2013-08-23

Too Much Help, or Too Little?

So I've initiated a conversation with some of the folks who are currently involved in an annual workshop on US college / university applications. I'm querying them on whether it would be helpful or harmful to have a continuous forum on say, Facebook, to facilitate this. (There used to be such an independent forum called Recom, which died.) Some are concerned that this is spoon-feeding, and that it encourages applicants to ask trivial questions. Here are my thoughts on that:
Your question - my short answer is "yes, they should be encouraged to ask the right questions," if you agree that whole point of this education-counseling stuff is to improve the ease of access to educational opportunities, at an aggregate level (perhaps with a focus on Malaysia).

What I'm NOT proposing: that we give them easy answers to any and all questions.

Colleges are the gatekeepers here - we're not helping anyone by adding friction, we can only help students (etc.) by reducing their waste of energy in applying. If you're worried about us spoon-feeding Malaysian applicants, then consider this analogy: top Singaporean applicants are receiving intravenous college-application-steroids from the age of two. :P

The purpose of a "marketplace/exchange," in the economic sense is to reduce logistical costs for everyone, so that people have less guess-work to do when looking to buy/sell/trade something - in this case, it would be 'commodity-grade information' about applying to college. There are more important 'boutiquey' things that applicants should be grappling with (i.e. spending their energy on) - like improving their writing technique, and application strategy.

I think we're further contributing to the process of education, by also encouraging applicants to practice "Internet literacy," - teaching them to use search engines, Wikis (also contributing to them), self-organizing their meetups (a forum provides a place for them to maximize reach discovering others who share their interests), etc.

2013-08-22

Help me out here...

Sketching plans for what to do with freed-up infrastructure once I reduce my job scope to 40-hours/week making coffee.

a) start reading math again
b) start building a freelance portfolio optimising for immediate d$/dt
c) start looking for normal jobs optimising for 10 to 20 year d$
d) take a break from caring about $, and just make some friends and lovers

Unless things turn out really well, I figure I can expect to succeed at about one of the above, within a year. Help me to decide, please. LOL



Last time I dropped applications at the McK/BCG/Bain/Booz crowd was five years ago. I usually send a quirky cover letter and don't expect to get very far, due to my limited resume, but it's a good hobby to cultivate. Probably time to drop in another round of applications as the cafe starts up and settles down - just making a regular habit of it. :) What I've come to learn is that recommendations from personal sources are a much better guarantee of interview access. I try to avoid such help, and find it more apt to send my case through the boring channels. (Then again, this.) One should maintain an open mind, that is the only ideal, not getting in, or staying in.

Recently I was chatting with a EM from a US office of one of the better known firms, and calibrating my understanding of the interview process... it seems that they're a lot less focused on quantitative literacy than I had hoped, even in the states. So I might actually have an advantage in that dimension. We'll see. My main disinterest in working on this stuff in Malaysia is that 2/3 of the work is government rubbish. And saying things like that is what I mean by "quirky cover letter," - again on the assumption that most people won't admit to this sort of perspective.



Some relevant links:

To the brainy, the spoils (the Economist)

Management Consulting (Wikipedia)

Management consulting and Management consulting firms (Quora)



Feeling like a bad driver, an over-eager conversationalist, and a laughable hack with little more than a mouth. Great stuff to think about over laundry.

While I've never interviewed at strategy consulting firms, I have been interviewed at other companies by their drop-out analysts... using similar techniques. What I was never sure of was this... did I dislike the interviewer for asking trite, silly questions, that are industry textbook, or do I simply fail to like the culture of the industry?

I think I'm fundamentally insecure about my abnormal career path. Not that I think my career sucks, but I do think most people would intuitively find it distasteful. And I hate arguing (i.e. trying to reason) against other people's personal preferences. :P

Death as a Service

90% boring day at work. One of those days when I'd be happy to donate my organs, sign a waiver, and die. #newBusinessIdea

The human right to die, should not be encumbered by law, or whiny relatives and friends, or philosophical opponents, or one's one attachment to life itself. It should be as convenient as checking out of a hotel. One should simply be able to walk up to the counter, and say, "here are the keys to my life, make sure the right people benefit from this, I'm tired, and ready - count me out!"

Thinking further about the business viability of this, the main bugbear seems to be making it legal. Regulators. From legalising assisted suicide, to linking up to the trade in human organs, to social responsibility operations to ensure that everyone understands why this is a good thing, it seems as if this would take millions in campaigning through various channels, it's exactly the sort of problem that makes for an interesting unfunded startup effort. 

Now this, is a moonshot. 

(In th worst case scenario, I guess it would make an interesting book or movie, in reaction to the ethos of the past three decades.)

Endorsably Emo

I just realised that the way LinkedIn 'skill endorsements' work, I'll never get endorsed for anything that's meaningful to me, since I find that I generally think about my work differently from my clients and my peers. \wrist

2013-08-20

Thought Policy

The day they literally start attempting to police thought, they're going to fail because most people are incapable of controlling their thoughts, and incredibly complicated (but technically interesting) laws would have to be written to determine whose fault any particular thought was. That was the second thing that came to mind. 

What I originally wanted to write down, was about intellectual curiosity and to some extent intellectual honesty. We have laws prohibiting certain actions, say robbery, rape, and murder... but we do not exactly have laws prohibiting the expression of interest in such actions (though you could certainly interpret various very broad laws to include this). I'm one of those people who likes to make my mind do things which it hasn't done before. So if I find myself disliking some experience, or being socially barred from certain actions, I often actually make a point to think slowly, repeatedly, and in great detail about those things, however "horrible," they may be. Now if only more people were like that - perhaps I would have more to say to people in general. 

2013-08-19

Good Coffee?

X: Anyway this is what I'm thinking, "good coffee" is a fixed standard right? there are certain conditions that should be met, after which it is called "good coffee". That being the case, it would be trivial for a machine to make "good coffee" given that the variables are all known and reproducible.

Me: You clearly know fuckall about coffee. :P There can't be a fixed standard - that's like asking for good violin music. You could get Hendrix or Mae, or Paganini, reinterpreted variously... and it's completely subjective. But there are statistical distributions to population preferences of course, and so we can observe that this or that flavour profile is more or less popular in this or that locality.