Sunday, January 29, 2012

Last but not least part of Plant Trek - Amgen and Puerto Rico

I must say that the previous posts did not cover the entirety of our Plant Trek visits.  One company that I have yet to mention, but who hosted us in lovely Juncos, Puerto Rico was Amgen, one of LGO's partners in the pharma industry.  They hosted us for the whole day and had a well organized set of tours and panels to help us learn more about the company and then get to ask questions about what we had seen.

Over lunch, the VP of Site Operations, Esteban Santos, turned the roles around and asked us what the most high tech company we visited on Plant Trek was.  Many of us said Boeing since their products have to fly or Dell since computers are often what you think of when you think of high tech.  He countered that Amgen was even more high tech than that.  Even though their products are pills or inject-able liquids which are simple to administer, all the processes and development that it takes to get a normal microbial or mammalian cells to produce a specific protein in large enough volumes to make these products is pretty darn high tech when you come to think about it.  He majored in electrical engineering originally, but Amgen was a company that he found to be completely cutting edge.  I hadn't thought about it that way before.  As a visitor you mainly see a lot of tanks and pipes, but don't always think about everything that's going on inside.  Companies that make larger products can seem more impressive because their parts take up so much more space, but Amgen certainly did a lot with their molecules.

Amgen organized tours, Q&A sessions and a quick case study like we often have back at MIT in our weekly Proseminar class and then they had a very nice reception outside for us, complete with food and live music.  It was the end of our trip, the weather was beautiful and we had a wonderful time.  Definitely worth a celebration.

After Plant Trek officially ended, at least three quarters of the class took the opportunity to spend at least a day or two more in Puerto Rico.  Many people rented bigger apartments or houses to split the rent, but other students had their SOs come down so they could have mini vacations together.  We stayed in San Juan (where we had flown into and would fly out of) but took day trips to see all kinds of things.

My two main excursions were to slide down a natural waterslide in the rainforest in Luquillo called Las Paylas (we parked in a man named Carlos's driveway as instructed by the website and my other excursion was to kayak in a bioluminescent bay on the northeast side of the island near the town of Fajardo.  When you put your paddle or hand into the water all these plankton would light up at the disturbance of the water and glow blue!  It was windy that evening, so even the little waves breaking from the wind would light up.  Both outings were very cool and I couldn't have the same experiences anywhere else.

All in all, during our trip around the US (and one of its territories!) we missed the snow that fell on Seattle and the snow that fell in Boston.  I came home to a cold but at least not core-chilling day when it wasn't precipitating.  Things worked out well.  Plant trek has now come and gone, but I will still have lots of memories to last with me.  Thanks to all the companies for hosting us, to the Plant Trek committee for planning and executing the trip so well and to the other students for keeping things fun.  Yay!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Domestic Plant Trek - Week 2, Part 1

Day 9 – Amazon in the morning and a free afternoon
We visited Amazon on MLK day, and, despite it being a holiday things were as busy as ever.  That’s most of what I can say though, since they made us sign a NDA to not talk about it for five years.  You can interpret that how you like.  Amazon has the third largest number of LGO alumni.  That I can say.

One thing that amused me though was, as we were in our bus driving away from their fulfillment center, we passed a large building with a Scholastic books label.  I wonder if they work together or if Amazon is working towards putting Scholastic out of business.  I suppose they need books to sell though, so someone has to print them.

Since we were back at the hotel early, my roommate and I spent the afternoon relaxing, reading and reading through the additional internship descriptions that had been posted.  It was nice.  Since we did not have the light rail passes on Monday, I went with a different group of people to a place called Mi Patio, which was close to the hotel.  The waiter there was very nice, and another of their staff chased me down the sidewalk when they found my camera at our table – amazing!  We had a good time and then ended up sitting in the hotel lounge for a while.  I had a new cribbage opponent to play with, someone showed off a magic trick and we just sat around talking about random stuff.
Muy feliz en Mi Patio
Day 10 – Foodie Excursion and travel
With a 2:30 flight out of Phoenix, our morning was left nicely open.  After a quick breakfast, seven of us went off in search of Pizzeria Bianco, listed as one of the top pizza places in the nation.  Needless to say, we were not disappointed.  We shared three different topping combinations on our pizzas (all ones officially listed on the menu) but my favorite was parmesan, red onion, rosemary and ground Arizona pistachios.  So yummy!  None of these had sauce (hence, Pizzeria Bianco), but they were fantastic.  We all walked out of there very happy and would recommend it to future plant trekers if they end up in Phoenix.  The only downfall of the places is that it’s small.  The whole class just could not go there.  We went right when it opened for lunch on our way to the airport, but I read that there can be quite a wait for dinner.
Pizzeria Bianco - mmm
They grow lettuces and rosemary in small garden patches on either side of the front door
The gang in happy anticipation - we stopped here on our way to the airport
With our visit to Arizona, we’ve now stayed in and visited all four time zones in the US.

After we arrived at our hotel in Austin about five small groups of LGOs all independently went to Stubb’s BBQ, which was about a mile away.  Two other members of summer team seven and I split two large plates (totalling three types porks and a beef and three preparations of vegetables and some potatoes) and were good to go.  Since it was Texas, I ordered a sweet tea.  One of my teammates said a shot of BBQ sauce would do for his drink, but didn’t actually go through with it (this was his idea, not a menu option – they had a full sized ketchup squeeze bottle of BBQ sauce on every table).  After dinner, came back to the room and went to bed since Dell would be early the next morning.

Day 11 – Dell and our last evening in Austin
Honestly, I think I did more reading about Dell before our visit than I had any other company on the trip.  My stereotype to be blunt was that they were cheap ubiquitous computers of average quality that were sold back in the day by ads with that strange guy Carrot Top.  While their factory tour was relatively short and sobering (the facility in Round Rock Texas was the last remaining assembly facility in the US - there used to be five I think), I found their strategy for the future and company environmental stance to be more impressive than I expected.  I had no idea Michael Dell was so driven and accomplished from such a young age and didn’t realize how much industry pioneering work Dell had done as a company.  I did not originally have them on my list of internships to interview for, but asked afterwards if I could add it.  We’ll see if that happens.  The internship is focused more on company strategy and since that was the part of the company that I found most compelling, it seemed like it could be good.

Dell had us sign a three year NDA, but I feel like most of the things I am talking about you could find from Dell’s website, Wikipedia or reading the news, so I think I’m doing ok.  We were able to meet Michael Dell himself near the beginning of our day with them and that was pretty cool.  He is still the youngest CEO ever of a Fortune 500 company – crazy!  One of the employees I spoke with over lunch made the point that there’s something unique about founder run companies.  I hadn’t really thought about that specifically before, but I would imagine it’s true.

After a full day with Dell, I went to Allen's Boots with two other people to check out authentic Texan cowboy gear.  Apparently, cowboys make a good living because I did not see any boots for women less than $200.  They came in all kinds of leathers and stitching patterns and most were handmade (other factors that bumped up the price).  A brand with very soft leathers was Luchese - they had boots with ostrich leathers, crocodile leathers, goat leather and regular leather - all kinds of stuff - and to my pleasant surprise, they ran narrow.  However, the pair that I tried on and liked was $550, so it was not exactly an impulse buy.  I enjoyed trying them on, but made no purchase.  Still fun to see and experience though.
Me wearing the boots :-)
Such a big selection!
The pair in the top picture close up - the toe part is crocodile or alligator or something I think
From there we went to dinner at Hula Hut with a bunch of other people and then headed to Sixth Street – basically everyone we met in Austin, and even in the airport leaving asked us if we had been there. It was a happening place with bars and clubs and bars and lots of music. We even saw one of our group’s taxi drivers playing with his band and they were really good! I also played table top shuffle board for the first time ever at Buffalo Billiards and got a perfect score on my first try. Needless to say it was beginner’s luck, but I still felt very proud of myself.
Happy at Hula Hut
The taxi driver's band in a bar we stopped at
My two winning red discs on the board - together they got me seven points which was enough to win the game before the other team even had a chance - woohoo!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Domestic Plant Trek - Week 1 to 2 - Transition to Warmth

Day 7 – Day Off!
Today was our first and only day where nothing was scheduled.  Unlike the day we flew in and the day of our Boeing Tour, both of which were sunny, our day off dawned grey and damp with snow/rain in the forecast. I was lucky enough to have a friend in Seattle, my best friend from high school, and so it was great to spend a day with her and her boyfriend.
With great company in Seattle
We took the monorail into downtown, walked through the Pike Place Market, where we got some of what we had for dinner and got to try chocolate pasta (yes it has chocolate in it, but has enough regular pasta ingredients that it looks and feels like pasta).  Unlike vegetable pasta which I swear is only colored differently and has little flavor difference, you could taste that there was chocolate in the pasta.  We went into a shop called Bavarian Meats, where every product inside was European, mainly German, we went into the original/first Starbucks and had a nice time strolling around even though the weather was rather miserable.

We went back to their apartment to drop off our food purchases then headed out by car around the city to a bunch of the different neighborhoods.  We stopped for lunch at a place called Pie (you could guess what they sold – Liz – if you and Peter come to Seattle – you should go!), and then got warm beverages from another place (so many coffee shops!) in Fremont if I remember correctly.
Some of the view from the roof deck of their apartment building
Finally the sun started to come out.  After lunch we drove past the university, went down to a park on a canal with locks, went to another park that used to be an army base that had nice views of another lake, stopped at a grocery store they often shop at and then an ice cream place called Molly Moon’s which is local to Seattle and everything they use is organic and ideally local.  I tried both the strawberry balsamic and the cardamom ice cream and they were both fantastic.  I would totally go back there.

The biggest treat though was yet to come.  We went back to their place and her boyfriend, who went to culinary school and is currently running a food truck, made us dinner.  We had salmon (fresh from the market) with a cider beurre blanc sauce and orzo cooked with shallots and some black truffle.  It was super tasty and much more enjoyable than going out.  We also watched a bunch of the BBC show Top Gear.  Good times.  I’m sorry I just had the one day off, but maybe that means I’ll have to come back again for another visit.

Day 8 – Flying and warmth
After another free breakfast at the hotel in Seattle, we boarded a bus and headed off to SEA where we would be flying to Phoenix on Southwest.  Things went smoothly, but the plane did have to be de-iced because it was snowing (rather than sleeting like the day before) in Seattle and sticking some on the ground, the plane and all over.  Of all the destinations of the first part of Plant Trek, I did not expect Seattle to be the cold one with snow.  Crazy!
Rainy snowy slushiness at SEA
We landed in Phoenix, AZ mid-afternoon and, rather than charter a bus, all of us took a bus to the light rail station to the hotel.  We ended up in a group of a dozen or so, had no problems getting to the hotel and had the evening to ourselves.  It was refreshing that when the train doors opened on intermediate stops, the air rushing in was not chilling.  Skies were overcast and the air temp was in the 60s.
Warm and dry in Phoenix though!
Since we had an unlimited ride rail/bus day pass in Phoenix, some other folks and I took the light rail to Tempe right by ASU where there were a lot of restaurants and more nightlife. I felt that in Arizona, one had to have Mexican (or almost Mexican anyway) food and so we ended up at a place called Canteen for tacos and margaritas. The tacos were not as filling as they thought they would be so a subset of us went further to a second dinner or snack if you will at In-N-Out Burger. This was instigated by students from the west coast and I went out of curiosity. It was the first time for me to have one of these burgers with a cult following. The burger was good, the price made it even more impressive (<$3!) and the whole adventure added to the fun of the evening. We took the light rail back to the hotel, got in around 10:30 and then went to bed.
The view from the hall on the floor of our hotel

Domestic Plant Trek - Week 1, Part 2

Day 4 – A full day with GM
Woke up at 5AM to drive over an hour north to GM’s Lansing Delta Township Plant.  We saw basically all their facilities on this campus – from stamping to the body shop to general assembly.  This plant makes cross overs.  Everyone there was friendly, excited about their product and enthusiastic about having us there.  They gave us a great set of tours.  They showed us so much that I actually can’t remember all the details.

The facilities even though they were in separate large buildings were connected by tunnels or bridges (tubes) so that the cars could stay climate controller throughout the entire assembly process.  We were also able to see techs driving the vehicles off the line.  One of their union leaders, who was leading another tour group of LGOs let them get in the cars when they drove off the line!  I spoke quite a bit with Kurt Wiese who was in my tour group.  He’s an executive director at GM and, besides finding out more about the company from him; I found out that he went to high school a few streets away from where I lived when I worked in Ann Arbor.
All the exhibits at the North American International Auto Show
Besides seeing GM’s plants, they hosted us with tickets to and a reception at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall in Detroit.  Even though I had lived in metro Detroit, I had never been to the auto show or Cobo Hall.  It was pretty neat seeing all the concept cars, getting to sit in fancy ones and just see what each company was thinking of for the future.  Lots of familiar brands had displays, but there also was a Tesla exhibit, a Maserati exhibit and a car by a brand called Falcon, I think I read that they’re made in Michigan with corvette engines, but I could be mixing things up.  From watching Top Gear, I know that corvette engines actually pop up in a number of different vehicles.
Sitting with Eugene in a Bentley!
The BMW i8 - this concept car was used in Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol
The sporty version of the new Fiat500 - I sat in both this and the Mini and liked the Fiat more
After a super long day at factories and the Auto Show, I got back to my friend’s house around 10PM, called home to wish my sister and dad happy birthday and then went to sleep.

Day 5 – Ford and Flying
Got to sleep in (relatively).  Call for being on the bus was 7:55 instead of 6AM.  We went to the Ford Truck Plant in Dearborn, MI, where they make all the F-150s.  With all the different models and specification choices on these trucks, customers could order any one of 580,000 combinations.  While GM had a number of LGO or Sloan affiliated people at the facility we visited, Ford did not appear to have any at this location.  Henry Ford III, is a Sloan MBA ’10, but I heard he is now working out in California.

It was cool to see Ford and GM back to back so we could have one in mind when we saw the other.  GM’s facility seemed to be more full of levels of equipment and stages of assembly, but I don’t know if that was because they made a greater variety of vehicles or did more manual assembly or what.  Not sure.  Even whether GM did more manual assembly than Ford is just my guess.  At both facilities though, all the tracks and wheels and levels and whirring to move the car pieces around reminded me of a roller coaster and so I really wanted to ride one after those tours.  No luck though.  Cedar Point (park with tons of coasters in Ohio) was too far of a drive.

We spent just a half day at Ford, grabbed lunch in the area and then drove off to DTW, Detroit’s airport.  We took Frontier Airlines, which I had never flown on, to Denver which we called “the windy brotherly emerald apple city of love” and “the lone star state” (we were punchy at this point) and then on to our final destination, Seattle, where we settled in at our hotel (just blocks from the Space Needle) for our Boeing visit the next day.
The Space Needle by night, taken from in front of the Experience Music Project Museum building (designed by Frank Ghery, architect of the Stata Center on MIT's campus) - I know it's a dark photo :-(
The funny thing is that both Frontier planes were Airbus planes, so, thank you Airbus for taking us to Boeing.  We had worried about making our 45 min connection in Denver, but, turns out, the gates were only eight away from each other in the same terminal and I was even able to grab some dinner in between.  Frontier Airlines’ defining feature, other than making people with carry-ons board after everyone else and actually having you measure your bags to those carry-on sizing things, is that they give you chocolate chip cookies midway to late in the flight.  My row did a cookie time dance on our second flight segment.  As I said, we were getting punchy.

Day 6 – Boeing Tour
Boeing involved waking up early, but not extremely early and it was pretty to see the early sky getting brighter around Mt. Rainier in the background.  It turned out to be a sunny day in Seattle which led me to conclude that perhaps we had landed somewhere that just looked a lot like Seattle.  I thought it was supposed to rain all the time!

At Boeing we congregated in their MIC conference room (management information center) and then split into two groups.  My group went to the paint hanger first where we saw a very clean painting operations and learned how manual and time consuming it still was, even with the equipment they did have.  Many paint colors, such as light blue take many coats of paint because they are relatively transparent.  Also, they are hard to match, so if there are any defects, they often have to completely repaint the area with that color.  I forget if it was all the coats of paint, or just one coat, but paint on a plane adds an additional 250-500 pounds of weight!  So, from that perspective, many airlines stick with white bodies and a logo – less weight equals less fuel burn.

From the paint hangar, we went to the flight line, which is kind of like a giant driveway where they park planes when they are ready for customer inspection.  Customers are given as much time as they want to walk through the inside and around the outside of the plane to make sure it meets their specifications.  There was a Lion Air (based in Indonesia) plane that was ready for inspection and so, while they would not let us on the plane, we got to peek in basically any compartment that could open to the outside, as well as the engines and wings where covers had been lifted.  I finally got to see how big a checked luggage compartment was on a 737 and, honestly, it was smaller than I thought.

The flightline was outside and in Seattle that day it was in the mid-30s.  They had told us that since we wouldn’t have the same bus the whole day, we should only bring what we wanted to carry.  Therefore, a bunch of people left their jackets at the hotel.  They didn’t tell us that part of the tour would be outside and so this was a rather unfortunate combination.

The paint hangar and the flight line were basically next to each other, but for the next part of the tour, we took a bus up to their history of flight museum where we would be having lunch.  They had planned for us to arrive at the museum and have lunch pretty quickly, but we arrived early and so were left in a holding pattern of sorts in the lobby only able to explore the gift shop.  They didn’t let us down into the exhibits to help kill time.  We were able to go up to an observation deck and see a 747 take off, but, again, it was cold. :-(

Lunch was excellent though and we ate with many execs from different departments of Boeing.  I forget which one has more alumni, Intel or Boeing, but Boeing is in the top two for number of LGO alumni at a partner company.  This is partly due to their tenure with the program though, they’ve been partners basically since the beginning.

After lunch we went to their manufacturing facilities – we saw 787s and 747s being built and actually got to walk through each of those airplanes that were partially completed.  This was the first time and probably only time for a while (if ever?) that I could go into the cockpit of one of those airplanes.  It was pretty neat.  The building where all this took place is also the world’s largest building by volume and has the world’s largest mural on its side.  An airplane and all the equipment that is necessary to make it, is not small.

Finally, we went to the Boeing Dreamliner Gallery. The Dreamliner is the 787, their newest airplane, and currently four are in use in the world (Japan), and the rest are still being made. I think they said that they have pre-orders for something like 1000 of them. This gallery was built to simplify customer ordering and to show them all the pre-set options for the plane – they can try out seats, walk into restrooms, mock up galley spaces and pick out fabrics and colors. Boeing charges $1M if a customer would like to deviate from their catalog of choices. This facility basically serves as a big showroom for how customers can put together a plane and helps streamline the spec-ing process. After the Dreamliner gallery it was back to our hotel and off to have dinner with a friend who lives in the area.

NOTE: I basically just have photos of the auto show because none of the facilities we visited allowed us to take photos inside them.  Therefore, you will see more of what we did outside of the companies in the photos and have to just read about our plant visits.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Domestic Plant Trek - Week 1, Part 1

Day 1 – Kickoff & Travel

We all arrived at Logan Airport, flew to Chicago Midway and then took a three hour bus ride to Peoria, IL (during which I switched my watch to Central Time).  We checked into the Embassy Suites hotel in Peoria and had about an hour before a presentation from a LGO faculty emeritus – Mr. Shoji Shiba (or, as they would say in Japan, Shiba-san, meaning roughly ‘Mr. Shiba’)  - about how to observe a factory, specifically remembering to look for things that are not there as well as things that are.  He has been affiliated with LGO since 1993 and is deeply dedicated to quality management.  Here’s an article about a prestigious quality award he received ten years ago, which details his expertise but also his general background.

After the presentation about using our three eyes and "unlearning" so we could observe more at the factory, we were treated to a cocktail reception and then dinner with CAT.  We saw some familiar faces – CAT had visited us in June and in the fall - and got to meet a few new ones as well.  It was cool to have the same kind of meetings, but on their “turf.”  We got a quick overview from Denise Johnson ‘97 about her experience with the company and why she joined it and then the rest of the time was dinner and chatting with her and the other CAT employees in attendance.  I didn’t sleep as well as I wanted to that night, but bed was certainly welcome.

Day 2 – Visit to CAT
A cold, misty, frosty morning in Peoria, IL
Monday dawned and we were up early – before 6 AM.  Breakfast started at 6 and we were expected to have packed, eaten and checked out so we could get on the bus at 7AM.  The weather was mostly heavy frost.  We first went to a CAT facility right in Peoria for a factory tour and presentations in a conference room.  In the morning we walked around their track type tractor facility and saw them making these large to giant machines.  CAT makes track-type tractors in sizes D6 to D11 (D11 is the largest – one drove down an aisle while we were touring and the floor shook as it went along).  We also heard about and saw them building the D7E, a smaller size track-type tractor with an electric drive train – it uses, on average 25% less fuel than the normal D7 (though burning fuel is how it generates the electricity).  They also redesigned the cab so the operator could see out even more.

In the afternoon, we went to their demonstration facility where they had simulators for driving most of their equipment.  We were very excited to test these out.  They had the complete set of pedals and steering equipment at each station.  What made us even more excited was what came next.  We went into a room with darkened glass walls and bleacher-type seating.  This was the demonstration area.  As the CAT guide started talking about their products, gymnasium type lights (the ones that take forever to get to full brightness) started turning on, so gradually, we began to see what was behind the glass.

Behind the glass was two acres of dirt enclosed in a building with many of their tractors and other equipment on it.  There was a hill in the back, a hole and a pile of dirt kind of the middle of the arena.  As each piece of equipment was presented, it would either dig or push or level or whatever it was meant to do.  Some of the tools used lasers to grade the land more quickly, so you wouldn’t need as many passes or surveying equipment.  I thought that was very impressive.  They can actively monitor the level of the ground their passing over and adjust the blade height accordingly.
Two acres of dirt under one roof
Finally, to the amazement and little-kid joy of us, they allowed us to go out onto the arena floor and climb on their biggest machines – the D11, a 100-ton capacity dump truck, a loader that could fill that truck in 3-4 scoops, and a number of the other machines we saw earlier.  It was lots of fun and something we definitely could not have done otherwise.  Definitely a memorable experience.

The 100-ton dump truck and corresponding loader
After seeing CAT, that evening we took a three hour bus ride back to Chicago and had then evening out on our own.  In Chicago, I ate deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s with about ten other people, including someone’s sister who lives in town.  That was fun and tasty and filling.  For that kind of pizza, when the menu says “serves X”, it means “serves X”.  We ordered three large pizzas for eleven people and could not finish them.  We ate about two-and-a-half pies.  I went back past the hotel with some people and ended up staying in – showering and going through the photos I had taken so far.
Day 3 – Travel day
A day to sleep in a little – the first thing we were required to do was meet up at Union Station in Chicago at 10:30.  This is so we could figure out how to check in as a group with Amtrak and then take the train to Detroit.  Amtrak boarded us, as a group, first, and we actually have our own car, which has been nice.  While on the train, we were behind a freight train for a little while and so went slower for part of our five hour journey than expected.  On the train I taught a fellow classmate, Clayton, how to play the card game cribbage.  It will be easier to play again when we’re not on a train.  It was good that I had the board though, since the train did not have wifi.  Five hours is a long time to be literally chugging along.  We got to be completely casual and it was fun.
Good Morning Union Station!
We arrived at our hotel in Novi around 8PM, (the train got to Detroit 45 minutes late).  Everyone else checked in and I went to stay with a local friend.


I've already written over two pages of a word doc about what's been happening on Domestic Plant Trek, but I want to finish getting the whole week's info down before I put up a series of posts.  The trek has been fun, but definitely tiring also.  Between having limited access to internet when it would be helpful to kill time by blogging (on our train trip leg and airports/planes) and then wanting to have a shower, eat or go to bed during the little free time that we have, it's been more challenging to write and publish blog posts than I expected.  I also spent a few evenings with friends around the country which was another wonderful way to spend my time.  Kudos to Ashleigh and Stephen for already posting though!  I hope to join them shortly...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rounding out 2011 and Happy New Year!

Last year at this time, I was like any other LGO applicant, eagerly awaiting interview callbacks and hoping I'd get to advance to the next round.  As I wrote in the comments section of one of my other posts, I found out last year on January 7th that I had made it to the interview round.  It was exciting and the next weeks were filled with scrambling to book plane flights and check with friends whether I could stay with them during my visit to Boston.  A lot has happened since then.

Most recently, our winter break!  This year, I spent Christmas with my family (who are also in Massachusetts) and, since they are close by, I have been in and out of my apartment here in Porter Square.  Things have been very relaxing - last week I went out with a friend from high school and a few days later I enjoyed a homemade dinner at another friend's place.  Yum!  Other than that, I redeemed my RedBox free movie on your birthday code, organized things around my room, watched the Top Gear India Special and have been getting excited about our Domestic Plant Trek trip.

New Year's I spent in the middle of Pennsylvania.  It's a bit of a long story, but I was there intentionally and had a good time.

Thinking beyond January, for spring course bidding I did not get everything I wanted first round...the issue is with a class called Pricing.  It's very popular because the coursework is useful and because the professor is good, or so I've heard.  What made it all the more frustrating was that I bid 503 points and you needed something like 519 to get in.  So close!  I've been trying in subsequent rounds that are open to everyone where I have no special priority, but I don't know if I'll get in.  (Note: there is now one spot in each of the sections and I'll find out whether I managed to get one of those from Round II bidding or whether I've been pushed to the waitlist round on this Thursday).  Getting the Sloan courses that you want can be a long and tricky process if they're popular.  On the other hand, I know of people who got what they bid for and had to use hardly any points.

One other thing besides bidding that we had to do over break is to submit preferences for internship projects.  These aren't for our final assignments, this is just to see who's interested in what projects enough to assign us all interview times when we get back from Plant Trek since we don't have time to interview with everyone.  The deadline was 12/28 at midnight (11:59:59 PM on 12/28) to submit a ranked list of at least eight projects.  People on the internship committee do more work than I ever knew about.  Their efforts have been revealing themselves gradually but the sum is impressive.  I'm sure they loved that I submitted my preferences at 11:57 PM on 12/28.  But still...Thank you team!  (I'll give you my final thanks though when I get my assignment :-)
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