March 30, 2007

Tuesday, met up with the girls to organize the Young Women's Leadership Council's very own townhall meeting. Great sense of urgency and excitement as there is so much to do until April 25!

Wednesday, Xiao Hong came along with me to attend my second Toastmasters meeting. The table topic was shoes and, given how few women there are in Trademasters, a number of jokes focused on why women own so many pairs. I paid my membership dues and I am looking forward to my first speech.

Thursday, William is in town for the Enterprise Risk Management Symposium. We celebrated Italian-Dinner-Party style at Osteria Via Stato. Antipasto: the salad was delicious, a major compliment given that I dislike lettuce; the roasted onion with parmesan was nicely crunchy. Pasta: the chicken pappardelle was flavourful. Interlude: David the chef dropped by with some yummy roasted garlic and chianti jam; he scooped some steaming mushroom risotto from a pot and I inhaled it on the spot. Entree: William ordered chicken mario, which was surprisingly delicious, while I went for the tuna. Dessert: limoncello. Good to chat with someone else that's slacking off on their professional development plan.

Writing: Professional Development Plan

March 28, 2007

Reading: There lies the real reason why China is so friendless. With no attractive ideas or values to appeal to neighbours, it falls back on a resurgent nationalism that scares them instead: we were a great power, should always be a great power, and by golly look at us now, so get out of the way!

Reading: At the moment the most worrying distortion is that the low return on bank deposits is fuelling asset-price bubbles as households seek higher returns by buying shares and property. After plunging by 9% on February 27th, the Shanghai stockmarket has since rebounded past its previous high.

March 27, 2007

Second meeting with financial advisor.

Audre: What do you envision when I say disability.
Wendy: Taking time off work to get treatment (a recent experience).
Audre: Do you take cabs?
Wendy: Sometimes.
Audre: Cab drivers can be pretty crazy.

Last night. My cab driver drove onto the sidewalk.

Note to Self. Always wear a seat belt.

Reading: Quebec election digest

March 25, 2007

Monday, Skills Development meeting. We decided to start organizing the financial skills seminars. I approached Audre, my financial advisor, and she is willing to help out. Tuesday, Issues & Research meeting. Volunteered to coordinate a presentation on violence against women.

Saturday cooking session:
Red wine vinegar steak (very juicy)
Hainan chicken udon noodle (yum ginger)
Black pepper cabbage with sausage (will try black bean next time)
Lemongrass chicken with green bean
Tilapia sauteed in curry sauce

Still reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Even before I started reading this book, I had a good understanding of skills 1 to 3, which drive effective personal management. Skill 4 is about taking an win-win approach to life, a view to which I subscribe but not enough to make it work consistently. The introduction to Skill 5 explains why: "our conversations become collective monologues and we never really understand what's going on inside another human being".

My main action item for communication skills training is "talk slower and be a better listener", so I have been more self-aware in this regard. However, I am not making significant progress. Now I realize that I must overcome this fundamental sense of self-righteousness before I can develop a genuine desire to understand and be understood; without this genuine desire, it is impossible to "talk slower and be a better listener".


Reading: The real casualties would be those who bought what they thought were liquid assets, only to find that when volatility comes in through the front door, liquidity tends to go out the window.

March 22, 2007

Kazakhstan: The Ministry of Interior completed a five-month pilot programme during which over 160,000 migrants were legalised. This was a third more than they had expected and brought in more than $8m in taxes.

Palestine: Aid workers on the ground worry that massive food aid and make-work programmes are debilitating local agriculture and business.

America: High-tech industries are powered by foreign brains. Almost a third of Silicon Valley start-ups since 1995 were founded by Indians or Chinese.

Canada: The working family with most to gain from the budget may be the one living at 24 Sussex Drive, the prime-ministerial residence.

March 19, 2007

Things learnt at today's session on making a good first impression:

- If you are a litigator, do not wear black on your opening statement to avoid competing with the judge for power
- Dark shades of brown lack of power
- Yellow induces stress if your audience is already uncomfortable
- Green imparts friendliness but lacks maturity
- No such thing as short sleeve dress shirt
- Don't shake hands like a girl
- Don't sit at the edge of your seat
- Steeple!

Reading: trophy lending is harmful. By subsidising microfinance groups that do not need it, aid bodies and philanthropists discourage private money, which cannot compete with their soft terms. In the long run, this harms microfinanciers, because it slows their integration into the financial-services industry and thus hampers their transformation into lenders able to stand alone.

March 18, 2007

Tuesday, YMLC organized a networking training session. In the back of my mind, I have this huge list of people that I would like to get to know better but I never seem to be able to find the time to get in touch. During the session, we were asked to make a list of ten people and categorize each according to how well we know them, ranging from accidents, acquaintances, associates, actors, advocates, to allies. Strategies for moving a contact from one level to the next were discussed. Transcribing that list from my mind to paper was tremendously helpful. Now that I see it, I can prioritize and "just do it".

Wednesday, Jeff and I attended our first ever Toastmasters meeting. The group we joined is called Trademasters as it was originally located in the Chicago Board of Trade building. Now it's in the UBS building right next door, so convenient that "too busy to attend" is no longer a passable excuse.

Friday, talked to Mentee Xi for two hours wherein he attempted to convince me that I am a typical Shanghai girl because I think relationships are about common goals, as opposed to sacrifice. FYI, my definition of sacrifice does not encompass giving up something good for something better; that's called prioritizing.

With tax season in full swing, I have been thinking about my investments. My investment horizon is very long and I should assume a stable asset allocation and just let diversification work its magic, although there was a very interesting article in the Economist recently about how asset classes are becoming more correlated.

Saturday, paid 700 bucks to acquire a personal financial advisor. My main objectives are to set realistic financial goals and achieve a better understanding of tax deferred vehicles.

Maybe this will clarify the meaning of life. You never know.

Reading: As more money has chased these risky assets, correlations have risen. By the same logic, at moments when investors become risk-averse and want to cut their positions, these asset classes tend to fall together.

Cooking: Salmon, shrimp, lemongrass chicken, pasta with zucchini & olive.

March 12, 2007

Milliman Financial Risk Management Group celebrated International Women's Day at Cyrano's. We celebrated with plenty of wine, lots of good food, and international women as supplied by Jeff.

Friday, caught a flight to Toronto at 7 am. Watched The Departed with my parents. Was impressed by DiCaprio's portrayal of, for the lack of a better term, tough vulnerability. He's come a long way since the Titanic.

Saturday, woke up at 6 am, pulled on ski pants, noticed that it was raining outside, checked my voicemail and realized that Greg already made backup plans. We spent the afternoon perusing "Ancient Peru Unearthed" at the ROM. It was my first encounter with the Sicán civilization, a pre-Inca group who prospered off the northern coast of Peru as early as AD 700. How little I know of this world! Around half past six, we dropped into La Palette, described by Toronto Life as romantic enough for a tryst. The place nicely captured that intimate European feel; it was quiet at first but filled completely by seven. We tried a couple reds with fried camembert and steak frites. Coffee was accompanied by a casual discussion on why one might find it difficult to return to Toronto after traversing the world in search of the latest and greatest.

Sunday Brunch for eight at Kensington Kitchen: Brenda, Brish, Rachel, Xi, Wei, Hong, Zoey + Myself. Hong very cleverly pointed out that, "I don't shit" is a great way of saying "I'm full of shit". A great deal was uttered regarding long distance relationships and what may or may not be appropriate. I'm a very goal-oriented person in the sense that little things really don't bother me as long as I know where I'm headed in the long run. But it's not always easy to know such a thing.

Attempted to meet up with Denise at I Deal Coffee but the place was packed inside and out, not surprising given the wonderful weather. We resorted to window seats at Second Cup and making faces at little kids that walked by. Stephen joined us at 93 Harbord for wonderful food and Aussie shiraz; the cod was paired with a piquant fruit sauce and the lamb and fig tagine was beautifully tender. I want to try the wine-braised lamb shank next time!

Monday, caught up with a long lost friend named Lukasz Kosewski. Both Luke and Stephen are starting their own businesses offering software/hardware/service to small and medium-sized enterprises, so it's interesting comparing and contrasting their marketing strategies. We met up at Tutti Matti and Luke went for the prix fixe lunch. That was a great choice given that he does not eat dessert. I was determined to gormandize the pheasant-filled ravioli and it did not disappoint. I normally do not like cheese on top of my pasta but the Parmigiano-Reggiano was to-die-for. Apparently, real time (a fourth year computer science elective at Waterloo) will turn tea aficionados into coffee addicts. At Wagamama, Luke downed a double espresso and I sipped matcha latte, while debating which of us will conquer the world first.

Tuesday, caught a flight to Chicago at 7 am. Leaving ... on a jet plane ...

March 4, 2007

Tuesday, we had a great issues and research committee meeting. People are getting excited about the "What Will It Take?" event in April.

Saturday, Rachel and I cooked shrimp.

Sunday, I hosted the very first First Sunday event and we watched Control Room. In one of the cut scenes, Al Jazeera producer Deema Khatib said that the Americans are in Iraq because the people did not liberate themselves. I wonder if others share her opinion. I have always believed freedom to be something that an individual has to achieve for him or herself. What can we do to facilitate that?

I also learnt a lot from various random conversations. Carrie, who helped initiate the Chicago Fashion Week, mentioned that it was actually based on the Toronto Fashion Week, which starts in a week. Katie, a disability activist, shocked me by describing the practices of the US government during the Eugenics movement. I looked it up on wikipedia and found something even more shocking that is occuring in China. How far can you go in the name of population control?

In 1994 they passed the "Maternal and Infant Health Care Law", which included mandatory premarital screenings for "genetic diseases of a serious nature" and "relevant mental disease". Those who were diagnosed with such diseases were required either not to marry, agree to "long-term contraceptive measures" or to submit to sterilization.

Afterwards, we went for sushi at Oysy. Salmon + Tuna + Yellowtail = Chicago Crazy. Katie and I then met up to brainstorm ways to effectively present the effect of the media on violence towards women. Looking forward to seeing Respect Me, Don't Media Me.

March 1, 2007

Now I can tell my children that I survived Grey Tuesday: Investment banks use “value-at-risk” models which mean that, when volatility rises, they cut the capital they allocate to trading. This usually means selling assets. So a sudden jump in volatility tends to generate further volatility.

Bitigroup: Mr Prince wants to make Citi one cohesive company, rather than a jumbled group amassed under a single canopy.

Toxic Waste: Messrs Mason and Rosner show that nearly 80% of the assets backing CDOs in 2005 were residential mortgage securities. Furthermore, most of those securities were the subprime portions of RMBS, which offer a higher yield.

February 28, 2007

Job Description: There is far more to successful longterm investing than brains and performance that has recently been good.

Over time, markets will do extraordinary, even bizarre, things. A single, big mistake could wipe out a long string of successes. We therefore need someone genetically programmed to recognize and avoid serious risks, including those never before encountered.

Temperament is also important. Independent thinking, emotional stability, and a keen understanding of both human and institutional behavior is vital to long-term investment success.

February 25, 2007

As part of communication skills training, I was taped making a marketing presentation. Lillian tore me apart for not dressing up and not wearing makeup. I always feel very uncomfortable when people discuss how I look. I blame an incident in grade three when the cutest girl in school displaced me as the lead singer of the choir! But I'm beginning to accept that I cannot succeed by saying that I don't need to be good looking because I'm smarter than you. Sigh.

Saturday, a bunch of people went to Funky Buddha. There were a lot of black girls who really know how to shake their ass. Went to Maccas with Leanne and Saba afterwards and consumed 2 Chicken Select strips. You know Wendy is drunk when she is eating fastfood.

Sunday, met up with Shahan and the McKinsey group for brunch at Indian Garden. Very energetic people and you can definitely tell that they are management consultants. The experience made me wonder whether I use technical acronyms when I chat with my coworkers about entirely non-technical matters.

Listening: Forté Forum

February 19, 2007

People tell me that I don't write about the same things that I used to. Don't worry, there is plenty of detritus floating around in my head. I'm just disinclined to write about the same things over and over again, in imperfect tense.

I used to say that my favorite color is azure; apparently it's called cerulean. #007BA7 in case you handcode html like me.

Fancying: Mill Street Coffee Porter
Consuming: Scharffen Berger Nibby Bar
Listening: Paolo Nutini

February 18, 2007

Friday, hit reserve with Leanne, Lisa and Saba. Saw the identical twin of someone that I used to know. Freaked out. Talked to the guy's friend to ensure that it is not the same person. Lots of free vodka thanks to Leanne :)

Saturday, Ravi, Arvind, Rachel, Xi, Chike, Ali, Ken Tam, Leanne and I consumed three variations of Peking Duck at Phoenix to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Sunday, sunny day at Lincoln Park Zoo. The lions were beautiful and the monkeys playful. Shared a strong ale brewed with a ridiculous amount of pureed raspberries. Forced Xi to chop onions; that's how I make boys cry.

Fish sauce salmon
Pasta rubbed with sun dried tomato bits & parmesan
Scallop with sauteed spinach
Green bean with mushroom & almond

February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day Special Report courtesy of Ambrish Shah: "A lioness in heat desires sex at least once every half an hour for four or five days and nights. The reason for her enormous sexual appetite is unknown."

Reading: Roses are blue, violets are red

Qing sent me a music box.

February 13, 2007

Quebec City with Carl. TBE.

Friday: Skiing at Mont-Sainte-Anne

Saturday: Quebec Winter Carnival

Sunday: Dog Sledding

Monday: Skiing at Le Massif de Petite-Rivière-Saint-François

Tuesday: Musée de la civilisation

February 7, 2007

Went through my first one-on-one coaching session with Lillian today and we discussed my DiSC profile. Lillian says that since I spent most of the group session smiling, laughing and talking, I'm probably not a low i as indicated by my profile. As far as I'm concerned, I'm also not a high C as indicated by my profile. The end justifies the means, so I can be anything as long as it gets me the results I want.

We did spend quite some time discussing the problems associated with being a very high D. She says that when I'm not talking, I'm scripting what to say next, which is very true. This means that I'm not paying attention to people's response and therefore not modifying my delivery to create a more effective message. My action item is to speak slower.

Saturday, met up with Srinu at the symphony. Elgar's Violin Concerto in B Minor is one of my all time favorites. A very tender performance that inspired an extended standing ovation.

Sunday, met up with Rach at Hai Yen (the one in Argyle) and consumed yummy chao tom as well as a warm bowl of pho. We then spent the evening cooking lunch for the rest of the week.

Reading: What keeps bankers awake at night?

January 28, 2007

Stephen got me this book called flow for Christmas. Yes, I had previously mentioned a review for it from the Economist. In a nutshell, the author argues that life is better when you have a sense of control, clear goals and immediate feedback. I am proud to declare that I have already put this newly acquired knowledge into practice.

Sunday night, I picked up the 4 x 1 rolling storage that I ordered from Westelm. As I finished installing it, I realized that some smart guy placed the permanent sticker specifying weight limitations on an external surface. My immediate urge was to harass a customer service rep. I checked myself as I realized that route would provide me with neither a sense of control nor clear goals and given that it was Sunday night, probably not even immediate feedback. Consequently, I set myself the goal of doing the best job I can to remove it in thirty minutes. Facilitated by a great deal of Windex, the task went well and I am now fully confident in my ability to remove permanent stickers from hardwood surfaces. Standing ovation please?

For some reason, this book reminded me of Atlas Shrugged. Both authors have interesting points to make but are overly preachy. Also, me being the individualistic task-oriented person that I am, it's probably unhealthy for me to indulge in such preachings.

Monday, watched the State of the Union address with the girls from CFW at the Emerald Loop (the portobello sandwich was delicious). Not sure how effective the healthcare ideas will be in controling costs, but it would be nice to see some action at the federal level. Wednesday, attended a breakfast event entitled "Women in Global Business". Very impressed by women who combine flying around the globe with educating their kids to become knowledgeable citizens of the world. Sunday, met up with Donna for brunch at Tweet (the texture of the corn arepas was amazing) and cooked dinner with Rachel:

& the chicken curry was not at all Indian but flavourable nevertheless;
& the black pepper pork has the kick but could be juicier;
& wendy's famous "split the pair" is pairless, of course.

P/S If my current finance gig does not pan out, I will create a restaurant where people can break up in style.

Reading: Sallie Krawcheck on the move, again!

January 22, 2007

Spent the weekend in Toronto.

Saturday, attended a Chinese New Year event organized by New Tang Dynasty Television with my parents, Jenny and her mum. For the most part, the performers were very talented and the show enjoyable. However, there was one segment that made me feel deeply uncomfortable, as it portrayed members of the communist party being tortured in hell. I guess envisioning punishment imparts some people a sense of inner peace, eh?

Sunday, skiied on lovely fluffy snow with Denise, Benny, Stephen and Greg, who brought along dark mint chocolate that perfectly complements coffee. I contributed salmon jerky and Asian pear, so it was quite a feast.

Also viewed two films with parents. Once again, I am puzzled at why good Chinese film makers produce such unwatchable crap.

Firstly, the Promise by Chen Kaige. I can't believe that this is the same guy that made Farewell My Concubine. I never appreciated Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon until I saw this messy swirl of special effects. The real kick in CTHD comes from the fact that Zhang Ziyi's character had to fight in order to grow, to transcend her gender role and find her place in the world. The protagonist in the Promise begins as a slave, so I had hoped to feel something when he would finally choose freedom; but he never does, fate chose it for him.

Secondly, the Banquet by Feng Xiaogang. The guy who makes famously funny films settled on a piece utterly deprived of humour and therefore humanity. The music and the mood is at times brilliant but the characters were etched in stone and dead long before the story begins.

Listening: Astor Piazzolla's Tango Nuevo
Reading: Dynamic labour market requires health care reform

January 18, 2007

Vice Premier Wu Yi enlightened the Americans with a lesson on the 5,000-year history of China. Her essential point: those who criticized China's economic policy did so out of ignorance. "We have had the genuine feeling," said Wu, "that some American friends not only have limited knowledge of, but harbor much misunderstanding about, the reality in China."

January 12, 2007

Monday, celebrated Rachel's first day as Milliman intern by lunching at Nick's Fish Market. Tuesday, drank to Jeff's birthday at Extra Virgin where Mark traded Leanne for a pack of cigarettes. Thursday, Chicago Foundation for Women meeting. Friday, invited to try bruschetta and spaghetti squash exquisitely prepared by Leanne, followed by a conversation at the Red Ivy. Sunday, saw Children of Men with Ken Tam and Ali and we were completely blown away. It manages to tackle social and environmental issues using fast-paced action and a wry sense of humour.

In preparation for this client communication workshop, we are asked to provide answers to a series of questions, which are then used to generate a DiSC profile. My profile apparently follows the creative pattern.

Emotions: accepts aggression; restrains expression
Goal: dominance; unique accomplishments
Value to organization: initiates or designs changes
Overuses: bluntness; critical or condescending attitude
Under Pressure: becomes bored with routine work; sulks when restrained
Fears: lack of influence; failure to achieve their standards

The above should be obvious to anyone that knows me. At the same time, despite my love for all things intense, I have been searching for a middle ground: to respect constraints, because without them there would be no optimality; to enjoy people, to forgive their errors and therefore forgive my own.

Reading: Capital Diary
Listening: HBR IdeaCast
Drinking: Yellow Tail Shiraz 2005

January 11, 2007

After years of stalemate, a couple of ambitious governors have given America's health-care debate a jolt.

New accounting rules have replaced the Little Red Book as China's guide to self-improvement.

January 8, 2007

My initial assessment of you-tube was yet another distribution channel for flashy clips of Paris Hilton and crappy music from Justin Timberlake. But since Google paid 1.65 billion for it, I figured that I should at least check it out. Happily, I found some interesting stuff.

Exhibit A: One of my favorite music videos, the Facts of Life from Black Box Recorder; Sarah Nixey's smile is almost as subversively sexy as her voice. Her first solo album is coming out this month and I am curious.

Exhibit B: Ni ten ichi ryu by Photek. I'm generally not a fan of ambient, but the precision embodied in this track possess a meditative quality. The characters Ni ten ichi ryu mean two sky one flow, at least in Chinese, and refer to a style of fighting that uses a long sword and a short sword at the same time.

January 7, 2007

Saturday, saw a movie about Vandana Shiva, the physicist, ecofeminist, environmental activist and author. The moral of the story is this: when someone gives you the bullshit award, you make renewal fuel out of it. I disagree with most of the generalizations this woman makes (e.g. globalization is evil) but her passion is so evident that her energy convulses the camera and the shrill cries of her opponents are abated by her constant smile.

Afterwards, Chike and I had dinner at Star of Siam, which is a great choice for cheap eat on a Saturday night without a reservation. It's nice to speak with someone who is doing a PhD (probably the greatest extent of specialization a person in his early twenties can achieve) and completely sure of their choice.

Sunday, the Waterloo Dining Club tackled Tarragusto. Ravi and Arvind brought bottles of Australian Shiraz, which is convenient since I've been meaning to drink more Rhone Style Reds from down under. Leanne and I shared smoked wild salmon mousse on crostini (melt in your mouth), pasta filled with butternut squash (taste like buttery croissant if you can believe it), chicken and burnt creme brulee. Both Ravi and Saba recounted how their relatives broke limbs while using the public transportation system in Mumbai. I attempted to do the same for Shanghai but James Fallows does a better job.

The real dessert however is Chris O's show at the Sketch Comedy Festival. It's actually a selection from their last show with slight variations, but the criss-crossing of storylines and formats make it very enjoyable nevertheless.

January 3, 2007

Fish sauce lamb shop with sauteed peppers
Tofu salad with coconut chili dressing
Sausage, olive & nectarine
Steamed scallop with corn bread stuffing