Mar 29, 2006 {the contender}

To be sure he's getting the real story, Dimon buttonholes staffers in the elevators and calls suppliers out of the blue like a hyperactive gumshoe, collecting scraps of information he can throw back at executives. "In a big company, it's easy for people to b.s. you," he says. "A lot of them have been practicing for decades."

On a Saturday in mid-February 2004, a month after the Bank One deal was announced, Dimon brought together the top IT people. He dazzled them with his grasp of protocols and software costs, then told the managers to choose a single platform in any area where multiple systems were in place. "If you don't do it in six weeks," he warned, "I'll make all the choices myself."

One area that Dimon has not yet tamed is J.P. Morgan's wildly inconsistent trading operation. By its nature, proprietary trading--where firms bet their own capital on the direction of stock prices or interest rates--is risky. J.P. Morgan's problem is that it both makes less money and suffers from far more volatility than rivals like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

And a higher stock price is important, because even as Dimon lasers in on operations, dealmaking is never far from his mind. / J.P. Morgan needs to expand its retail-branch footprint in California and Florida, the two big domestic markets from which it's absent. There are a number of banks Dimon could buy to fill those gaps, including SunTrust, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual.

But his grand dream, according to those close to him, is to create a worldwide retail network that rivals Citigroup's--so he also wants to ride the growth wave of the future, Asia. An ideal merger partner would be HSBC, which boasts interests in retail networks spanning from Mumbai to Shanghai. It's that quest that gives added urgency to fixing J.P. Morgan's operational problems and boosting its stock price. It's only when you accomplish those things, says Dimon, that "you earn the right to do a deal."

Mar 20, 2006 {managing the credit cycle}

Joseph V. Rizzi: Presently, it is difficult to consider the end to the bull credit market. Interest rates, although increasing, are still relatively low; default levels are historically low; and liquidity is readily available. This diffi culty is compounded by behavioral bias reinforced by institutional factors. While no two cycles are identical, we must resist the temptation to say, “This time is different.”

Mar 10, 2006 {letter to shareholders}

Warren Buffett: The more observant members of the family see that some of the hyper-Helpers are really just manager Helpers wearing new uniforms, bearing sewn-on sexy names like HEDGE FUND or PRIVATE EQUITY. The new Helpers, however, assure the Gotrocks that this change of clothing is all-important, bestowing on its wearers magical powers similar to those acquired by mild-mannered Clark Kent when he changed into his Superman costume.

Mar 1, 2006 {ebb and flow}

We went for an architecture tour this past Sunday. From Beaux Arts to Modern to Post Modern, it was amazing to walk the very streets that I walk through everyday yet experience that grand flow and juxtaposition of time. My favorite building is Bank One/Chase Plaza. When you lean back against it, it feels as if the entire world warps. Our office building ("Helmut Jahn's gleaming Xerox Centre") was also mentioned in the tour. It's a new source of happiness when I am working, as well as getting free v8, which is just that much better than fruit juice =)

I bumped into a new edition of 100 Years of Solitude at the bookstore and spent my entire Saturday rereading it. Reminds me of the summer when I moved to Canada, knew nobody and spent all waking hours at the library. I think I fell in love with Gabriel Garcia Marquez because he confirmed solitude as the natural state of existence. One may be the founder of a city, the general of an army or the life of the party, but the things that one truly experiences, pride and fear and even love, reside in places invisible to the world.

Feb 24, 2006 {analytical}

Spent four grey days in Atlanta this week for course 7. I ran into Kate as well as many other Waterloo people. The course was actually more useful than I imagined. Now I understand why I failed the analytical writing section of GRE. When people say analytical, they don't mean make a list of arguments for and against, they mean make your point even if it's not really correct. I have done it often enough, just never associated selling ideas with the word analytical.

Feb 9, 2006 {another day, another year}

Platiyo for dinner
Pops for Champagne
Flights of spirits
Rhythmic ringing of glass

I recommended Piper Heidsieck Sublime Demi Sec to Wei and watched her while she sipped. "You are looking at me as if waiting for miracles to happen," she said.

The most romantic thing
The weather was terrible
A room half full/empty
Thoroughly serenaded

Feb 5, 2006 {circle never ends}

This time last year, I came to Chicago to interview. I recall, luggage in hand, accidentally walking past the Palmer House and into Millennium Park. Tonight, that very view burst into sight as I left work. Even the temperature feels the same.

This week, I interviewed two potential coops and spoke with Jenny (she will coop here in the summer!) about my experience. In some ways, I did not know what to expect and I am happy with what I got. In other ways, this is what I expected because I expect a great deal.

Feb 2, 2006 {plastic surgery, self reinvention}

I read about Dana Schutz in Vogue. "From a series of paintings of auto-cannibals, Face Eater is funny and bizarre. The dark background pushes the full horror of the subject to intimate proximity: a zoom lens view of the slimy suggestion of a tongue lathering up the last of his own eyeballs. A parable of confrontation and discomfort, Dana Schutz invents a race that would rather swallow itself than cope with its own inadequacy."

I saw Iraqtile Dysfunction at Second City with a bunch of people. I thoroughly enjoyed the show. And thanks to Inessa, I tried the best spinach deep dish pizza ever.

Morgan Stanley Hires Wei Christianson to Lead China Strategy.

Jan 28, 2006 {change}

In the Jan 26 issue of the Economist, there is an article about actuaries and the pensions crunch, entitled When the spinning stops. Initially, I was afraid that it would an extremely negative article. Yes, it acutely pointed out the nonsensicalness of certain actuarial practices. But it also asserts the the profession (or at least certain members) is leading change. It discussed Liability Driven Investing (LDI), which sounds really interesting.

On Tuesday, I saw La Separation with Durgesh, Inessa, and her boss Dave. I didn't know what to think afterwards. The acting was great but it's just so painful to watch two people who used to love each other drive each other crazy. Inessa says that she completely relates to it. As for me, I'm pretty good at walking away.

Friday, we celebrated Chinese New Year with dinner at Phoenix and a drink at Signature Lounge (two floors higher than the John Hancock Observatory =P). Once again, it is the year of the dog. Since I am the opposite of normal, I think this will be a very lucky year for me!

Jan 24, 2006 {election results}

I guess there have been many signs indicating the implosion of the liberal party. I guess the federal government should be stable over the next couple years since both NDP and BQ are interested in cooperating with the conservatives. I guess it makes sense for Paul Martin to step down now that the liberal slogan should be "changeons pour vrai". But I am still sad.

The Economist said that he was a great finance minister but lacking as prime minister. But it's hard to be inspiring when your government is constantly on the verge of falling apart. Then again, if politics is about service, rather than leadership, he didn't lose.

Jan 22, 2006 {goal-oriented}

On Friday, we discussed my 2005 performance and goals for 2006. For work, I would like to be exposed to a greater variety of projects and take on increasingly more challenging roles. For professional development, I would like to fulfill all fellowship requirements.

But what has really been on my mind recently is more community involvement. In school, I get dragged into things even when I don't volunteer. Now I need to take more initiative and it's not obvious what organization I should go for.

As a first step, I signed up with Center for Economic Progress. I completed tax training on Saturday and will participate in the Tax Counseling Project. Thinking about what kind of individuals and families qualify for what kind of benefits is more interesting than I expected.

To be honest, I used to a little bit scared of doing taxes, just like how some people are of doing maths. The training definitely helped me overcome this fear. In fact, I am looking forward to learning from more experienced volunteers as well as taking more advanced courses.

Hopefully, on the next Dec 31, I will be able to write a long entry about my progress in all these areas!

Jan 17, 2006 {nothing unusual}

Visited Happy Chef Dim Sum House with a bunch of Waterloo people this weekend. The food was cheap and good. We also went to this grocery store on the same street. I bought a package of frozen Shanghai Mini Buns. They only takes 15 minutes to steam and have this great soupy filling.

Today, Megan, Sam and I went to Vermilion to celebrate the completion of a project. The mango lassi was good. I miss my blender.

I finally got Qing's CD from Kevin and listen to it everyday. Damien Rice's tales are nothing unusual but the delivery is striking. I would love to see him perform.

Jan 12, 2006 {fly me to the moon}

The solution to banality? Pretend that you are floating in space to the beat of the Moonlight Sonata. It's obvious. Any creature confined by a fishbowl knows it.

I saw La face cachee de la lune last night. It confirmed this itching suspicion that I am destined to live a boring life because I have too much imagination. How can living on earth be satisfying when your mind is constantly taking you to the far side of the moon and beyond?

The film explored the usual concepts of going to the end of the world/universe to find the answer within and that narcissism and self-curiosity are two faces of the same coin/moon. Regarding the latter, just ask my blog.

But the touch was clever and poignant. I love the joke about America, because joking about moving to America is surely the best way to make yourself feel more Canadian when you are living in America.

Speaking of space travel, I really like Garneau's comment: "I'd really love to go for a fourth trip into space with maybe Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Boisclair and I am convinced, I am convinced that after such a trip Quebec sovereignty will no longer be an issue. Space travel affects us that much."

I have never space travelled but I have moved around. The Chinese communist party, Aussies and even some Americans think Canada is a strong brand. Sometimes I wonder if Canadians who have never lived outside Canada realize the power of this myth. A lot of immigrants give up a lot to come here and they stay, even if reality does not always live up to reputation.

Jan 11, 2006 {lights, camera, election!}

This is definitely the most exciting election since I became old enough to vote. I feel bad for BQ because they never have anything new to say. I feel bad for NDP because strategic voting is more persuasive given the tight race. I feel bad for Liberals because, now that the conservatives have dropped social conservatism, they are having a hard time scaring people. The conservatives? I don't think anybody need to feel sorry for them since they are doing damn well. Why don't the liberals and the conservatives agree to work together for the next four years regardless of the outcome so that we can all take a break from election promises and focus on long term policies? As for who becomes the prime minister, let's toss a coin =)

I just realized that the As PM contest has become the Next Great PM contest, great being the key word. Also, the format changed from essay + presentation to video. If they can get enough wacky people, me thinks it will make great reality TV.

Jan 9, 2006 {mentors}

Mary Callahan Erdoes: "It's so important for a young person to find and keep a mentor," she said. "And once you find a mentor, you must treasure them and never take them for granted. It is hard to find someone successful who's willing to help and pull you up. I know I owe a large debt to the cumulative number of people who helped me."

Jan 8, 2006 {resolution}

To take a break from sheer whine whine whine, my new year's resolution is to take better note of daily activities, a sparkle here and there to hold onto for days when I feel as if my life has passed me by =P

Happily, I was able to meet up with a lot of people and eat a lot over the break. My fav new thing is brassaii. A woman arranged flowers while we ate and I like the style of the cutlery.

This term, yes I still think in terms of terms, I would like to get to know Randolph Street a bit better. Started with sushiwabi, which is nicely dimly lit. Wei and I loved the ahi tuna and the tarantula roll.

My other resolution is to take more pictures. This weekend, I picked the Garfield Conservatory. Durgesh, who knows a lot about tropical plants, came along. We were given some lime leaves to sniff. I still have one in my pocket.

Jan 1, 2006 {people + time + place}

This past year has been one of choices. As usual, I find myself obssessing over all the things to which I have said no, because each yes implies so many no. A lot of people have asked me a lot of whys, and each time I speak I become less sure of myself, thus inspiring a great deal of I don't know.

To celebrate the first day of 2006, I am doing a Wong Kar Wai marathon: Days of Being Wild + Chungking Express + 2046. That's over six hours of watching people not meeting the right people (or if they do, the time is wrong, or else the place and when both are finally right, the people have changed). Does self-imposed isolation count as loneliness?

Sometimes I hate the films I love for suggesting that there is such a thing as the right people at the right time and the right place, deeming anything less than that as painful mediocrity, reinforcing the idea that there is a point in trying trying trying ...

Movie Note =============================

Saw Brokeback Mountain with Xiao Min. I loved it but it made me realize that I am becoming less of a romantic; I used to find this sort of thing inspiring, now it leaves me exhausted.

Saw Closer: Stripper saves three drawning strangers. But messed-up people cannot live happily ever after, even with intervention.