Saturday, December 26, 2009

Africa trip update …..

I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas! It's a bit late in the posting owing to the fact that I was literally in the wilderness and thereafter in transit from Africa to India, encountering delays and a lost luggage situation which took ages to resolve.

The Kili climb over 6 days was great fun - damp, wet, cold, dusty, tiring fun accompanied by large doses of banter and yuk-it-up! I didn't make it to the summit which was a slight bummer. Summit night (starting midnight) was stymied by a high fever and chills which in addition to Altitude Mountain Sickness (pounding headaches, nosebleeds, projectile vomit) made it a fool's errand to attempt a slope which at many places is a vertical climb with opportunities to go right off the cliff. At that point, its not physical endurance but mental fortitude that counts, and with a fever – this would have been a definite disaster. Like a good B-schooler, I would not have recognized when to call it quits and turn back, and would have kept pushing myself until I made a mistake and at the very least came home in a cast, if not in a casket. So I happily camped out at 4660 meters with others, while a few of my more able LBS colleagues successfully attempted the summit (both Stella Point and Uhuru Peak @ circa 5900 meters). I feel reassured that I could have made the summit (roughly 1300 meters more), the climb being about the same as Ben Nevis which I had successfully climbed in earlier this year.

I won't bore you with the usual story regarding the different terrains one experiences – rainforest, alpine desert etc. and the climes – cold, v. cold, raining, hot, v. hot etc. There are many blogs that tell that story. The only advice I would give potential climbers is a) 10-15% of the route is actually quite dangerous and b) attempt the summit over seven days using the Machame Route. Six days is a killer and the other routes do not allow for acclimatization.

Kili was followed by a safari in Ngorongoro Crater and then in the Seregenti. We stayed in tents, with the local fauna prowling outside, within meters of where we slept. The entire Africa trip was incredible – being so close to nature, being elemental. I've never seen a night sky so filled with stars. And the people we encountered were simply fantastic. Having read Guns, Germs and Steel and then having experienced the continent was a happy serendipity! I have great hope for where Africa is headed.

In the meanwhile, I finished reading "Bad Science" and "Predictably Irrational". I would not recommend the former. Now, I'm on "What got you here won't get you there" (see below, comments left by the author Marshall Goldsmith on my blog post). Its an amazing reckoning of the hard-to-self-diagnose interpersonal behavioural flaws that hold us back in our personal and professional lives. I needed this long-overdue nudge, and am using it to structure my resolutions for 2010. All in all, I'm pretty psyched about 2010, finishing up B-school by mid April and travelling more before starting work full-time in July. I'm looking forward to strengthening new friendships and renewing old ones. And I hope to catch up on a few lingering hobbies – brush up on French, play the two guitars which I bought off my flatmate and of course, hitting the links.

With that I wish you a prosperous 2010! More adventures to come!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and onwards

Apologies for the tardiness in postings from the great beyond. Life has been a bit busier than usual, although I took just one Advanced Finance elective this Fall trimester in addition to a block week on Corporate Turnarounds. The courses had both highs and lows, but all in all I like the block week format – one week, one elective, done! In the meanwhile, I interviewed with Morgan Stanley and had an invite to speak with Credit Suisse, but they way things were going, I decided to sign with Nomura. Additionally, a fellow LBS'er and I will be doing our 2nd year project with PE firm Warburg Pincus.

On the life front, I spent a few rejuvenating days in Boston for Thanksgiving, met up with old friends, walked my two favorite dogs, had roast duck instead of turkey for T'day dinner and went to a Celtics game. I'm almost through every past season of the Simpsons. On the books front, I'm reading Guns, Germs and Steel (which I should have read eons ago) – it's a fantastic treatise on why history evolved in the way it has. Most people point to the Renaissance and subsequent colonialization as being the root-causes for the way the world has turned out today, development-wise. They flippantly ascribe the ascendancy of the west to a suite of reasons that are easy to rationalize. But the truth is more complex than this.

Tomorrow, I leave for Tanzania with eight other LBS'ers – we're climbing Kilimanjaro – a 7-day semi-ordeal along the Machame Trail and then going on Safari in the Serengeti for a few days. Then onwards to Mumbai for me, where I'll see the extended fam. I will blog more about the climb on return. In the meanwhile, here is what's on my reading list (courtesy of James Montier). I doubt I'll get through all the books on the list by July.

Investment 101 -The classics

‘Security Analysis’ by Ben Graham and David Dodd (The sixth edition)

Chapter 12 of ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ by John Maynard Keynes

‘Theory of Investment Value’ by John Burr Williams

‘Manias, Panics and Crashes’ by Charles Kindelbeger

‘Reminiscences of a Stock Operator’ by Edwin Lefevre

Investment 201

‘Fooling some of the People, All of the Time’ by David Einhorn

‘The Fundamental Index’ by Rob Arnott et al

‘The Investor's Dilemma’ by Louis Lowenstein

‘Financial Shenanigans’ by Howard Schilit

‘Creative Cash Flow Reporting’ by Charles Mulford and Eugene Comiskey

Modern wonders

‘The Little Book That Beats the Market’ by Joel Greenblatt

‘The Little Book of Value Investing’ by Chris Browne

‘Fooled by Randomness’ by Nassim Taleb

‘Contrarian Investment Strategies’ by David Dreman

‘Speculative Contagion’ by Frank Martin


‘Robots Rebellion’ by Keith Stanovich

‘Strangers to Ourselves’ by Tim Wilson

How We Know What Isn't So’ by Tom Gilovich

‘The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis’ by Richard Heuer Jnr

‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely

‘Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me’ by Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson

‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck

Hidden gems

‘Halo Effect’ by Phil Rosenzweig

‘Mindless Eating’ by Brian Wansink

‘The Inefficient Stock Market’ by Robert Haugen

‘The Margin of Safety’ by Seth Klarman

‘Your Money and Your Brain’ by Jason Zweig

‘Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance’ by Atul Gawande

‘Why Smart Executives Fail’ by Sydney Finkelstein