Sunday, October 31, 2010


Halfway through the first quarter! Stats exam went okay, OB paper was submitted on time, a bunch of us celebrated with beer and ice-cream (Diddy Riese!) and for the first time in a week, I slept more than 5 hours last night.

But now comes my first major grouse about this whole work and study thing. FEMBA is making me unfit/unhealthy/fat.

How? Well, for starters (no pun intended), the program provides breakfast before class every weekend. There is -
1. Oatmeal/Cereal/Fruit/Orange juice
2. Bagels/Doughnuts/Croissants/Cakes/Scones/Muffins/Coffee

They're all laid out together but you can guess why I separated them. Which category do I help myself to? #2 of course. After waking up at 6am and driving two hours to school, I automatically gravitate towards the sugar and carbs! To make matters worse, there's no lunch available nearby and I always forget to pack a sandwich. So I've been skipping lunch and helping myself to the snacks which are laid out for the afternoon class. Cookies/cereal bars/some raw fruit and veggie and coffee. As a result, by the end of the day I've had about 7 servings of sugar and 5 cups of coffee. 

Even on weeknights, I don't find time to cook so I haven't been eating fresh or healthy. And given how busy I've been juggling school and work, I haven't been working out much either. Just 5 weeks of FEMBA and I'm already finding it hard to run 5K!

When I started the program, I was resigned to the fact that I wouldn't be regularly running/hiking/biking on the weekends anymore, but I never thought my entire diet and fitness regimen would come crashing down like this. I know it's not the program's fault, I just need to re-prioritize and plan my time better. I'm going to seek inspiration from classmates - the one who wakes up at 5am to workout, the one who ran 36 flights of stairs everyday at lunch, and the ones who are always training for some marathon or the other. If they can incorporate fitness into their schedules while juggling all the same responsibilities as me, I'm sure I can too! Time to haul my sorry ass to the gym now.

In the spirit of Halloween, the caterers got creative with our afternoon snacks yesterday. Ghosts and bats in my veggies! :)
Despite my rant, I don't regret pigging out at Diddy Riese. They have the BEST custom ice-cream sandwiches for just $1.50 and I can see why the place is such a UCLA legend. The espresso choc-chip flavor rocked my world and I don't even normally like ice-cream! Thanks to AH for taking us there:)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mid-term week

Stats mid-term + 3 papers to read for OB along with a group case analysis due Saturday. Too much FEMBA work, and as it happens, too much work-work as well. I find myself unable to elegantly navigate between studies and my day job. When I'm working I'm worrying about studying and the case write-up, but when I sit down to study I start worrying about completing my project in time for the big meeting. And when it all becomes too much for my poor brain, I can't function at all. That's when I escape to blogs/gmail/facebook. A friend aptly captured this propensity here.

Don't be surprised if I change my profile picture everyday or post frequent status messages, or "like" all your updates on Facebook. I'm not bored, I'm just stressed. Okay, and maybe I really do like your update.

p.s. - Perhaps it's time for all my fancy time management gimmicks to kick in.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head

It is gray and rainy outside and I'm loving every bit of it. 

When I was around 8, I remember running outside to get wet in the first rains of the season, sailing paper boats in the flood waters, being punished for jumping in dirty puddles...
At 15, I remember studying for the boards with soft music playing as the rain lashed on my window, often reading by the emergency light because the rain had felled some electricity pole nearby. I remember throwing open the window in the school bus to get drenched on the way back home, and then drying my soaked books with a hair dryer before my mom found out.
At 20, I remember enjoying "cutting chai" and spicy "vada paav" in the college cafe as it poured outside, I remember sitting on wet seats in the buses and auto-rickshaws and entering the classroom dripping wet and very late, I remember watching the rains from the sloped terrace of our engineering school...

I will always remember the smell of first rains on parched Indian soil, the promise it brought far out-weighing the inconveniences. 

Oh California rains, you don't come close to the Mumbai monsoons, but I'll take what I get. 
In honor of the current weather, my typical Pandora and Youtube playlists have been replaced by old songs dedicated to the rains. And no bitching about the weather on Facebook :)

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Cryin's not for me
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothin's worryin' me...

(from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

Friday, October 22, 2010


If the realtor's mantra is Location, Location, Location then a B-school student's mantra is Network, Network, Network. Sure enough, within a month of school we've had scores of opportunities to network with classmates, seniors, alumni and even prospective students. To be honest, it has been a little overwhelming. So much so that at the last breakfast event before class, I deliberately avoided eye contact with the prospective students in the crowd. (Yeah, I only went for the food. Sue me.)

The happy-hour events are more fun, but I'm still a nervous networker when I don't know people in the crowd. Past incidents certainly haven't helped. I'm never sure what to talk about! Conversation usually comes easily to me, but when it's labeled networking, it suddenly becomes a chore and I end up saying stupid things. One thing that happens frequently is that I get grilled about my choice of drink (water). The last time someone struck up a conversation asking why I was drinking water, I decided to answer the question with a question and said, "What makes you think it is water and not vodka?". The person replied, "You have a plastic cup. And no ice." Fail.

Sometimes though, when I'm not the awkward one, I have fun. For instance, last weekend at a bar after class.

PK: When did you graduate high school?

SK: 2012.

PK: Huh? High school, not FEMBA.

SK: Yeah FEMBA 2013.

PK: Dude, I'm asking when you graduated from HIGH SCHOOL.

SK: Oh high school! 1912.

There was a five second pause while we all stared and then:

SK: I mean 1992!

Moral of the story - Give a tired MBA student a beer for an assured return of conversational gems.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What I love about the UCLA FEMBA experience

Disclaimer: I'm not one to gush but right now I'm stressed  about a load of homework and upcoming midterms so this post is an attempt to focus on the silver lining.

I know it's only been 4 weeks but here goes in no particular order, what I'm loving about FEMBA life:

1. Our statistics professor - He's warm, easy-going, knowledgeable and funny. As someone pointed out, it helps that he even looks a little like Letterman. Also, he conducts snazzy online office hours on weeknights, which totally ups his cool factor. (Speaking of funny and cool, our Admisssions Director DS and Dean FG belong to that category as well!)

2. The carpool camaraderie - When you have to spend fours hours in the car with three other people every Saturday, you really appreciate the ability to have stimulating conversations with them. A, C, V and I discuss everything from finance to family and from class politics to country politics. I would love to share some of our more *interesting* discussions here but I'm bound by the "What's discussed in the car, stays in the car" vow. (I can tell this much though - A gets a Macy's gift card from us for his wedding, whenever that is.)

3. The surprise perks - I scored a free ticket to Disneyland! Some of our classmates who work at Disney very generously pooled together their perks to get a bunch of us free entry. There was a lottery, and for the first time in my life, I won at something like that! I've never been to Disneyland and now I'm getting to go for free with an awesome set of people.:)

4. The upcoming, much hyped Halloween party on the night after mid-terms!
Excerpt from the email from the student council:
Top 5 Worst Excuses Not To Go To FEMBA Halloween Party 2010- Debunked. 
5) I have to study. If you're studying on Saturday of Halloween weekend, that just makes me sad.
4) It's too expensive.  
Seriously? You're paying $$$K for your MBA, and you're flipping out about $70? Perspective, dude. Perspective. 
3) I don't have anything to wear.
Then go naked. There. You came as a streaker. Clever.
2) I don't drink.
There's plenty of other things to do (like watching others drink).
1) None of my friends are going.
Make new ones. I never liked your friends anyway.

5. Facebook community - It's heartening to see classmates commiserate over painful homework, cheer for each others' job successes, and laugh together over silly pictures from weekly post-class happy hours.

6. My study group - It could have been so wrong, but thankfully it feels right....We were all assigned random study groups and I'm very glad to be part of an affable yet assertive and sincere group. 

7. Last but not the least, I'm stoked about the ski-snowboard trip being planned for the week after finals!

With that, I'm off to hit the books. We have mid-terms next week and if I mess that up I'll be writing a "I hate FEMBA and I wish I hadn't jinxed myself" post here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You say tomahto, I say tomayto

I watched this TV show called Outsourced the other night. It's about a call center set in Mumbai and it was amusing, but I have a peeve. The Indians in the show are British Indian actors playing regular Indians and their confused accent drove me nuts. Don't get me wrong, I love British accents and I respect Indian accents. But in the show, the British actors were trying hard to sound Indian and some of them just ended up sounding bizarre. I think the reason it bothers me is because I'm worried that I sound that way too.

I grew up in Mumbai, India, surrounded by friends who were natives of many different states, and who spoke as many different languages at home. While we conversed with each other in English, our accents and pronunciations tended to rub off on each other. My Indian accent has flavors of Tamil, Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi, to name a few.

Then I moved to the US. Not only do I work with a diverse cultural set of people but I'm now part of that most amazing melting pot of all, B-School. I have friends and colleagues who are American, Asian, Serbian, French, Israeli, German, Chinese, British, Ukrainian, Russian. The process of conversation involves understanding and making oneself understood. In aiming for the latter, I end up subconsciously changing the way I pronounce certain words. For instance, my 't's sound like 'd's or go silent when I'm talking to Americans. I roll my Rs when I'm talking to the Europeans or Mexicans. The letter 'a' which usually had an "ah" sound in India is now selectively "ae" or "ah" depending on who I'm talking to (think "dahnce" vs "dance"). I try hard to remember to say "victory" instead of "wictory" and "Vegas" instead of "Wegas". (Most Indians have trouble distinguishing 'v' and 'w' sounds. True story.) And sometimes, I just mix it all up and end up sounding confused.

I love the English language despite all its strangeness, and I'd like to sound comfortable speaking it at all times. Maybe I'm being anal, maybe it's a real problem. But until I learn to live with it, or fix it, watching Outsourced is going to be a tad annoying. Luckily, school makes sure I don't have enough time to actually follow any TV show regularly!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rich Student, Poor Student

Last week, I paid my first-quarter MBA fees and almost choked when I hit 'submit' on the payment website. So MUCH money! I was once again a pay-check to pay-check poor student!

Well, perhaps not that poor, since I'm earning substantially more than my graduate assistant paycheck. That was one of my reasons for not opting for a full-time MBA. I already went through the extremely-poor-student phase at the University of Maryland (Go Terps!), and while I had a good time there, I'd rather not have to repeat that experience. I wanted to be a 'rich' grad student this time round!

Looking back, life was kinda tough then.
- Four girls shared a 2-bed, 1-bath apartment. The 2-bedroom part was manageable, the 1-bath part was a nightmare. Many an argument took place over time spent on showers.
- As if sharing the bathroom wasn't bad enough, one time, after a particularly violent snowstorm, we had to share my BED (to sit and study on) because that was the only spot in the house that was catching a wireless signal. I didn't have a car to drive out to a coffee shop as I would do now.
- Our only other furniture was a ragged couch that was handed down from earlier student generations.
- I survived on Taco Bell's 99c bean burritos for lunch and badly cooked frozen vegetables for dinner.
- We didn't own a TV set. Yep, two years without television. Dinner time was spent discussing our classes and job application status.
- I shopped for clothes only twice a year, mostly at Walmart.

Fortunately a FEMBA programs means that even with the fat fees, I can afford a lot of the things that I couldn't back then.  Good food, better apartment, a car, shopping in non-Walmart locations, cable TV, vacations, etc. However, with full-time work, classes and homework, now I don't find the time to enjoy any of that. No time for TV, no time for impromptu road trips or shopping sprees, no time to cook healthy or eat dinner with friends, no time to stop and breathe...

Suddenly, I'm not sure if I got richer or poorer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Money Matters

Yesterday while discussing probability distribution, our stats professor showed us a picture of a 10 Deutsche Mark note. The note features the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, the normal distribution curve that he introduced, as well as the mathematical equation for the curve. Cool, eh?

Out of curiosity I googled other German currency notes and found that all their notes have had pictures of accomplished authors, architects, mathematicians, musicians or scientists. Apparently the Germans are genetically designed to be brilliant!  Of course I don't know much about other currencies.  All I know is that US dollar bills (except $100 which has Benjamin Franklin) have pictures of past Presidents, and all Indian notes have pictures of Mahatma Gandhi.

Speaking of USD bills, I recently found that $2 bills exist. It got me wondering how the expression "As fake as a $2 bill" came into being. Wikipedia as usual came to my rescue - The bill was discontinued in 1966, but was reintroduced 10 years later as part of the United States Bicentennial celebrations. Today, however, it is rarely seen in circulation and actual use. Production of the note is the lowest of U.S. paper money: under 1% of all notes currently produced are $2 bills. This comparative scarcity in circulation, coupled with a lack of public awareness that the bill is still in circulation, has also inspired urban legends and, on a few occasions, created problems for people trying to use the bill to make purchases."

Yes, I'm a sucker for nerdy trivia :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

MBA week one, no casualties.

Whatever happened to the concept of ramping up? After the very first day of classes, we were assigned 2 Statistics chapters to study, 2 cases to mull over, an online quiz, 3-4 readings for the Organizational Behavior class, an hour long audio to listen to, and a 3-page paper to write analyzing the issue discussed. All to be completed within a week, before the next class (which was yesterday). We now know why it's called a Fully Employed MBA program and not a Part-Time MBA program. I'm afraid that if the workload gets any worse, some of us may end up as FUMBAs - Fully Unemployed MBAs.

Last week was honestly insane. I had breakfast with stats, lunch dates with the OB papers and dinners with the guys discussing the subprime mortgage crisis on the assigned audio. The one day I managed to hit the gym, I read a paper on the treadmill. I missed a friend's birthday dinner, didn't call my family, and the gallons of coffee I consumed gave me acidity. (I tried to stay off coffee at work but then dozed off and hit my head on the keyboard. Thank goodness for a private office with a door.) On the bright side, I managed to complete the assignments aaaannd I feel smarter already so hi five!

Fortunately, the homework for the second week is a little less crazy. Of course, to maintain the balance, my day job workload has shot up but I can live with that. After all, I chose to do this. And as a classmate pointed out, the WEEKLY amount we're paying for the program, is as much as what we paid for a whole YEAR of undergrad engineering. Gulp. That is motivation enough for me to refrain from whining and giving this my best shot.

I sign off with an insight to why most of us found the OB paper so frikkin' challenging.

Have a good week y'all!

Femba Girl
p.s. : Hats off to my classmates who had work travel, wailing babies, talkative spouses and other such added distractions!