Thursday, July 15, 2010

The World Cup Final, and Other Rants Ranging from Lorenz Curves to Caterpillar Scholarships

It is a rather long blog post, but I feel like I've kept it decently interesting. If nothing else, it's not as though I'm forcing you to read it.

So it’s been a little while since I posted anything, and, while these last 12 days or so have been uneventful relatively speaking, it’s still been 12 days of living in a country that is, despite becoming more and more familiar, still quite foreign. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first: work.

Work has gone well lately. Today I finished my complete analysis on our largest European customers. The analysis was like 42 pages of just dense, dry, boring numbers. I tried to liven it up with colorful vocabulary, weird case studies, quips, commentaries, inappropriate or immature jokes, and other such things that might keep the reader out of a mental institution, but it was still a rather tough pill to swallow. At least the graphs were nice. And I got to use “jamboree”. Speaking of not-often used words, the other day (and by that I mean like 3 weeks ago) I was proofreading a friend’s paper when I came across the word “philosophes”. No, that was not “philosophies” with a typo. “Philosophes”, or, (generally) French Enlightenment thinkers. I hadn’t heard that word since literally 2006. Definitely made my day. Now that you’re all questioning whether I belong in a mental institution…

Henning is currently on holiday in Poland with his family. He left last Tuesday, and beforehand I had a meeting with he and Simon to sort of hand over control of me from Henning to Simon. Consequently I’m reporting to Simon now for the time being, which would be nice, if he hadn’t left this morning for the UK. So basically I’m now outsourced labor despite not having been outsourced. But yes, I’m outsourced in that I am working elsewhere from my immediate bosses and will be taking a lot of orders via phone. I want to clarify that I’m not complaining about this, I just find it rather interesting (just like I found it interesting when Henning told me that SES employees get 27 paid vacation days per year. Twenty. Seven. Let’s say the office is open 50 weeks per year times 5 days, that’s 250 days. Over 10% of the days are therefore vacation. In theory you could basically take off from Thanksgiving onwards and not come back until next year and still be paid. I’ll be that’s the very longest thought within a single set of parenthesis that any of the 6 readers of this blog have ever seen. And if it’s not, I’d really like to hear what is. Seriously, email it to me,

ANYWAY… other than that, I showed Ludmila my Russia+CIS analysis (which dealt exclusively with her customers). Brief aside: Ludmila is Bulgarian. She is a phenomenally sweet lady, but, by nature of her Eastern European-ness (if there is such a word), I was expecting her thoughts on my paper to generally be “what can you improve”, rather than “what have you done right”. Again, I’d like to point out that she is one of my favorite people at the office, and I do really enjoy working with her, but I was just expecting a more negative critique. Quite the contrary, the first thing she said was how impressed she was with the writing quality, and that there was significantly more in this paper than she had told me in the interview I had with her, which showed a good bit of initiative and outside research. She also gave me some wonderful pointers on how to improve the paper, and I definitely feel like it is better as a result. Overall a very good chat, and one which really showed that she is a very skillful critique, as she picked up a number of small details that I’d’ve never picked up had I read the thing 10 times (which I’m probably absorbed enough in my own work to do). Other than that, on the work front not a whole lot has been going on. Again, I finished my novel of a European customer analysis (the table of contents was two pages, it contained 14,933 words, it required an industrial-strength stapler, 7 teams of oxen were required to carry it from my desk to Simon’s office (a path now known as the Oregon Trail), the weight alone nearly collapsed the building, a rainforest the size of Ukraine was cut down to produce the paper, and other massive under-statements like that. You read that correctly. Understatements…).

So now to the fun (or… not so fun?) stuff, the World Cup. As many of you probably saw (and as many of you didn’t because I’d assume that about 75% of the readers (i.e. 3 people) are American), the World Cup happened to occur this summer. For those who don’t know, Holland made the final. I already went into detail about the pandemonium surrounding our quarterfinal beheading of Dunga and his joga bonito-ing Brazilian fighting squad, so that’s the end of that. Tuesday of last week we played Uruguay in the semi’s. We went out to a 3-1 lead late in the second half, Uruguay scored a 2nd to make it close, but we held for a 3-2 win. The Netherlands went into pandemonium. There were fireworks, flares, mortars, bazookas, insurgents, Taliban (now we’re getting politically incorrect)… but you get the idea, it was nuts. The next night Spain upset arguably the most German team on the planet, Germany, with a 1-0 win. This made an all-European final of Spain and Netherlands, in a matchup that pitted the stylish, free-flowing Spaniards against the orange, oranje, and anaranjado Dutch.

Hunter and I decided that it would probably be a good choice to go to Amsterdam for the final, because there were allegedly 80,000 people at Museumplein for the semifinal, and therefore it was reasonable to expect at least like 50-100 people there for the final (conservatively speaking, of course). Turned out it was closer to 150,000 people, or roughly the population of Siberia. Crammed into a space the size of a large elevator. This led to an incredible atmosphere that included truly staggering amounts of the following: orange, Dutchmen, Heineken, vuvuzelas, shoes (each person was probably wearing two… so think about it, three hundred thousand shoes!), and did I mention the ORANGE. So much orange it was unbelievable. I bought an orange t-shirt for an outrageously expensive 5 euros. I nearly told the lady m-goi, thinking “I must be back in Asia for prices this cheap”. Anyway, so the match was being broadcast on 3 massive (and my God do I mean massive) televisions perched about 20-25 feet above this sea of orange (or the Orange Sea (not to be confused with the Red Sea), as I christened it just now in a failed attempt at wit). The match atmosphere was intense, though the match was about as exciting as reading my report on our European customers. So it was a positively thrilling affair. Anyway, in a throwback to the 2006 Italy-Germany semifinal, no one scored for like 115 minutes. Then, Andres Iniesta stuck a knife into the hearts of 16 million Dutch and two Americans (I believe their names were Gustovson… Anyone get the reference????) as he scored a goal to put Spain up 1-0, tearing off his kit to reveal the “Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros” t-shirt, an homage to his fallen friend Dani Jarque who died of a heart attack at age 26 last year. Anyway, so afterwards, the closest thing I can compare Amsterdam to (even more so after watching Shaun of the Dead last night) was a zombie apocalypse. Yeah that’s right, I just compared a world cup loss to a zombie apocalypse. Which coffee shop have I been frequenting, you ask? Well basically here is what I mean: the 150,000 or so people that had been watching the match just sort of left Museumplein. They were walking the streets in hordes just sort of walking without purpose. Their faces were full of a combination of sadness, disbelief, horror, and just general lack of comprehension at what had just occurred. They were essentially just walking to avoid standing still. We nearly saw several fights break out due to people being in such a foul mood. Weird, weird stuff.

Work Monday was a bit dead with the exception of Nuria (who is Spanish), as she bounced around the office. She was very graceful in victory, however, refusing to be overly cocky, celebratory, etc., which was good to see (though probably not something I’d ever do). Anyway, so that’s about it for the World Cup, only 47 more months until Brasil 2014. I now have a massive Jabulani shaped void in my life, which will likely be filled by British comedy, a developing case of workoholism, and reading SuperFreakonomics and the Lonely Planet on Colombia (month from tomorrow, should be good provided I don’t get kidnapped by a cartel… and even if that does occur, no one could argue it wouldn’t be a life experience).

ISU came through in flying colors today when I found out, a whopping 36 hours in advance, that the deadline for the Caterpillar Scholarship is tomorrow. This $2,500 scholarship is awarded to 4 College of Business students every year. One of the kids that won it last year was a juggernaut (US Marine veteran, studied abroad in Japan, just a spectacular kid), but this year there’s no one really like that, so my chances are good I think. Got some help from Grammy today on my app essay via Skype (modern technology for the win), so we’ll see. The whole 36 hours in advance thing was even more infuriating because I’d emailed the lady in charge like 6 weeks ago asking about the Caterpillar Scholarship, and she said she didn’t know but she would email me when she did. Suffice to say she did not just find out today about it. But eh, got the application in, that’s all that matters.

Read for a good long while last night about Gini coefficients and Lorenz curves, pretty interesting stuff. I’d previously understood how to interpret individual Gini coefficients, but had never really bothered to learn how they were calculated, etc. Turns out it’s a right-angled graph using a Lorenz curve and taking the area to the left of said curve divided by the total area of the graph. Or, more obviously, area to the left of the curve times 2 (as the area of the total graph is 0.5, as the axes are from 0-1). Really good stuff involving mathematical demography.

The plan for the weekend is to play tourist. Saturday we’re (Hunter and I) going to Amsterdam to see the Heineken Brewery, Amsterdam ArenA, the Hard Rock CafĂ©, etc. Sunday we’re going with Samer (another intern) to some really stereotypical Dutch town up north (stereotypical being windmills, wooden clogs, Dutch people, soft “j”s, KLM, etc.). Should be…Dutch? Yeah. Incredible to think I leave 1 month from tomorrow to go to the states for a whole 4 hours before leaving for Bogota. I’ve learned a ton this summer, and even more on my entire world tour, which is really quickly coming to an end. In fairness I’m about ready to head home, and in the words of Alexander the Great, “there are no more worlds to conquer” (aside: I know very well there is much more of the world to see, I’m just ready for a break, so at this point that’s where I’m at.) So yeah, plan is currently to leave Holland the 16th, fly to Miami the 16th, overnight layover before flying to Bogota morning of the 17th, do God knows what in Colombia until the 24th, fly home the 24th before another overnight in Miami, arrive in Chicago the 25th at 9:30am before heading down to ISU that afternoon. Should be a blast. Seriously though, should be a good time.

Note: I’m fairly satisfied with this blog post. I feel like it’s a bit lengthy but it reads reasonably well and I’ve kept it fairly entertaining I feel. If you feel the same way, I’m very glad to hear that. If not, I guess you’ll just have to punch me in the mouth next time you see me.

An enormous thank you if you’ve read my psychotic ravings. And an enormous request to not report my Taliban reference to the authorities. Other than that, good night, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, or good whatever time of day you may be reading this (except noon… who says good…noon?)

No comments:

Post a Comment