facing this situation in countries such as Iraq or Afganistan is bad enough. Facing a highly unstable Muslim government that happens to be the world's 4th most populous nation is a problem of a nearly unassailable magnitude.

I am by no means a war monger (I love action movies and violent video games, but I refuse to fire a weapon unless in defense of my family or country), but I do support Bush's offensive on Iraq. I don't believe in military colonialism or occupationism (is that a word)?, and an cautiously wary about the U.S. playing the world's cop, but prospect of Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction and putting them in the hands of religious extremists frightens me beyond belief. Damn tourism, and damn the stock market. It is worth the short-term hit if it means that the free world buys itself a little more time to find more peaceful solutions. While a solution of negotiation and discourse is always the preferred solution over war and bloodshed, I firmly believe that when it comes to dictators and groups like Saddam Hussein or Al Qaeda, you cannot talk to these people. They are not looking to find a mutally convenient way of peacefully coexisting. They have dedicated their lives and souls to exterminating our way of life? How do you negotiate with someone like that?

It may sound brutally callous, but in an indirect way, the Bali bombings may be just thing that Bush's offense needed. Following last year's WTC attack, many nations came forth to express their outrage and convey they condolences. But the really telling message was the actions that followed. Which nations backed the war on terrorism? Which were opposed? Which simply did not care, thinking that they were immune to the problems of terrorism (as Americans were prior to 9/11)? If the campaign on Iraq was losing steam (or at least support from allied nations has stalled), the war on terrorism just got a jolt of energy this past weekend. It is sad that it takes the death of innocents to jar a country into action, but it is comforting to know that we can expect continued and stauch support from critical allies such as the Brits, Aussies, Germans, and Singaporeans. And hopefully, Americans realize that this is a war without end. There will be no peace accord that signifies the date when we can let our guard down and breathe a sigh of relief. As long as there is economic strife and crushing poverty in the world, there will be discontent and the violence that accompanies it. We, as citizens of the free world, need to do all we can to alleviate the world's suffering, and to defend ourselves until the day we succeed.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 9:16 AM |

Saturday, October 12, 2002  

Before I sign off, I ask you to join me in a moment of quiet and insanely desperate prayer, as Cal will be playing the #20 USC Trojans in the Los Angeles Coliseum in about 12 hours.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:30 PM |

It's nice to have a quiet afternoon to myself. Between all the Thai language instruction, the prepatory reading for job interviews, and some quality time with the wife, it seemed like this weekend would never come. As much as I enjoy my Berlitz classes, I think 3 consecutive weeks of total immersion is too much to cope with, even though I have all this free time. Being in a classroom for 9 hours a day is hard enough, but being the only student in the room means that I can't let my focus, concentration or guard falter for more than a second. Usually by 3 pm, I am agonizing over how to rally the necessary reserves to get through the next 3 hours. Still, I can't fault the instruction. Berlitz has proven far superior to language instruction I received at Berkeley and at the American University Alumni language center. I know I have a long way to go before I achieve anything closely rembling fluency, and that it will require continued instruction and practice, but I am pleased with the results. At any rate, I'm looking forward to wrapping up this upcoming third and final week.

Making the whole experience doubly tiring is that I get up far earlier in the mornings than I normally would on my own, whether I am taking all-day courses or not. Nicha usually gets into the office by 7:15-ish, necessitating a 5:30 am wake-up. She is loving and courteous enough to let me sleep in another half hour, but I do have to drag my lazy ass out of bed if I hope to hitch a ride with her at 6:45 am. This leaves me about 2 hours in the morning before class, which I use to devour magazines and reports, mostly about stategic management, Asian finance, and Thailand economics & industries, all in a desperate effort to make myself sound reasonably intelligible when I go into job interviews a week after next. Nicha and I have also been hitting the sack a bit later than usual. Last weekend, I pushed Nicha to watch the first episode or two of 24, since it is one of my favorite programs and DVDs. We wound up watching 4 episodes Sunday afternoon, and she hasn't been able to go to sleep this week without watching at least one episode before bedtime. Now she's addicted! I highly anticipate those moments in the story line that I know will elicit a strong reaction from her, which I find immensely amusing, if not downright adorable. She has been indignant when Kiefer Sutherland and Dennis Haysbert play the brusque husbands, shows wide-eyed and open-mouthed shock at the unexpected betrayals by various characters, complete horror at Sutherland's character's acts of brutality, and even cried when his character reassuringly told his kidnapped wife and daughter how much he loved them and how he was there for them. My wife cracks me up =).

This coming week also marks the close of Thailand's post-Lent vegetarian period. Every year around this time (October), following the Buddhist Lent, many Thai-Chinese go completely vegan for 10 days: no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, yeast-based breads or pastas. Namely, no foods that make life worth living. I tried observing this vegetarian fast back in 1999, and it was as hard a task as anything I have ever had to do (like quit smoking!). It was generally a miserable experience. While many restaurants and food vendors are geared towards this annual event, offering many delicious vegan meals, dishes, snacks and desserts accordingly, the states are not so accomodating. I ate a lot of raw carrots and plain rice, but was fortunate to discover that the Mother brand of plain oatmeal cookies uses no eggs, dairy, or yeast, so that gave me a few moments of respite. Occasionally, I went to KFC to get some french fries (veggie oil, though now I think, if Mcdonal's used beef fat in its french frying oil, KFC may have done the same). The nutritional imbalance was making me one Cranky Frankie, but I was amazed I was disciplined to last most of the 10 days (I say most because I only broke my fast once, to dine on a piece of cake my now-sister-in-law bought for my birthday, not knowing at the time I had gone temporarily insane, er, vegan). Anyways, I eat vegan during the meals that I am in Nicha's household, which means I've been taking in lots of tofu. However, meals outside the house are my own, and I find myself spending my pre-class reading session scarfing down a McDonald's Value Meal (typically, sandwich they call a Samurai Pork Burger; don't ask me why) and either a pineapple or lychee pie (they have much cooler menus out here than in the states). Tuesday marks the end of the vegeratian period, and I am contemplating asking (actually, more like begging) Nicha to take me to Tony Roma's on Wednesday night.

At the moment, Nicha is out shopping with her 2 best girl friends, hence the quiet afternoon I was mentioning. I tried calling my brother Don a few hours ago, since I hadn't taled to him since August, when he told me he was expecting a kid. I was hoping to catch up with him; I miss that sack of turd. What prompted me to call him in the first place were the dreams I had last night. I don't dream that often, but when I do, they tend to be neurotically bizarre, like some weird acid trip (not that I ever dropped acid, mind you). On rare occasions are my dreams tepid and mundane (and hence, largely hoo-hum forgettable), but most of the time, they are about illogical scenes/stories/events in psychadelic environs. It is said that dreams are merely the means whereby the subconsious analyzes and interprets recent activities, sends the consious minds important messages, or perhaps even anticipates and forsees recent events. I'm not completely sure about that, as most of the time, I see no plausible connection between what I dream about and what is either happening to me or what may be on my mind. Then again, I'm a banker, not a dream analyst. Well, to get back on topic, I had dreams which I think are about as straight forward a psycho-drug trip as I'm ever gonna get. The first dream placed me in a military tarining scene, and I am one of the leading recruits on a run up a mountain. Stangely enough, the lead guy was the actor playing Dick Richards in HBO series Band of Brothers, and the forest and mountain trail was the same as the Carolina trail that the first recruits of Easy Company trained on as shown in the series opener. The second was one of the more mundane dreams I've ever had. Basically me, Pete, and Don in Pete's kitchen making pastrami sandwiches together. When I woke, I told Nicha about the dreams, and hypothesized that it was a "brothers"-themed message, at which point I decided that I would call Don. Unfortunately, I got his message machines twice at home and once on his cell phone, so I'll have to wait until later. I probably ought to call Pete as well, but I chat with him online practically everyday when I'm in Hong Kong, and our blogs sites allow us to keep tabs on each other.

Well, I have a little more time to myself, so methinks I will take a quick shower, and perhaps squeeze in an hour or two of The Sims before the little woman and posse get back.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:16 PM |

Friday, October 11, 2002  

I just got a mass e-mail from the Dean of my MBA alma mater, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, announcing that Kellogg took the top spot in 2 prominant rankings of business and graduate schools. Before I went to business school, I used to put a great deal of stock in such rankings, and the majority of applications and others who might scrutinize b-schools still do. Nowadays, I view them with passing interest. Granted, I tend to lend less credence when Kellogg drops in the rankings, and more when they climbed. I am quite pleased with my school's current accomplishments and rankings, but I see rankings as but one of many indicators of school quality, not the end-all, be-all of comparative wisdom. Rankings do not make a school great, but rather a great school scores well in the rankings. At any rate, a #1 ranking still hasn't changed the fact that I'm out of work. But who knows? Maybe the slight boost in prestige might grease the wheels a bit in landing a few interviews.

That said, Kellogg made out like a bandit this year. 2 of the most highly regarded (or at least highly read/studied business school rankings are those published annually by US News & World Report and biannually by Business Week, both touting about equal prestige. Over the last few years, Kellogg has finished in the top 5 on both rankings, but it is in the Business Week poll where Kellogg has had the most success. Since Business Week began publishing its ranking in 1988, Kellogg ranked #1 for the first 6 years, before falling to the #2 spot behind Wharton, where it has been ever since. Until now, that is. Yippee, we're back. we also ranked as the best business school in the world in the Economist Intelligence Unit's inaugural ranking. Yes, everyone has a ranking these days (I'm still waiting for the MBA ranking from Redbook, Better Homes & Gardens, and the National Enquirer), but at least the EIU is a respectable source.

Changing topics, life has been good lately. My Thai language classes are sapping any and all energy and lifeforce from my body, but I'm having a good time, genuinely enjoy the company of my instructors, and have learned a lot. On Berlitz's 12-level scale of competancy, I have completed the first 4 (the Survival/Basic skills), and will move on to levels 5-8 nest week (the Functional/Intermediate skills). I hope to get through these levels in the future, and eventually move on to levels 9-12, the Advanced/Fluency skills. Nicha and I have also managed to zero in on an apartment not too far from her office and the central business district. One of the managers in her department has a friend in the company who owns a condominium unit (currently vacant) which she maintains as in investment. It is a 1,100 square foot, 3 bedroom apartment on the 16th floor. The typical rent for such a unit in the building and in the vicinity would run about Baht 60,000 (US$1,428) a month, which is still half what I'm paying now in Hong Kong, but the owner is willing to let us have it for Baht 25,000 (US$595) a month. Plus, it is fully furnished with some really nice pieces, some recently purchased in Italy.

On the job front, things seem a bit promising. I just spoke with an old friend of mine from my Siam Commercial Bank days who has the inside track on a tony private equity position, and I received info last night that the fund that I am scheduled to speak with is far more prestigious than I had first assumed. The pay scales will likely be about 60-80% of what I was making in Hong Kong, but I was overpaid to begin with, and considering we could survive in Bangkok on Nicha's income alone, anything I make now is pure gravy. (still gotta get that student loan monkey off my back though).

Socially, things are great. Nicha and I had dinner last night with a group of friends, namely her best friends, 2 of my closest friends from Kellogg (one of whom was the master of ceremonies at our Bangkok wedding reception), my best friend from my Berkeley days (visiting for a few weeks), and her "special" (i.e. "boy") friend. We were in the restaurant for about 4 hours, and we had a blast. It feels nice to be in a place where I have friends again, and unlike Hong Kong where the gang was a bunch of transient ex-pats, here in Bangkok we are pretty much permanent residents.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 1:45 PM |

Wednesday, October 09, 2002  

WTF?!?* (* For readers with more delicate sensibilities, this means "What the frog?!?" For more cosmopolitan, street-savvy individuals, you know the alternate meaning...)

Despite opening a caseload of whup-ass on the Washington Huskies last Saturday, Cal remains an un-froggin'-ranked team! We are nowhere in the ESPN/USA Today poll, and only in the Other Receiving Votes category in the AP poll. Sure, we lost to a then-unranked Air Force, but the hit the top 25 by beating us, and have only climbed higher since its thrashing of Navy. As an unranked team defeating a vastly superior team, Cal should have cleared the top 20 easily. We defeated 2 schools in the top 20, and lost to a team that is now also nationally ranked. Nicha doesn't seem to appreciate my exasperation, and I have no doubt that you, gentle reader, are also rolling your eyes at my diatribe. I'm beginning to think that Cal is the Rodney Dangerfield of Division I football.

The Monday commute (Nicha to work and me to my Berlitz classes) was a unique experience. Thailand and Bangkok tends to regularly experience flooding during this, the monsoon season. Monday's flooding was practically unlike anything I've ever seen. It started pouring rain (and I mean pouring) starting about 5 minutes after we left home (around 6:45-ish) and continued unabated for the next 4-5 hours. Our normally half hour drive turned into a one and a half hour affair. By the time we got to Silom (one of the Central Business Districts major thoroughfares) was completely flooded. When I say completely flooded, I'm talking over ankle deep standing on the curb, and knee-deep standing on the street. I didn't walk to school; I waded. Sukhumvit Road, another of Bangkok's major streets, was similarly flooded over. I have seen flooding remotely like this in Bangkok only twice in my life, and official sources claim that this was some of the worst flooding in decades, notably significant in light of improved drainage and flood control systems put in place over the last few years.


posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 9:15 AM |

Sunday, October 06, 2002  

This has been something of a bittersweet week.

First, the bad news. I received an e-mail from Yoko, an old high school friend of mine (my prom date, to be more specific). She has been one of the few people I had been able to trade correspondence and keep in touch with over the many turbulent years after our years at Foothill High (though our letters and cards to each other have fallen off, ironically in recent years when instant communication is a way of life). Anyways, I received an e-mail from her this week as a sort of catch-up note, and she mentioned in passing that her father had passed away from an unexpected (are these things ever expected?) blood clot in the brain this past May. As if that wasn't sad enough, I remembered that her birthday is in May. How terrible. She is the second friend I have who has lost a father this year.

On a lighter and more exuberant note, the California Golden Bears have defeated the Washington Huskies (34 to 27) for the first time since 1976, snapping a 19-game losing streak. This is quite momentous for several reasons: 1) The Huskies are (or should I say were) ranked #12 in the country, and having now defeated the nationally ranked Spartans and the Huskies, Cal must surely return to the top 25, and 2) my worst Cal football experiences (outside of Big Game losses) have been at the hands of the Huskies. The first such experience was during the 1990-1991 season when Cal starts to show enough promise to make it to the Rose Bowl if it can only get past U of W. My fellow fraternity brothers and I are volunteering as black jack dealers at a sister sorority casino night fund raiser the Friday night before the game, and after we finish (around 11 pm), about 7 of us jump in 3 cars and begin the all-night 12 hour drive to Seattle to attend the game. We arrive an hour before the game, in need of much food, sleep, and a bath, but amped up and ready to watch Cal advance to the Rose Bowl. At that point, the Huskies proceed to pound the Bears 46-7. Instead of partying with the UW Tekes, we are content to scarf down some pizza and beer in the frat house, crash for the night, and begin the 12 hour ride home. The second miserable occasion came when I was in law school, and again, Cal stands a decent shot at making it to the Rose Bowl, with only UW standing in the way. Several of us (mostly Cal and arch-rival Stanford grads) take a break from our studies and pile into the law school cafeteria to watch the game. I don't remember the score, only that Cal QB Dave Barr majorly screws up his shoulder and a 3-quarter lead. That was the last time ever that I cried over any Cal football game. But past is past, and Cal is now back in the top half of the Pac-10! ESPN quotes: "The last time Cal defeated Washington, Rocky won the Oscar and Wild Cherry's "Oh What a Night" was 1976's most requested song." Boo-yeah!

The other great newsis that I heard from my friend Christine this morning (a reply to a birthday note I sent to her last night), and she's 3 months pregnant! Everyone seems to be having babies lately! Anyway, Christine and I go way back to our days in Singapore with Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. We share a long history and have become close friends because of it. She has guided me through a break-up with my ex-gf, my courting the woman who is now my wife, and any and all miserable times I have had over the years. Likewise, I have seen her through a messy divorce, a nasty bout with booze, her various moves around the globe, several unsuccessful and one ultimately successful relationship/marriage, and now her upcoming addition to her family. She and her husband Laurant had held a small informal wedding ceremony last year, but are holding a formal church ceremony later this month (so that her child can be properly baptized when he/she/it is born). I'm truly disappointed that I have to miss it (as well as several weddings I am dying to attend this year), but I am so psyched that she finally has the hubby and now the baby she has been dreaming about.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:24 AM |

Wednesday, October 02, 2002  

I'm feeling pretty miserable this morning.

I was having breakfast with Nicha, just some simple rice soup with a small leg of chicken, when I started choking. I had cut the chicken into small pieces, I was eating slowly, and I wasn't talking, but I started choking anyways. At first, I thought a hard swallow would do it, but I started coughing, so I figured a quick glass of water would force (a bit painfully) the food down, and that would be that. It's happened to me numerous times in the past (reminiscent of our family dog Tai hacking and coughing when he ate his food too fast), but this time was different. This time, the piece of chicken had nearly sealed off my esophagus and pinched my wind pipe. Instead of forcing the food down, the water accumulated in my throat, and my body wound up projectile vomiting the rice and water to prevent me for drowning.

I sat over the sink heaving saliva and gasping for what little breath I had. I was extremely scared at this point, because my throat was killing me, I could feel the food lodged in my throat, and the inability to take sufficiently deep breaths was causing me extremities to go cold and numb. I was worried I was becoming so dizzy that I would pass out. When I was able to talk, I rasped to Nicha for her to strike me in the middle of the back. She had obviously never seen any sort of first aid video, since she had no idea where to hit me and how hard. She was afraid of hurting me (as if choking weren't bad enough), so she didn't do anything more than an enthused pat on the back. I was going to resort to the Heimlich, but if she couldn't bring herself to hit me hard enough, no way was would be able to exert enough force under my diaphram. Our only option was for her and her mother to rush me to a nearby clinic while I sat in the backseat puking and spitting up the saliva that was periodically collecting in my throat and cutting off my breathing.

After what seemed an insanely long time, a doctor showed up, and tried the Heimlich and various other methods to dislodge the food. One of them worked, because I was able to start breathing a bit better, and it didn't feel like something was trying to poke through the wall of my throat, which was and still is pretty raw and ripped up from the coughing and continuous gagging and vomiting. My hands were extremely cold, and I was about to pass out from the lack of oxygen to the rest of my body, and the dehydration from my body rejecting any water and even my spit for over an hour. I just woke up from a nap, and boy, do I feel like crap. Better than choking to death I suppose...

The real bummer of the whole ordeal (aside from the intense pain and discomfort, and the prospect that I might have actually died from this incident), is that I have to miss a day of my Thai language class, which cannot be made up or refunded. At a dizzying $2,700 for the 15-day course, that's $160 down the drain on account of that one piece of chicken. The entire weekend, Nicha was extremely apprehensive about the course, particularly why Berlitz is so bloody expensive (she had taken ESL classes in Newcastle for less, including the airfare to the U.K.), but I kept telling her that a) Berlitz was a top language school, and 2) I was taking an intensive, 8-hour-per-day class with one-on-one instruction. I admit that I was a bit doubtful whether I would be getting my money's worth.

During the first few sessions on Monday, I was a bit dismayed that the level we were starting out at seemed almost too simple ("This is a pen. This is a blue pen"), but as the instructors (I have 4 instructors which rotate throughout the day, one of whom has lunch with me, and 2 of whom conduct a 3-way session once a day) started throwing one new grammatical construction after another at me, I began to realize how pitiful even my most basic grammatical skills are. I was also worried that I was receiving too much information too fast, and that I wouldn't be able to properly absorb any of it, since I would have no time to do any written homework or even review at the end of each day. But I have to say that even that hasn't been too much of a worry. The instructors have a very subtle but effective way of drilling each topic into my head and getting me to retain a significant portion of it. Using a picture book, they would ask me about a dozen questions about what each person was doing, and then have me make up questions of my own to test my comprehension of a particular lesson. I also think the classes are designed to take into account that much of what is learned is difficult to retain, and constant review is built into the curriculum. Lessons are not learned and then left behind as the instructor moves on to a new one, but rather each new lesson builds on and incorporates the previous ones. Personally, I am pleased that I managed to master time on the clock and memorize the months of the year, which are 2 topics which have plagued me through out the years. My grammer has much improved, and even my vocabulary is increasing at a steady clip. Last night as Nicha and I headed off to dinner (and as I was practicing my new Thai on her), she commented that she is starting to think the exorbitant cost of the course might well be worth it. I'm inclined to agree.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:32 AM |
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