Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Busy Week

Well, yesterday marked the end of another busy week for me (I measure my weeks from Monday to Sunday).  As work for clients slowed slightly, the majority of my time was spent working with my team in Global Strategy class. 

I like the class as it presents us with a simulation of running an international company and all of the aspects that go into that.  It required a lot of work last week as we prepared to present our "company" to venture capital investors (aka the class professor).  The presentation went well with only a few small issues, but that wasn't the end of it.  Following the presentation we entered into negotiations with the VC on how much they were going to invest and at what stock price per share of the company.  This culminated in emails passing back and forth between me (our team's designated negotiator) and the professor between the other activities of the weekend.

Erin and I started the weekend by Erin treating me to sushi Friday night.  We enjoyed dinner at the outstanding Sushi Den where I even met a friend from Daniels college behind the bar.  Erin and I were celebrating the unexpected news that I received in the mail recently.  The Army sent a certificate and orders that I was officially, honorably discharged from the Army.  I wasn't expecting this until April, but it's nice to know that I'm free of the Army now and have no more obligations to them.

After our delicious dinner we got up on Saturday for a leisurely breakfast.  The rest of the day was a mad dash from one activity to the next.  First my friend Andrew came over and we went out to lunch.  Then AIM was organizing a Girl Scout World Thinking Day where we were providing volunteers to teach the girls sports from around the world.  As the president of AIM I had been having trouble getting people to confirm their involvement in the event and so it fell on me to fill in the gaps by collecting up my backpack and teaching the girls about backpacking.

Unfortunately I forgot to pull out my camera, but pictures would have showed me working with groups of 15 to 20 girls for 15 minute intervals on what it meant to go backpacking.  It was very rewarding to teach them about the pack and then helping them set up a tent, but after 6 groups I was exhausted and hoarse.  I have a new-found appreciation for Erin and the teaching she does on a daily basis.

After the girl scout event we hurried back home as one of Erin's friend (who is also getting married) used my place as a dressing room to show her wedding dress to Erin and get her opinion.  It wasn't long until we headed back out to our friend's Brian and Cassie's place for a relaxing night of dinner and Cranium.  The food was again delicious and the game was hilarious, but by the end we were all ready to call it a day.

Sunday continued to be action-packed as Erin and I went over to Littleton to pick up my motorcycle from my aunt and uncle's place, take it for a ride through the foothills, and bring it back to my place.  It was then out to experience 5280 dining with Erin's friends Pete and Leah at The 9th Door downtown.  5280 is a week (or maybe two this year) where many high-scale restaurants offer a fixed-menu for $52.80 for two people.  The 9th Door provided us with a wonderful selection of tapas and we were soon stuffed and ready to go home.

Of course the free minutes of the weekend were used to continue planning our wedding and doing school work.  By now I'm looking forward to a little bit more relaxed week ahead.  Still, work is gearing back up and finals are just a few weeks away.  But at least finals can wait for another week.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Data in the Bank

As a professional web developer and a candidate for an International Masters in Business Administration degree I often find myself thinking about the best way to create management information systems with today's technology.  The programming nerd in me wants to create a cloud-based, open-source-based solution with loads of machine learning to help adapt the functionality to clients' wants and needs.  The business wonk in me knows that to do that I need to appeal to what people and businesses really want (a simple, solid information system) by alleviating their fears (data security).

While reading another article about corporate security manager's hesitation in accepting cloud computing solutions that I thought more about the data security aspect.  It's understandable that security-conscious people worry about storing data out of their direct control seeing how it's so vitally tied to the survival of the company.  Losing the information on a key lead or account can mean lost revenues.  Inaccurate human resource information can open a company to legal issues.  Corporate espionage could lead to competitors gaining the lead in a market.  The inability to control easily means that a company will lose money.

It occurred to me though, that the same thing can be said about a company's actual money.  It is the lifeblood of a company just as much the data in a company's servers.  But while a company may feel the need to protect it's data by maintaining its own servers and IT staff, it rarely feels the need to keep its own cash vaults and in-house bankers to protect its money.  What is it that requires data to be secured locally while money can be secured in banks (sometimes even half a world away)?

One argument is that banks, as an industry and institution, have been around much longer than server farms.  Banks have government backing and must adhere to certain rules.  If a bank gets robbed, a certain amount of the funds are insured and can be returned.

Another point is the inherent differences between money and data.  Cash is largely interchangeable with $500,000 lost replaced by any other aggregation of $500,000.  Data on the other hand may be sensitive; it only has value as long it is known by a select group of people.  Data can be changed so that it no longer is an accurate representation of what it was reporting.  Once corrupted, data holds little of the value it once did.

Finally, banks make their customer's money available to them through a variety of means.  There are numerous branches, ATM's, wire transfers, credit/debit cards.  If one of these modes of account access is unavailable there are others to choose from.  On the other hand if company data is stored on outside servers the only way to access it with any immediacy is the internet.  If there's an outage somewhere or a line gets cut a company is out of luck.  Plus a company can go a while without money but can do very little without access to its operating data.

Some of these may seem very obvious, but I list them out because I think that each of these obstacles can be overcome.  The company that provides solutions to these problems will likely ride the wave of next generation business.  My cloud-based, open-source, machine-learning, management information system just might have a chance.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Busy Week, But Good Valentine's Day

It's was a busy week with class midterms, student organizing, wedding planning, and work, but on Saturday I was able to set all of that aside and spend a wonderful Valentine's day with Erin.  We started off sleeping in as we do on most weekend mornings and having a leisurely breakfast.

I then proposed we do something exciting and we made plans to go indoor rock climbing.  Though Erin's never been before and was a little frightened by the idea she agreed.  We signed up for an introductory lesson out at Rock'N and Jam'N Indoor Climbing out in Centennial.  Erin was able to learn all the basic knots and techniques while I got a good refresher.  After going up a few walls though both are forearms were pretty tired and we agreed to finish up having enjoyed the thrill and trust the activity generated.

After a quick sushi snack we picked up some salmon for dinner.  We were intent on making a recipe and using an Alaskan Ulu knife that my parents had gotten me for Christmas.

Back home, we spent some time making valentines for each other before setting up my tent inside for a little indoor camping.  After a delicious dinner we enjoyed some roasted marshmallows and s'mores on a little tabletop stove that Erin had.  After that the little two-person tent proved to be a comfy getaway in my living room.  With the lights turned out and the sounds of crickets playing on my laptop, we could almost imagine that we were sleeping out in the woods.

It was a great end to the nicest Valentine's Day we've each ever had.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Being Sick and Midterms Just Don't Mix Well

I hate being sick.  I'm usually only sick once a year and usually around this time.  Still, it's enough for me to realize how much I hate being sick.  A week ago Sunday I was enjoying the Superbowl and Monday night I was in class as usual, but by the time I was going to bed that night I felt my lymph nodes getting bigger and a cough developing.  I even took vitamins and medicine to stem the effects.

It was no use.  By Tuesday it was obvious that I had a cold.  I had to miss my Strategy and Finance classes that night hoping that I would be okay for my Finance midterm on Thursday.  Wednesday I woke feeling a little better and I was able to get a lot of studying and work done, but by the afternoon I realized that I still wasn't well enough to go to class.

On Thursday morning I was feeling even worse than I was on Wednesday.  I ended up taking some daytime medicine before going in to a study group in the afternoon.  It made my nose run even more than it had been.  Still, I slogged through the study session with friends (who I hope I didn't get sick), my Strategy class, and finally my Finance midterm.

Being sick had given me a lot of time to study and I felt like I was doing great on the midterm, until I got to the last question.  It was asking about a reading that the professor had assigned the day I was out.  In his defense I should have emailed him that I was out sick or one of my friends in class (and at my study group) should have told me.  At the time though I was a little pissed.  In the end though I wrote the best answer I could and turned in the test assured that my answers on the rest of the test would cover the last question.

By Friday I was feeling much better, so I took the motorcycle out for a ride down to pick up Erin.  We didn't want to miss the bright skies and warmer temperatures that had visited Colorado for last week.  By the time I got back to my place though I was exhausted and Erin was kind enough to come by and cook me some chicken soup.

Over the weekend I've gotten significantly better as we worked on wedding stuff.  There always seems to be one more thing to do for the wedding, but at least it feels like we're on the ball about getting it taken care of.  As for school, the midterm presentations and papers keep coming.  As expected this is coinciding with an increase in work from freelancing which also needs to be finished as soon as possible.  Place on top of that a student club that I can't seem to get enough people active in, bills to pay, and taxes and I start feeling down.

As I start to get stressed and feeling defeated though I realize that that's the way life goes.  It comes in waves and sometimes those waves build up on one another.  Like sitting in a boat with waves coming in from all sides it can seem like the boat's going to capsize any minute.  The answer isn't to abandon ship though.  I've learned the best way to get through the storm is to point the boat at the biggest wave, kick the engines into gear, and just get past one wave after another.  In a month or two (or six) it will be all behind me and I'll be sitting in the sun enjoying a drink with my beautiful new wife.  Until then, I've got work to do.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Erin's Birthday

Well it's been a busy two weeks as my classes ramp up, I strive to get more participation in the Association for International Management (AIM) at school, and decisions get made for Erin's and my wedding.  I goes by so fast that it's hard to believe that it's already February. 

The good news is that I'm in great health.  After a checkup with my doctor last week and some blood work it looks like I won't need an expensive (and potentially dangerous over time) medication that I've been taking every couple of months since '07.  Like many medications it was something that was very helpful at the time, but not something that I want to be on for a long time, so I'm happy at that result.

Frustration came later last week as I organized a meeting for AIM to talk about events that we would be doing this year.  I got several pizzas expecting a large number of people, but very few showed up.  Running a volunteer organization can be rewarding many times, but it can also be very frustrating at times.  It's hard to find the right level of emotional involvement to stay excited, energize others, and not get burnt out.

Later last week it was time to turn to wedding decisions again.  Erin and I went to see a jewelry store on Friday to discuss wedding bands and fixing the engagement ring I had given her.  The engagement ring, which Erin has fallen in love with, is a beautiful heirloom that used to be my great-grandmother's.  However, after 80 or so years there is a bit of damage to it that needs to be fixed for it to be wearable without worry.

Erin and I didn't realize the extent of the needed repair until we took it to the jewelry store and a lady with a loupe (little magnifying eyepiece) started stating all the damages and adding up the costs to repair.  The brusque nature of the delivery left us a little down so that it was hard to focus on the options the store provided for wedding bands.

On this last Friday Erin and I went to see another jeweler; one that was recommended to us by Erin's sister and who works out of his basement.  Here we received a much gentler, personal, and casual welcome.  Whether the delivery was better or we were more prepared to talk about the ring's damage it sounded much better from this jeweler.  His ideas for wedding bands also seemed more creative and in line with what we were thinking.  I think we're going with this nicer jeweler.

The other wedding decision we went with was to go with a local baker that will make us cupcakes and a pie to cut for our wedding (instead of the more traditional wedding cake).  As a creative type it was fun talking with her, seeing the different designs she could do on cupcakes, and tasting the different varieties.  I really like the idea of cupcakes since people get options of what to have (probably a choice of chocolate with ganache, amaretto, and carrot cake).  Plus, I've always preferred pie, so Erin and I are going to cut an apple pie for that part of the ceremony.  I'm so happy that Erin and I are making these decisions together so we can both have a wonderful day in June.

The other fun news from these past two weeks was how Erin and I celebrated her birthday.  We went to dinner on Wednesday night (her actual birthday) with her parents.  Then yesterday we celebrated with her friends at a variety of locations.  We started the festivities at the local laser-tag place.  It was fun moving through the large, dark, foggy maze shooting people with the lasers while trying to duck and dodge in an everyone-for-themselves game.  We followed that with a trip to a wine bar where everyone could chat and enjoy wines.  Then we went over to see a Denver University hockey game as they faced off against Anchorage, Alaska.  By the time we had final drinks at a nearby bar, we were ready to call it a day.


Today Erin and I are getting some work done before we head over to my friend Brian's place to watch the Superbowl, have some second-Thanksgiving food, and wish his brother -who's going to Fort Polk, Louisiana- the best of luck.  It should be a great time.