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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Partridges etc.

Weather : dark & overcast - beginning to snow
Temperature : minus two & falling
Earth : hard as iron
Water : like a stone

Good conditions for hunting ? You bet your ass.

We in the UK have a particularly morbid way to celebrate the birth of Christ around this time of year. The tradition comes in many forms but always involves inflicting pain on small animals. The Boxing Day Hunt leaves from the grounds of Ludlow castle at midday to huge cheers from an adoring crowd. Red-coated gentry mount their steeds and charge off into the fields to do battle with crafty mr. Fox. At the same time teams of barber-coated huntsmen trawl through the damp forests armed with double-barrelled shotguns. They are preceeded by a crowd of "beaters" whose sole purpose is to disturb pheasants from their slumber so that they can be shot (that's pheasants with an "h" mind - we're not completely stuck in the dark ages here !).

There has been much debate over the ethics and legality of hunting over the last couple of years in the UK, which eventually led to hunting with dogs being banned back in February last year. An argument in favour of hunting is that it makes the connection between eating meat and the death of an animal. A hunter will say "yum yum - I need to eat so I hunt - it is my most basic right". To which I absolutely agree. But there comes a point where it's clear people are doing it just for fun - a local shoot in Shrophire has to hire a JCB each new year to bury the mounds of pheasant (with an "h") carcasses.

There is a point to this rambling and it is this : whilst others practise their hunting method of choice the family Lewis decided to try something a little different this year and so headed deep into the Shropshire hills armed only with ... hawks. Yes - hawks. Harris hawks to be precise and there's a picture of one below. He's called Mo. See how fearless I am when face to face with such a lethal killing machine. See how wonderful it is to see man living so seamlessly with nature. Aaaah. Mmmmm. I won't mention that Mo actually fell off my hand after the picture was taken. Actually fell off ! I didn't even know that birds fell over !

They called me Captain Fearless by the end of the day

Sister Camilla also showed little sign of fear

Christmas itself was fantastic. Turkey galore and the usual fuzzy mix of endless puzzles and chocolate boxes filled the Lewis household as it does every year for three or four days. Now I have to try and get the car back on the road and start heading back to Barcelona. Boooo ! Hopefully stopping in France on the way through to spend New Year with a couple of old spankers from school staying out there, then on to Barcelona after that.

Mmm. Need more turkey.

Mum, Camilla and me

A studious Lewis Christmas

When I finally came around on Boxing Day I realised that Chris had bought me a ticket to go and see Wolves play Reading at Molineux. The last time I had been was Boxing Day last year when we drew with Brighton 1-1 so was expecting a similar good-spirited result this time. It wasn't to be however as Wolves had obviously had a mulled wine and turkey party just before the game and couldn't physically run around the pitch. Dreadful - made worse by the fact that Reading didn't even play very well and still ended up stuffing us 2-0 !!! At least I had the famous Balti pie at half time (the real taste of the Black Country !!!).

The indominable figure of Billy Wright watches over the Wolves ground

Come on the Wolves !

(addendum - sitting next to mother in the kitchen where she has just discovered predictive text and has succeeded in sending my sister a message saying "hi this is mutterss pop love nun" - gawd bless 'er !)

(additional addendum - domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys, however, can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They can also reach speeds of 25 miles per hour on the ground. Imagine that !!! That is a really wild turkey !!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

The answer is always Seven

It was revealed today after extensive empirical research that the answer to any numerical (and most probably non-numerical) question is, in fact, seven.
What's my favourite number ? Seven !
How many years does it feel I've been studying business in Barcelona ? Seven !
How many mistakes did I make on my accounting final exam today ? Seven !
Actually I made more mistakes than that on my accounting final but hey - who's counting ?! Fernando Penalva that's who - our esteemed financial accounting professor. Blessed with a brain the size of France and natural teacher's way Fernando recieved a standing ovation at the end of our last accounting class last Friday. A standing ovation ! When was the last time ANY teacher got a standing ovation ? Let alone for accounting for crissakes, jeez ! Yes last friday saw the last of our classes for the first term here at IESE. Scarce was the time had for celebration however as we had just two days over the weekend to prepare for the dreaded finals. This morning we saw just how scary Financial Accounting can really be when it wants to, and in the afternoon a three-hour case exam on the inner politics of a Spanish construction company. After the exams had finished and having successfully resisted the urge to throw myself off various bridges on the way home, I began to study for tomorrow's exam - Decision Analysis. Many thanks to study partners Noelle and David this evening for their fine banter and unerring devotion to the cause. When I find out what the cause that we've been working towards is I will of course let everyone know.
So just two more days to go until the holidays and I have no idea how the body will react to having more than an hour's free time to do ... well ... um ... whatever it is people do with their free time. I have a vague memory of beer, wine, good food and The Church pub having something to do with Christmas Cheer. Surely the order of the day. Hurragh !
I was talking today about how ironic it is that one of the first courses they gave us here at business school is "Decision Analysis", a course which teaches the very skills one would need to come to the emphatic decision that one should NOT come to business school. Cor blimey that's ironic - now if I could only think of a way to link that little thought with the number seven, this would be a great little entry to the blog.

(addendum - pictures to follow as soon as I find the lead to my camera - grrr)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Expenses to expenditures, revenues to receipts

Special Purpose Entities - good or bad ? There has been much discussion in academia recently over whether these legal constructions remain a valid financial tool for a company to conduct its operations. As a quick resumé, an SPE is a speciality-purpose company; result of a collusion between corporation and investment bank, as a vehicle to hide assets (or liabilities) from the balance sheet.

(did I just write that ? i'm going insane here ...)

Legally speaking, the SPE owns the asset that the corporation wants to use. Investors are found by the bank to supply 3% of the owners' equity and the corporation proceeds to use the asset under a normal lease agreement.

(did I just write that too ?!? jesus wept ...)

Suffice to say that these legal entities are still in widespread use - despite their notoriety. What darkens them in the public eye is that they were widely used in the time leading up to the ENRON debacle and were in fact pivotal in its downfall. I'd like to take a moment now to ... discuss the erm ... downfalls of ... and um ... up ... sides ... ...... ....

zzzZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ..........

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

At last some more pictures !

Been rather hung over today as it is a holiday in Spain and last night saw mucho festivites in the evening. I won't go into the sordid details but it started with an outing to the IESE "cigar and whiskey club" which was hilarious - you can probably guess how the night went on from then. There will be pictures ! Ok have been trying all evening to try and get videos onto this blog as there are some hilarious videos people have taken which you simply have to see. Being quite the techy as I am I'm sure they'' be up before too long ! Anyway below are a couple of pictures. The first is one that Mikhail took in Organisational Behaviour. It shows Taka and the professor (Pablo Cardona) in the middle of an exercise to do with coaching. Taka was blindfolded and had to build a tower out of wooden blocks as high as he could. I remember thinking that the force must be strong with this one as he managed to build a tower that was 11 blocks high without it falling - it was spooky !!! I, by contrast, was positive I could have managed a height of 3. Anyway here you have the classroom in all its splendour - this is where I am currently spending half my life folks !!!

In class with Cardona

The next photo is at the start of La Rata (otherwise known as Iván) and Rodolfo's stag (bachelor) party. I am on the left beaming like a Cheshire cat as I knew the "surprise" that was awaiting both Rodolfo and Iván just five minutes after this photo was taken. Unfortunately due to long-standing legal precedents set way back in the 13th Century I am not able to divulge the details of said surprise. It did involve ice though. I can say no more.

Rata and Rodolfo's bachelor party

Now what's this next one? Oh yes - the night before the above party I was taken out to dinner at the invitation of Noelle's parents. Before the mid-term exams I worked a lot with Noelle who was absolutely convinced that she would fail her exams. I however seemed to have more faith in her than she did so we made a bet that if she got a C in Financial Accounting and a C in Decision Analysis I would have to pay her €100. IF however she managed to get two Bs instead, she would have to pay me €100. Luckily for me my faith was well-placed and she got the two Bs. Jolly well done ! Hence the offer of dinner from her parents. We went to a restaurant called Torre Alta del Mar which is a restaurant at the top of a 50m tower overlooking the harbour in Barcelona. The views are spectacular and you can see the whole city. Amazing food, really fantastic wine and great banter (not so much from me as I was slightly zombified by that week at school). This place is well worth a visit when (if?) anyone comes over to visit. Here are the (ever so cheesy) photos :

What a couple of posers !!!

Noelle's mother and I

A few days before THAT (golly really must keep up to date on this blog) we had a thanksgiving dinner in the flat which was great as we found that we can host a seated dinner for 32 people !!! It was my first thanksgiving (yes ever!) and so was really entertaining, especially for me. Lindsey (David's girlfriend) did almost all the cooking which was amazing (she neglected my offer of a recipe for "turkey á la banana" - sorry), and then everyone (mostly the students from the US) brought a traditional thanksgiving dish aswell. Obviously the night then turned into a drunken stumble to the nearest club ...

Cristina and I at Thanksgiving

And finally I got sent this picture which was also from the London Banking Tour. Thought it was quite nice so put it in ...

Me with a bunch of Bankers

Right this is me signing off for today but before I go I have to tell you that about an hour ago I had a look at the stats for this blog and saw that someone from Norway has been reading it !!! So a big "Goddag" goes out to all my Norwegian fans !!! And "takk" for your support !!!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Morganator

Have just finished another mammoth ABP paper this weekend. "Morgan Components" - the extraordinary case of one man's struggle to bring costs down in an under-utilised car panel plant in Ireland. The economic background is stark, the overbearing Eastern manufacturer is demanding even more reductions in price - what is our epic hero "Sean o'Fearna" to do? Should he cede to the demands of the Eastern Empire or stand firm like a modern-day William Wallace and demand that prices remain high...?
- "You may force down down our margins - but you'll never take ... our FREEDOM !!!!".
Maybe I'm reading a little too much into the case. Forgive me as it's all I've been thinking about over the last 48 hours. Did manage to snatch a couple of hours last night though where I went out to dinner with a few friends (big shouts out to Oriol, Pablo, Sergio, Santiago, Ryan, Lena, Ian and Cristina). The food was great (well for me at least - unfortunately three of the eight got food poisoning and have spent all day "studying" in the latrine). Then today all day again at school (I know it's the Sabbath but there is a chapel on campus so I guess that makes it ok). A phat burger on the way home with Cristina and now I'm shattered. Early start again tomorrow though as I have to do a "special occasion speech" in front of the whole class tomorrow. Because of this ABP paper I haven't actually prepared anything yet but have a cunning plan in mind ... then we have Marketing (a pricing case about the "Hartmann posh-luggage company" or something).
Then tomorrow evening I am going to look at motos (sorry mother but the time has come). Yesterday up at school my friend Huy took me up the road on his and then let me have a burn on a piece of flat road (there was zero traffic so it wasn't TOO embarrassing when I practically had to make a three point turn in road about 20 metres wide because I was going so slowly ...). Anyway after a couple of high-speed runs up and down this deserted highway I was ready to triumphantly ride back to school with Huy riding "pinion" after which he let me loose on my own! It was incredibly good fun (I even pulled a wheelie at one point - sorry Huy) but I am aware that it's a very different story when traffic becomes involved.
To finish on, just a thought that occurred to me the other day. We were in a case of OB which was to do with "360 degree" appraisals which basically means once (or even twice) a year everyone you work with - colleagues, bosses and people that work for you - get to tell you anonymously exactly what they think of you. How horrible! This (along with any talk of "core competencies" and "skills matrices" really doesn't sit that well with me although luckily the last time I had to do one was just over 7 years ago when I was at JP Morgan. Coincidentally on the same day we studied the case I found out that the human body's cells regenerate at such a rate that after 7 years not a single cell remains of your former self ... isn't that odd ?!? When I thought about it I realised I have only just managed to purge the last traces of that 360-degree experience from my body - and as far as is possible, I swear that I will never again be sullied by such corporate filth !!!


(sorry not much sleep this weekend)