Saturday, 28 February 2009

Cracking fun

Today was San Francisco's 7th Annual Crab Cracking Contest. Members of the 49ers American football team were drafted in to see who could crack crabs the fastest, and everything took place in Union Square right in the heart of the city.

Unfortunately we arrived late (see post directly below) and met Sagy and Moran who told us that the cracking - a three-minutes affair - had come and gone. No matter, we perused the many food stands and won some perfume samples and a sunglasses holder from Macy's. We also met some very interesting people...

Celebrity crabs?

It was pretty popular.

A crab fan.

This is the closest we got to seeing an actual live crab.

Wow - a little bit of home in California!

Me, Amir, and Sagy made some new friends. Three smiles in this photo are genuine, the rest are fake. Can you spot which?

Hannah, Dana, and Moran wanted to get in on the act too. As they're all far more beautiful than the cheerleaders, the 49ers mascot was happy to oblige.

Life's a (wicked) lottery

Dana suggested a trip to the musical Wicked, currently playing at the Orpheum Theatre in SF. As ever, the problem was whether Hannah and Amir could find a single three-hour slot when neither had a class/meeting/seminar/interview/lunch/nap planned.

We came up with two dates, today and sometime in May, and in an attempt to bypass TicketMaster's ridiculous "convenience fees" on every purchase (convenient for whom, exactly?) we drove into the city and went in person to the box office.

We happened to arrive a few hours before the 2pm performance and discovered that every day the theatre holds a lottery for any returned or unsold tickets! Just drop your name into the tombola and you can have the chance in the grand draw that takes place at noon, and the tickets you win are yours for $25 each (limit of two per person, must present photo ID).

How could we resist? In went our names, and the tension mounted as the crowd grew. A man with a microphone appeared, spun the perspex drum and we were off. Oprah-style whooping and hollering accompanied every ticket drawn out. It would have been rude not too!

They say be careful what you wish for. We obviously didn't wish hard enough as none of us won anything, despite the MBA students present doing some detailed probability calculations. "A fix" was Hannah's assessment, and so we left clutching (much better) tickets for May.

If I only had a heart/brain/courage (delete as applicable)

You've got to be in it to win it.

Keeping the process transparent.

Look at the disappointment on their poor little faces...

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The most unkindest cut of all

After the expert dye-job, it was time to actually get my hair cut to a sensible length. I had plenty of offers of help (including Vince, with the huge variety of haircuts he's enjoyed in the army) but thankfully Dana was about, and she was perfectly qualified: she owns some sharp scissors, and her mum recently cut her hair so she could probably remember what to do. Amir even brought me a cup of tea! It was like being at a proper salon.

Dana looking supremely confident...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Web of deceit

Who do Haas students turn to when they want some actual work done? Their ever-ready, skilled, knowledgeable, and extremely cheap partners!

And so it was that Hannah, Dana and I sat in a small room in Haas library redesigning the Net Impact website. That link is to the current old one, by the way, but they've also kept up all their sites from the previous ten years. How times have changed: 1999 (my eyes!), 2003 (which still appears if you Google them), wow!

Anyway, the new site should be finished in a few days and once again, thanks to the partners, Haas Business School is dragged into the modern world.

Running the meeting like a finely oiled machine.

Hard at work (that's still a terrible typing position, Hannah!)

...gone tomorrow

It was time to say goodbye to my blond highlights. Although I was certainly getting more attention, I had also felt my IQ drop significantly. It was time to put things back to the way nature intended.

Recruiting the help of Elliot, because I figured that the dental and hairdressing professions are not that dissimilar, and ably assisted by Dana in a consulting role (she threw the instructions away before we even started), the results were surprisingly impressive. I'm just scared to go out in the rain.

Um...I only want my hair dyed...

"So, are you going anywhere nice on holiday this year?"

Spot the consultant.

Me and my favourite hairdresser!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Looking the business

Dana has already blogged this in English here, so due to strict blogging etiquette I'm forced to write in Hebrew...

היום מורן הוזמנה לראיון עבודה. לרוע המזל זה לא היה בדיוק מה שהיא ציפתה.

אבל זה לא משנה, כי היא נראתה נהדר בחליפת העסקים שלה. הנה כמה תמונות.

כן, נראית יפה מאוד.

סוף סוף סוגרת את עסקת השלום של אנגליה-ישראל.

Thank you to Sagy for checking my grammar :)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Goodbye Boulder

Lovely Denver airport has free wi-fi! The departure gate I'm sat by has a British Airways flight leaving for London. Shall I deploy the accent and claim to have lost my boarding pass...?

We left Boulder after a quick walk in the mountains, lunch at (another) brewery, and some extreme free-style climbing. Having spent most of her time in hotel, conference, and seminar rooms, Hannah can now see why I've been raving about how nice the place is. Perhaps a tour guide internship is a possibility. The only downside is that this high-altitude, dry atmosphere plays havoc with my hair.

Once more into the mountains.

A quick final climb to work up an appetite before lunch.

Never enough beer.

Hannah gets a treat for all her hard work this weekend.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

And the results are in...

Berkeley came home empty handed :(

It turns out that the other Haas team were just too damn maverick as well, and there was some debate afterwards that, for all their talk of innovation, the company sponsoring the competition (and so the subject of the case) were actually looking for something a bit more conservative. One of the winners suggested expanding the ski resort into extreme sports like...err...skiing. Steady on there, tiger.

Anyway, none of that mattered as I got to sneak into the all-you-can-eat buffet final dinner. It was delicious! Breaded halibut in a coconut jus, sweet potato ravioli, a toasted almond salad with basil and orange dressing, and all finished up with the carrotiest carrot cake ever. This is what case competitions should be about (and why partners should always tag along).

So while the younger-at-heart members of the team have headed for the slopes or the bar, Hannah and I are lounging in bed with the telly on like a middle-aged married couple. Hang on...

The very funny and Australian (so technically a British subject) Dean Ahlburg of Colorado University Leeds School of Business.

The winners from Claremont Graduate University. No bitterness.

The other side of the mountain

America, so I've been told, doesn't have a monarchy. I know, I can't believe it either! Thankfully today I was able to hike up to Royal Arch, a place named in more enlightened times. It's a nice geological feature up in the hills above Boulder, accessed by a route designated as being "moderately strenuous". These Coloradans must be fit folks because I was sweating like a bear on a Californian beach after only a few steps.

It didn't help that, although the walk was reported as 3.5 miles in length, the trek to the trail head was 1.5 miles uphill. I resisted the urge to stuff down all my emergency rations before the real bit of the walk began, pulled up my guaranteed blister free socks (thank you, Mother-in-Law), and strode on.

Boulder has hundreds of miles of excellent, highly-maintained trails. I passed locals bounding up mountains with their dogs, organised parties with the latest designer rucksacks, and family groups of wandering toddlers and carried babies. Nonetheless, the place is so huge that I had thirty minutes on a mountaintop on my own before anyone else turned up (a school party - I left quickly).

Despite the many posters warning me about bears and mountain lions, I again failed to see anything more dangerous than a squirrel. A pretty threatening squirrel, mind you, as photo evidence below shows.

There are mountains everywhere around here. There's another one!

"This is where it starts to get difficult" the guide says. Hah!

Me on a scree slope.

There are so many wild animals out here that they all managed to hide from me.

Looking back down at Boulder.

My lunch spot.

Royal Arch. Why didn't I buy a camera with a wider-angle lens?

If someone moved all these trees I could get a better shot.

Here's the squirrel. Didn't I say? Sorry if the above picture scares you.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Brains trust

The Grand Finale - 2.56pm

Unfortunately Hannah's team didn't get into the grand final. Their vision was too broad, their approach too innovative and their attitude just too damn maverick for the conservative judges.

The good news is that the other Haas team did make it through, and I'm sat listening to them take questions from the floor. They're an impressive bunch, who have presented their "zinger", and the judges seem rightly impressed.

Results later...

Doing Berkeley proud.

The backbone of any good business presentation: a nice PowerPoint colour scheme.

UPDATE: This morning - 9.53am

Well, I'm back in the posh hotel having consumed too many free energy drinks to sleep during the night. The students, I'm informed, did the same but are now enjoying a two-hour nap before I bang on the door at 10am. We'll see what mood they're in.

It's unsurprisingly quiet in the hotel, and every now and then suited student-types wander by (they look so sweet all dressed up!) I've been trying to do some informal corporate espionage but with no tangible results so far.

Hannah's team's presentation is at 10.30am, and I'm not sure when the results will be phones through. Stay tuned...but not too tuned as I'm going for a walk in a bit.

Last night - 9pm

Coming to you LIVE from the central hub of the Innovate for Impact 8th Annual Leeds Business School Case Competition. Hannah's team are shacked up in Room 321 of the very nice Boulderado Hotel. At least, her and Stefan are. Champa and Renita have gone shopping. But a source close to the team has confirmed that they'll be back soon.

The team's challenge, should they choose to accept it (not that there's actually a choice), has widened from just adding value to airport transport to suggesting further sustainable, responsible acquisitions for the Vail Resorts Group. So arms dealing is out of the question, I guess.

Anyway, more developments as they happen. Right here.

The nerve centre. That is a terrible typing position, Hannah.


Champa and Renita are back. And they've come armed with some yummy food. Good work.


The words utilisation analysis have just been used. I have no idea what that means.


"Wow, we are gonna win this!"
~ Hannah Davies


A timetable has been agreed: wine at 11pm, finish work at 3am, sleep, don't have to present until 10.30am. My evening might look slightly different...


We're deep in PowerPoint land. "Sustainable indulgence" has been thrown out as the presentation theme. Nice.


Some moments of panic as the PowerPoint presentation is lost somewhere in the multiple windows and screens of Mac OS X. Luckily an ex-IT professional is on hand to find it for them again.


Live PowerPoint brainstorming.


The team has discovered that I'm blogging them. Their behaviour may not be as honest as it has been up to now.


"Seamlessly integrating resorts with the communities around them." Wow, we are cooking on gas now!


Ten minute break.

Hannah orchestrates a raid on the hospitality suite.

There's a suspicion that the other Haas team isn't taking this competition quite as seriously...


Ten minute break over.


That's it for me! I'm finishing up my stolen mango protein and antioxidant drink and will shortly be trudging through the snow back to our (cheap) motel.

Hannah claims that I might see her sometime after 3am, but the couch in the corner may prove too tempting for her. We shall see. And this hotel is reportedly haunted, so I'm going to have a quick wander around with my camera. That would be blog worthy.


Well I'm back, and the Haas guys are still doing their stuff. I wished them good luck for their presentation (not open to the "public" - huh) and told them I'd see them on the winners' podium. It's in the bag!

A small complimentary stash for Hannah's midnight (3am) snack.

Weather update

It has just started snowing. A lot. Stuck in Boulder?

No more white stuff!

Into the wild

I've been abandoned by Hannah as she and her fellow Haasies gear up for their case competition this evening. Things start at 5.30pm, go on until 9.30pm, and then they have to work all night ready to present their business ideas at 8.30am the next morning. Why? A good question. The case is about adding value and social responsibility to an airport-to-ski-resort shuttle bus. If you have any bright ideas, drop her an e-mail!

Left without my wife I reverted to my feral nature and slunk off into the mountains in search of rocks and trees. It was my lucky day, there were lots of both! The Boulder Creek Path runs from central Boulder for several miles into the surrounding hills and makes for a nice walk into spectacular countryside. There was a new photo opportunity around every corner, and I followed the path until it finished.

Not wishing to repeat my experience of getting lost in the dark in Strawberry Canyon (and if somewhere named after a soft fruit can be that scary, how much more somewhere named after a huge rock?!) I scurried down again.

Now I'm back in the warm motel room, feeling sleepy from all the fresh mountain air. Unfortunately the sky has clouded over so my plan to attend the free planetarium star-gazing session might have to give way to a trip to (another) brewery. After a couple of pints I'm confident I'll be able to tell the students all the answers they'll need to win tomorrow!

That's not my university!

The swanky hotel where the competition is taking place and (surprisingly) we're not staying.

Ah, this is more like it. "You are now leaving civilisation."

Very nice.

Me and the mountains.

The snows are melting.

OK, maybe it's not all that wild around here. But this could be for bears!

Solo free-style rock climbing - I laugh in the face of danger.

A strange furry plant I met.