That said, Kuala Lumpur is a pretty cool looking city. Looking out the window from our hotel to the Petronas Towers felt like I was looking out over a Star Wars city. KL feels like an oasis of self-sustaining modernity in the middle of the otherwise lagging country. But again, this is just my impression from a first pass through, only visiting three companies (Flextronics, Freescale, and GE Aircraft Engine Maintenance), and not learning the greater economic conditions. One of the best guys in our '08 class is from Malaysia, and he really likes the country.
Thailand - Bangkok
More fun places and things to see.
These boats touring people through the river were a riot. The raw utilitarianism in these things is second to none. It looks like they ripped the engine straight out of a Volkswagen, Ford Truck, or whatever happened to be nearby, and mounted it to a boat with a prop.
It was really interesting comparing the Ford plant here with the auto plants we've seen in the states (no pictures allowed). The lines run the same, but where there is a forest of robots in the states, here they have hoards of people. The assembly lines were clearly designed on the same principles, but according to different economic trade offs.
Vancouver / Whistler
Two weeks after Plant Trek, it was off to Vancouver and Whistler
Not as large as I expected, but the city lived up to its reputation for character and beauty.
You'd think that after a year with a class of 360, you would have met almost everyone at least once. Not so. The best part of these "treks" that are so prevalent at MIT Sloan, is meeting so many people, and actually spending some time talking and learning who they are. Parties and pubs only do so much for getting to know people. Trips like this to Vancouver are great.
More important though, I think Whistler is now my favorite ski resort. Mid-April, and the snow at the top of the mountain was as good as Colorado snow in February! And the terrain is unbelievable! Every kind of slope, cliff, and cornice is available, and there are plenty of options to choose from. I think everyone running the ski resort is from Australia. Australians travel better than any other culture, and if they choose to stop in a location, you better know there's a good reason why.
Next stop, England, to make sure everything would be arranged with Schlumberger before I came in to start my project. Because of last minute changes in the schedules of higher up people, what was intended to be a three day trip turned into a six day trip.
It was definitely worthwhile though. Talking with the people I did was good, and I was able to lay down a sound definition of my project and schedule. Schlumberger has some very interesting projects going on. It's amazing what they've dreamed up to control oil drilling equipment. Their technology is phenomenal, and now they're trying to leverage the different global capabilities to build a more effective supply chain (which will be the focus of my project).
The English countryside is beautiful. The most astounding part is, the ENTIRE countryside looks like this. It seems like everything is built out of stone, with an occasional brick house. I can't believe how many rolling hills with farms are still not populated, and how it appears nothing new has been built in 100 years. It's certainly a change from driving through the States.
And yes, driving on the left side of the road is a bear. It's not so much driving that is bad, or the round-about's, but it gets dangerous in the reflexes when turning training me to clear for vehicles on the right side of the road. I developed a new respect for James Bond to so effortlessly drive with such instinctive skill on whichever side of the road the country dictates.
I must say, the best part of driving in England is they don't post ridiculous speed limits! On the main motorway, I was cruising 90 mph to and from the airport, and people in better cars were passing me on a regular basis. Why can't the states be like that? If any of the upcoming presidential candidates puts higher speed limits on their platform, they'll have my vote.
St. Louis University
I think I had less than 24 hours between arriving home from England and leaving for St. Louis for my brother's graduation from medical school. It's always a laugh hanging out with him and hearing all the stories from the hospital. St. Louis is a more violent city than I ever expected. People get shot up every day, and of course they don't have insurance, so the hospital pays to patch them up. The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Dr. Ben Carson, and it was great listening to him speak about the breadth and ethics of the doctors in American society, and in the world at large. He's made some significant accomplishments in surgery, and I admire his efforts in the societal realm of medicine, curing social illnesses before they make people put other people (or themselves) in the hospital. He is certainly a doctor to emulate.
Greg and Erica are now off to Arizona for his residency in the ER. Medical school seems like the path of eternal schooling, but it actually consists of a finite number of years. It's a lot of work, but certainly worthwhile.
NASA Lunar Ventures - Colorado School of Mines
That same weekend was the NASA Lunar Ventures Business Plan Competition, in which we had three Astropreneur teams make it to the finals, and one team, AimSense, finish as Runner Up. I was impressed with several of the other teams competing, and overall it was an excellent experience.
In addition to the award money, AimSense won a trip to NASA headquarters, and there are a few people from Boeing who are interested in their concept and planning to talk with them about moving forward. That's exactly the kind of thing we hope will come out of these competitions!
And it's always nice to have a weekend back home, to run around with my brothers on our old biking trails and cliffs.
Mugged in the Boston Public Garden
I had never been mugged before, but that's pretty close to what happened in my three or so day staying Boston while taking my last Final and moving my stuff into storage. After sending Minovia back to her place in a Taxi around midnight, I decided to take a brief walk in the Public Garden. It's a beautiful park just outside my loft, and a great place for thinking.
I was standing, looking over the pond, and two guys dressed gangster style were walking by on the path (nothing unusual). Then one of them strolled over to me while his friend stood waiting. "Do you know where Park Street is?" I gave him simple and clear directions, then returned my eyes to the pond and my mind to my train of thought. He stayed standing there, and asked a few other "small talk" questions, to which I gave short one or two word answers, indicating I wasn't interested in conversation. Then he got to his real reason for talking. "Do you got any money? Just a few bills?" If his brand new shoes, hat, and meticulously chosen clothes, had been any style other than ghetto-gangster, I would have been surprised at his request.
I don't believe it is charitable (in most cases) to give money to panhandlers. There are more effective ways to help out a man who is "down on his luck," and I support those efforts. Furthermore, I do not believe it is the duty or responsibility of any single individual to give of their resources to another individual because they have less. An individual may 'choose' to give of their resources for their own reasons (as I do, when, where, and how I choose), but there is no inherent moral obligation for them to give in any particular quantity or form.
I don't make excuses for my ethics, so I replied disinterestedly saying: "I don't need to give you any money." He whined about "just a few bucks" and the such. As I gave no reply, he eventually started saying "I'm being 'nice' man. I'm being 'nice.' You got plenty of money. You should give me some. That's why I'm being nice."
Regardless of my ethics, I had left everything in my apartment except my keys. I didn't have any money to give him. Under general circumstances I would have had money, but I'm accustomed to telling a persistent beggar that, yes, I have money, but no, I won't give them any. I didn't want to pretend to acknowledge this guy's right to take any money that I may have on me, so I responded "Any money that I may have on me, you have no right to any of it." He replied "I know that, but I'm just asking for a few bucks." I didn't respond, so after a pause he started in again.
"Why are you risking getting yourself severely injured and hurt? You only have to give me a couple bucks. You got it! I know you got it!
" I turned to him. "You have no right to anything that I have. I don't have any money on me, but even if I did, you have no right to any of it."
It was interesting how his eyes lit up when I said I don't have any money on me, and he then started insisting that he search me, as though he was going to catch me in a lie. He had no right to search me, and I was tempted to stand on that point as well, but things happen quickly. He was determined to search me, I didn't want to haggle with him, so knowing I would take the moral victory on this point I reacted saying: "Look at me. Look me in the eye." He would only slouch and couldn't hold eye contact. "I don't lie, and I don't make excuses for what I will and won't do. I'll let you search me, but know this: You have no right to anything that is mine, or anything that is anybody else's."
He endured that remark with the attitude of a 2nd grader getting scolded, just anxious to search for money. After he acknowledged my point with a nod, I lifted the tail of my shirt where he could see I had no wallet in my pockets. In just a moment, his hands were in my pockets, not just checking for a wallet, but feeling very thoroughly on both sides. I was appalled, but again thought it better to not resist. I thought he was done when he finished the second pocket, but then his hands were in my front pocket! One hand on the inside, and one on the outside! In the small front pocket of my jeans were my keys, and as he was feeling those I commented "Those are only keys." You would have thought I sounded the starting gun for a sprint because his hand then plunged so deeply and strongly into my pocket that I thought it might rip. As I resisted his arm, commenting that there's obviously nothing else in there, he gave up on the pocket and went instinctively to my ankles. I was exasperated "Who keeps money in their socks?!?!" He looked up at me insistently: "I keep money in my socks!!!"
He finished checking my ankles, and finding nothing, he paused, stooped half way between my ankles and standing back to a slouch. He was confused about what to do next. He must have realized there was nowhere left to search, because he jerked and dejectedly began slouching away, twitching and mustering: "You had no right to take my ancestors from Africa either! You had no right!"
While he was stalking away with his friend, I'm not sure if he realized that he would soon be passing by the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (only 100 yards away), named after Col. Shaw who was killed in battle in 1863, leading the Massachusetts 54th regiment; the first black regiment of the North to fight in the Civil War to abolish slavery.
Moab / Lake Powell
I think it says something about your hobbies when you plan a trip to Moab with one friend, find out your brother already has a trip planned there for the same weekend, your cousin likewise has a trip planned, and in the middle of dinner during the trip you run into a friend you haven't seen for four years!
As always, it's still a beautiful and fun place.
And a little further south, Lake Powell has become a favorite vacation spot for our family. Beautiful terrain with lots of fun stuff to do during the day.
Two days in Boston, then on a flight to Bogota. Minovia is working for McKinsey for the summer out of their Bogota office, though she'll be on an operations project for a utility company in Puerto Rico. She spent her previous 5 years down here working on and running several government projects. For the summer she wanted to try consulting, operations, work in the govt/private company cross over sector, and leverage her Latin America experience but get outside Colombia. She got everything on her list!
End judgment: Colombia is a country with an excellent future! The Colombian people are hard working and entrepreneurial, and their government is very supportive of private industry.
Minovia has some very interesting friends from her work in Colombia, who are involved in all ranges of business, politics, etc. (Not to mention they're very hospitable). It was very interesting to hear their views of world politics, US politics, and how it all affects their country. It was wonderfully refreshing to hear one guy talk so positively about the upcoming presidential election, and how impressed he is the the candidates both parties are bringing to the table. I wish more US citizens could likewise look at candidates from both parties for their qualities, instead of selective filtration of good or bad qualities based on party affiliation. I agree that this upcoming election has some good moral individuals in both parties, and I hope this election can focus on constructive debate instead of name calling.
After a couple days of seeing Bogota, Minovia started with McKinsey. I was given the opportunity to visit the herb farm of one of her friends from her previous projects (No, not marijuana. Real high end fresh herbs that chefs cook with, like Oregano,Thyme, etc).
It's amazing what he's doing with this place. It's like seeing the Toyota Production System applied to growing herbs. When he started 14 months ago he was getting the industry average of 15 kilos per bed (in chives). Presently he's growing 50 kilos per bed, and has developed a system to get 100 kilos per bed! In addition, his new system creates greater consistency on the width (very important to the chefs who buy his herbs), resulting in more consistent quality.
He focused on chives for the first year, and trained his foremen on how to run trials and monitor the results. "All I taught them is the importance of tabulation, and acute observation." Now he's expanding similar experimentation with the other herbs he grows. It's impressive the way he has trained his foremen in the scientific method of production, and seeing they way they're bringing their own creativity to the experimentation. Sometimes, all that's needed is a more effective way to approach the world, and the same individual can become far more productive.
I was also surprised to see the safety involved in their construction. In much of Aerospace production, we've gone so overkill on safety that it slows all activity to a near halt. I always carried the impression that developing countries usually gained more labor productivity by avoiding many such safety considerations. It was inspiring to hear from his experience that doing work professionally in terms of process and scientific improvement also means doing it professionally in terms of safety. Good managers intrinsically want to guard the safety of their employees. When they have good management practices, they find that , not only can they afford to guard employee safety, but their employee's knowledge is too valuable to risk loosing it to an accident. In addition to the ethical reasons for safety, good managers create employees who provide strong economic reasons for safety.
For the weekend, we were invited down to a ranch, saw the country side, rode horses, and had a good time in general.
Lesson: Mexican food is not South American food. We had a genuine Colombian lunch, and it was more like a genuine cattle ranch lunch. A great tasting good hearty meal with no beans.
Just a couple weeks prior to my visit, the US and Colombian military succeeded in a joint sting operation to capture the Gorilla's (Drug Runners) largest Arms Dealer! I know he's not tied to Osama, but that's a huge success that should have made some news in the country!