The Daily Parker

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CCMBA 2010D degrees are just about here

I've just gotten a reply from the Duke University registrar's office in response to my question:

During the CCMBA, our advisers told us that our degrees would be conferred on 30 December 2010. ACES[1], however, still lists us as "active in program." How will we get official notification that we’ve earned our MBAs?

The registrar's reply:

Thank you for your email. We do not add the degree to your record until the University Trustees meet to officially confer the degrees. They generally meet in mid-January and the degrees are posted to the record usually in late January with a confer date of December 30th. Please keep a check on your academic history in ACES and you will be able to see when your degree has been posted.

So, we're not yet officially masters of business administration, but it's probably all right to put the degree on our résumés.

[1] ACES is the registrar's computer system.

A little dazed

About five hours ago I finished everything required to earn my MBA. I still have one (option) follow-up lecture for one class, so I can't mark the whole thing "resolved and closed" in FogBugz yet. Thus the precise language: I'm done with all the requirements.

No more Saturday-morning CENTRA sessions. No more papers and exams lurking under the bed. No more residency calendar on my fridge (first attached there 18 months ago).

I feel like Robert Redford's character at the end of The Candidate: "What do we do now?" It's a little freaky.

Total damage, not counting the lecture Thursday and untimed activities like mulling over my assignments while doing something else: 1,437 hours. That's 9 months of full-time work, spread over 18. In other words, between July 2009 and today I spent about 20 hours per week doing something connected with my MBA.

In a wildly-tangential universe, I upgraded FogBugz here at Inner Drive Technology's World Headquarters yesterday. The new version (8.1) produces really cool charts, like this one:

The six big spikes correspond with the residencies that started each term. They drop off quickly because the residencies had immense workloads and short durations. This term, as you can see, had the largest workload of all, because we had four complete classes.

I'm very glad to be done. Parts of me haven't caught up to the reality yet. I'll feel completely through with the program two weeks from Thursday, when I see on the registrar's website that Duke has conferred my degree. Until then, I expect some continuing fogginess.

Almost, but not quite, all done

After 16 months, 16 classes, six countries (including North Carolina, which still seems a bit foreign), and 1435 hours of work, I'm down to my last assignment. It's a group paper, for which I've already done the bulk of my part, though the team has nominated me to assemble the final draft. It's due at 11 am Monday; expect to see something around then.

This will all make sense to me in a few weeks. Right now a part of my poor brain insists I have something to do that I'm not doing right now...while the rest of it, for the first time since July 2009, knows I really don't have anything hanging over me.

What a weird feeling.

Four days left

I can't quite grasp that I'll finish my MBA sometime before next Tuesday. My Duke to-do list (I actually use FogBugz for school and for work) has had, over the past two years, 573 items on it. Today I've got just 7 active items, including "Confirm CCMBA degree is conferred" which is due on the 30th.

One paper left. One PowerPoint dreck. Er, deck. One case to read. Two classes.

I have no idea what I'm going to do without all that stress and bother, or with all the time I'll suddenly have. Oh, right: I'll moonlight to pay off my student loans. Forgot that...


With fewer than 21 days until the end of school forever (or at least until I get the loans paid off), I've spent all my non-work time thinking about entrepreneurship management, emerging market strategy, technology strategy, and environmental economics. Between them I have three papers and one pricing project to complete.

The first paper is almost done, pending comments from one of my sources. I'd go celebrate but I have the other three assignments, you see.

Someday, I'll look back upon this time, laugh nervously, and change the subject.

It's all over now

Not my MBA, which finishes in 73 days. At least we're done with classes; all that remains are my distance classes and three projects.

No, more interesting than that is how World War I finally ends on Sunday:

The final payment of £59.5 million writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another.

Germany was forced to pay the reparations at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as compensation to the war-ravaged nations of Belgium and France and to pay the Allies some of the costs of waging what was then the bloodiest conflict in history, leaving nearly ten million soldiers dead.

The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion, £22 billion at the time.

Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the 'war guilt' clause, accepting blame for the war.

This, one must admit, is a head-scratcher. Good thing no one held a grudge after 1919, else we'd have had real problems.

Durham residency, day 2

Yeah, it's just not as exciting as previous residencies, but it's seriously more work.

Fortunately, I still have time to read gems like this:

Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center may be charged $200,000 by the city of Gainesville, Florida, for security costs incurred by the canceled Koran-burning originally planned for September 11.

Jones' announcement of "International Burn-A-Koran" day resulted in some violent protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and threats against Americans. In response, Gainesville upped its security. According to The Associated Press: "Police Maj. Rick Hanna said more than 200 officers were on duty last weekend patrolling the church, the University of Florida football game and "soft targets" like the mall. Another 160 sheriff's deputies were also working because of the planned protest at Dove World Outreach Center."

Though Jones didn't go through with the protest, city officials say they want Jones to foot the bill for the security anyway.

To the tune of "Personality," everyone sing: "'Cause he de do do..."

Speaking of economics, here's a brief lesson for people who want the millionaire tax cut to continue:

Stealing from themselves?

Dilbert creator Scott Adams raises an interesting point in his blog today:

I'm fascinated by the degree to which brains have evolved to become more powerful than guns. Society's founding geniuses engineered a social system that encourages the young people who have guns to shoot at each other instead of robbing old people. Forgive me for calling that awesome.

In other news, my total working hours for August was 275.5, so I'm actually looking forward to the Term 6 residency for a respite. We've only got four full classes this term, so, you know, it's easier.

Only 102 days left...

Just gotta get right out of here

For the first time I can recall—going back more than two years, at least, and probably longer—I don't have a flight booked to anywhere. I started realizing this as I got closer to flying to Boston last weekend. Combine that with the brand-spanking-new passport I just got, and I feel oddly confined.

So, possessed of a ton of frequent-flyer miles but with no possibility of making the next level of elite status this year, and also facing a dramatic shift in my work-life balance in just over 110 days, I have started plotting my escape.

Where to go, though?

First criterion: Get out of the U.S. A passport without stamps (or creases, scuff marks, bent edges, etc.) just looks sad. Unused. Unloved. Wherever I go in December, then, must get me a passport stamp.

Second: Use frequent-flyer miles. Even though it's August, the number of available seats for miles in mid-December looks pretty grim to a lot of places. Forget most warm spots; forget popular Christmas destinations. At least, not for less than 100,000 miles, and a four-day trip just isn't worth that amount.

Third: Eight hours or less from O'Hare. I'm not relishing the thought of a longer flight for a four-day trip. That rules out Asia, most of South America, and parts of Europe. I can live with that.

So: Candidates. Initially I thought of going someplace warm and sitting on a beach. There are non-stops on American from Chicago to Cancún, Cabo San Lucas, México, and Acapulco. But I'm not really a resort kind of person, and getting anywhere more interesting in Mexico carries risks right now I'm not completely comfortable taking. A connection in Miami opens up the Carribean and Central America; but the number of available seats makes that expensive.

Of course, I'd go to London for almost any reason anyway. It's my second-favorite city in the world, it's only 7 hours away, and in December business-class miles tickets are only 35,000 miles in some cases. But think: London in December? I don't expect to sit along the Thames and sip beer in the six hours of daylight I get before the sun sets just before 4pm.

I think I've settled on Quito, Ecuador. With a connection in Miami it's 7 hours from Chicago (and no overnight flights!). It's reasonably warm. It has living history, being a UNESCO World Heritage site. And very few people speak English, which will force me to practice my Spanish.

More information as events warrant.

One year on

I can scarcely believe I've spent (only!) a year in the CCMBA already. We started last August 14th in London, and we're already almost done with our fifth term. I'd write more, but I've already spent most of today working.

About that workload: for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I'm a nerd, and not most of which is that I've been a consultant for most of my professional life, I've tracked the time spent on this program. So far, including getting to and from the residencies, time in class, pre-reading, homework, team meetings, etc., I've spent 1,157 hours on it. For those keeping score at home, that's almost 7 months of full-time work. This is in addition to the actual full-time work I've had to do during the same period.

I honestly have no idea what I'll do with all that time when I'm finally done with the program.

I am, however, done for the day. Done. Except for that Operations paper I need to finish. But it's not due until tonight, so I'm off with Parker to go watch the Blue Angels, which have just buzzed me 200 meters directly above my house.