Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Hold

がっかり (gakkari) - Disappointment

I've been thinking about my next laptop ever since my old one died back in April. There are tons of cool new options out there, so I felt a bit like a kid in a candy store. Hell, I even considered getting an Apple (it took about 30 seconds helping a friend with Excel on a MBP to talk me out of that one). But at long last I found the one: the Lenovo X1 Carbon.

They had only provided initial product specs at the time and would only say it would be available "Summer 2012". It didn't matter, it had to be mine. So sleek, so sexy, so light. There could only be one choice.

And so I waited. I borrowed my girlfriend's Sony, an awful tiny little bastard, for my last two months in Japan. Since getting back state-side, I've been surviving with my Dad's old Samsung netbook, another under-powered computer that is hard pressed to run much more than a web browser. For a guy who spends large amounts of his free time at a computer, it has been a trying four months. Not only is my regular computer use repressed, it also demotivated me from using my camera. Without a proper computer to run Lightroom, I have no way of processing my pictures. I've got boat loads of pictures from China and Thailand just sitting there, waiting for some lovin'. Cali is gorgeous and screaming for me to run around shooting. But all of that is on hold until I get a little more computing muscle.

With that in mind, you can imagine who pumped I was when Lenovo launched the product earlier this month. I put in my order, sat back, and day dreamed about the wonderful package that would be at my door shortly.

The day after putting in the order, I realized I had a one time 10% off coupon that I'd forgotten to use. 10% off of a $1,400 price tag is no small change, so I called up Lenovo's customer service to see if I could get it applied retroactively. That is when the trouble started.

First, I was told that my order had been cancelled. Apparently Lenovo has a policy where they won't process credit card orders where the shipping address and billing address are different unless both addresses are registered with the credit card company. Why they decided to just cancel the order without contacting me first, I don't know. Fortunately, the customer service person I was talking to was a good guy and quickly replaced the order for me with the coupon applied and I was back on track. I called up my credit card company, added my Cali address, and resumed day dreaming.

When I made the order, they had given me an estimated shipping time of one week, with an expected delivery date of Monday August 27th. As that date drew closer, I pulled up the shipment tracking site to check and was given a rather rude shock. The delivery date now said September 26th, almost a full month later.

I was sure there must have been some sort of administrative mistake. Maybe something strange happened when my order was resubmitted. I called up customer support again to sort it out and, after waiting forever and a day to get connected, finally got through. I was informed that they were having a supply shortage and there was nothing they could do. In no uncertain terms, I made it clear that this was absolutely unacceptable, but that only earned me an apology and the promise of a $60 discount. I continued to push and was put on hold while he spoke with people on the supply chain side. He told me that they were scheduled to get more parts next Monday, so my status might be updated as a result but that he couldn't guarantee anything. He promised to ask them to prioritize my order but, again, couldn't guarantee anything.

And so I am left waiting, praying that it doesn't actually take an entire month to get the damn thing. I'm committed to this computer and don't want to settle for something different, but this is definitely a disappointing experience. I've used Lenovo computers in the past and they make great machines, so it's a real pity that they can't get their shit together on the business side. You'd better believe that I will be back on the phone with customer service first thing next week, breathing down their necks if that shipping date hasn't come much much closer. I will not sit silently and tolerate this kind of nonsense...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Risk Taking

解放する (kaihou suru) - To release or let out

Today was the first class for our communications course. At the beginning of the class, the professor really pushed home the idea that he wanted us to challenge ourselves and take risks in the class. We had also all been asked to prepare a 2-3 minute speach on "Who I Am" and encouraged to go beyond just the standard introduction. I'd written something simple about the path that lead me to Japan, but it was hardly putting myself out there. Normally I'm a pretty risk averse guy but, as I sat there listening to the professor speak, an idea for a much more personal topic started to form in my head. I couldn't decide what to do.

We split into smaller groups and started giving our speeches, some of which were pretty touching. When it came to my turn, I got up and told the GSI about the two options I was weighing: the prepared but conservative speech or the personal but unscripted one in my head. He told me to go with the riskier choice. I ripped up my note card for the speech I'd written, took a minute to gather my thoughts, and just had a go at the new idea. I spoke with total honesty about personal weaknesses that I wanted to change during my two years at Haas, things I had never told anyone else. The speech itself was hardly a masterclass in public speaking, but I thought it went quite well. More importantly, it felt liberating, even a little cathartic.

I won't go into detail about what I said, but one of my goals I talked about is to become more outgoing. It's something I've struggled with for a long time and am truly desperate to change. Since moving out here, I've been making a conscious effort to improve at it and have done alright, but it certainly hasn't been easy. Today has me wondering if taking a little more risk and putting myself further out there might help in that regard.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Off to the Races

始まる (hajimaru) - To begin or start

Tomorrow is my first day of classes at Berkeley. It's been a long time since I've been in a classroom and, in all honesty, I'm not sure if I'm mentally ready for it. I've never really enjoyed studying all that much and it's already feeling hard to motivate myself to take care of business these days. For nearly two months now, I haven't really had to do anything. No job, no responsibilities, no nothing. The laid back attitude that accompanies such a lifestyle is definitely not going to fly back in school. Between orientation last week and all the little things getting thrown at us, it's already started becoming a bit of a whirlwind. I know I'll get up to speed quickly enough, but the first few weeks could be a bit of a rough ride. Step one is surviving the first-day-of-class stats quiz tomorrow...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Self Investment

投資 (toushi) - Investment

When I was in high school, I would tell my friends that I would own a Porsche by the time I was 50. Though it may be laughable now, it seemed like significant achievement at the time. To be fair, Ann Arbor isn't exactly the biggest city in the world and a Porsche was a pretty rare sight when I was a kid. Honestly, all I knew was that they were fast fancy rich people cars and didn't have the slightest clue what one actually cost. Regardless, that was the dream.

Fast forward ten years or so. At the ripe age of 26, my bank account is fat enough that I could walk into a Porsche dealership and pay for a 911 Carrera in cash. Or rather, I could have until I payed tuition for the fall semester earlier today, a hefty $26k plus change. Over the next two years, this MBA will continue to rock the bejeezus out of my finances and leave me with tens of thousands of dollars of debt instead. I've made my peace with this and just have to look at it as an investment in myself.

Those who know me know that I am conservative with my money. It's that attitude that has let me save up as much as I have, despite not having a particularly high paying job. I've gotten better in recent years about being willing to bust out the wallet in pursuit of a good time, but the next two years will be a real test. I've never owed money to anyone and, quite honestly, the idea does not sit well with me at all. But if I let the debt get the best of me and don't make the most of these two years, it will have all been pointless. So my personal goal for the near future is to find that balance: have the time of my life here at Berkeley while still being responsible with my finances. I'm confident that I can make this work.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life Conspires

たからむ (takaramu) - To plot or scheme

I originally set up my old blog to write about my experience living in Tokyo. Unfortunately, it really isn't relevant any more given that I am no longer in Japan, so I've decided to make a fresh start. Life is a tough thing to predict. I'm only 26 and yet I can't even count the number of twists and turns my life has taken already. It could be a lack of focus or clear goals on my part, but every time I think I know what I want out of life something changes that shifts the equation.

Four years ago, I got a job offer to work in Japan. At the time, that was the dream and I took it. For all I knew, I might never have another opportunity like that in my life and I couldn't say no. I'm not sure what I expected going into it, or if I even had any expectations at all, but it was one helluva an experience. In all honesty, I'm still not sure I was ready for it to end, but my career got in the way.

I had a very respectable job, one that very few foreigners ever get a shot at in Japan. It had it's good moments but, as time passed, I grew more and more discontent with the work. Though it had opened the door to Japan for me, it wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and knowing that became a heavier and heavier burden. While there were a number of factors that played into the decision to take a new direction, there were two quotes I heard that stuck in my head.

I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. - Steve Jobs

For what it's worth: it's never too late ... to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. And if you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. -The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

There was a lot to like about my life in Japan, but it had me on a long term trajectory that I didn't want. After taking stock of my options, I ultimately settled on returning to the US to get an MBA. I have an idea of where I want to be in the short- to mid-term, but I'm still working on figuring out what should come after that. Then again, deciding now might not even really be that important in the end.

I've named this blog "Life Conspires" because, from what I've seen, no matter how much you plan and map out your future, life usually seems to have a different idea all together. When I decided to leave the US four years ago, I never would have pictured myself where I am today. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see life throw me another curve ball in the next few years as well. I just hope it makes for a good adventure along the way.