Italians do it better (the MBA)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A typical after-club in new york...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Last night I went to the opera at the Lincoln Theater. The play performed was "Tosca" by Giacomo Puccini. The columbia card works well for theaters and museums. Either you have free entrance or you pay a very tiny amount compared to full price. A pity it doesn't work for clubs too... However, given the fact that the columbia card is a sort of option to buy tickets at a certain price, it might be interesting to calculate its value. But then prices of museums have no volatility... there is only a time value based on the fact that you don't execute it becasue tickets are sold out. Mmm.. too complicated.
By the way, the opera was amazing. I like Tosca a lot. Well, Turandot was also a good one. The scenogarphy of the play was something unbelivable. Really really well done. I tried to take pictures but I was immediately caught by one of the waiters (i don't know how you call them in english).. who told me that if I took a picture the would have thrown me out. Ok sorry. So no picture for you reader. But trust me was really cool. Just a picture of me, Francesca and Pietro before the beginning of the performance. What was a little bit less cool was the theatre itself. For sure was technically futuruistic, but the furnitures and the overall architecture design has a doubtful taste. And as always, everything was sponsored by some donor. Every chair has a nameplate on it. Personally i put my ass for two hours on the face of Mr. and Mrs. Powell. Then you open the brochure of the play and at the end you have 4 pages of donors with also the money each of them has put in. Obviously ranked by amount provided. Only the top 20 provided some 19 million. Columbia is the same. All the buildings and facilities are sponsored. Every seat has a nameplate on it. I'm not criticizing it. I just think is curious how this doesn't happen in Europe. I think it is just a question of mentality and how historically in the US people had to donate to provide themselves of missing public services. And the results are cool. If you see the facilities of Columbia you'll notice that are quite impressive. Most of the times donors are not individuals but banks and big firms. Now I'm sitting in the Lehman Lounge. It's just a little bit wierd when in a museum you have the paintings displayed by the name of the donor rather than the name of the author.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What really excites me..

Yesterday I went for a 5 hours walk through brooklyn down and the downtown. Finally I also crossed the brooklyn bridge. There are some areas of brooklyn like Bedford Ave which are really cool, it has nothing to do with the rest of New York! But a part from all this turistic stuff, what really excites me are things like this glass. I think it is really cool.

Basically if you look through the glass from with a trasversal vision, you see everything. And you can notice that at the beginning you can see the small desk on the left side of the room behind the glass. But then as soon as you change the angle and you look thourgh it with a diagonal incidence, the glass shades!
Another thing that excites me and i need to discover are the mechanics of a combination lock.

Enviroment unfriendly

I am quite impressed by how in the US environment is not taken that much into consideration. Cars have 8000cc engines and at central park the police car stays parked the whole day with the engine on. Always ready for action! During the summer you have +40°C outside and -20°C inside houses and offices because of terrific AC usage, during the winter it's the other way round. These days it's so cold outside but as soon as you enter into the building you are sorrounded by this sub-saharian hot temperature that forces you to go around with flipflops, t-shirts and underwear. And we cannot switch it off, it is centralized and the whole building has the same hot temperature.
I don't understand.
But today a new word entered my vocabulary: BUMMER!
I'm in a bummer.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A little bit like christmas...

Yes.. this is more or less the thanksgiving in NY. The streets are empty, the weather is cold, trees are already without leaves, heaters run at hundreds degrees in the houses.. an people share a big meal in large family groups. Even shops are close.. and TOM'S RESTAURANT as well! This restaurant is open 24/7... it's the first time I saw the famous red sign turned off!
Within our group of italians in NYC we decided to follow the US tradition. We were 20 sitting around a long table with food for 40 or maybe 60 people. The king of the table is obviously the turkey. I'm wondering if at the whitehouse when they announced "we have turkey now" George Bush tought something like "mmm.. did we finish with Iraq already?".
By the way.. our thanksgiving meal was composed by a mix of US and Italian tradition with a bit of German-Thai infusion. Understood?! We take food seriously!
- 2 turkeys, one made in Italian style, the other stuffed in american style;
- 3 kg of potatoes cooked in the oven
- 3 15-people size dishes of parmigiana (pronounced PARMIGGGIANA)
- 15 bottles of high-end wine (no spanish wines indeed)
- 3 cakes (1 shaped like a turkey.. in italian we would call it "pacchianissima")
- 2 home made focaccia with olives (mighty Francesca!!!)
- 5 liters pumpkin soup
- several hand rolled ham-pinapple rolls!
- grilled vegetables
- 10 kgs of ragu (souce made with tomatoes and meat.. used to put on cannelloni)
- 20 hungry guests

Me and Marco were in charge of the soup. I was at the mixer. No, not playing music, mixing the soup, to make it like cream
It has been a second of distraction.. i lost the focus on the blender and a bit of 100 C° of soup spit on my arm. I burned my arm!
Even if all the girls in the house discovered their "nurse" instinct i wasn't able to avoid big bubbles on my arm. Quite disgusting today, i cannot look at it! Also Lamberto joined our group. I was happy because even if we are both in NY the fact of living in uptown (me) and brooklyn (lamb) makes it difficult to meet every week. Even during the night most of the time we are not in sync and when I go to club he goes out with some hot girl and viceversa (Well.. not so many girls for me..)
After almost 6 hours spent at the table we where all pythonized (see Peter Luger's pst to know what it means) and we decided to watch an old italian commedy movie called "Vacanze di Natale 83". A masterpiece of the italian trash commedy! In theory, US tradition brings people in fron of the TV to watch football..
By the way.. here is a picture of Valerio and Francesca busy with an alternative intepretation of the usage of dishes...
Tonight, I was supposed to go out again. I wasn't able. I went out tuesday, wednesday, thursday.. I will go to a party tomorrow. I can't make it. And lots of assignments in pipeline. Put aside parties, thanksgiving, parties.. this is still an MBA!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dedicated to David

This video is dedicated to david for three reasons:

  • Because he put that cosby video that i didn't understand. So here is a video that has nothing to be understood. It is self explanatory for every language.
  • Because he wants to buy a Ducati
  • Because he said i should buy a sidecar (and stay on the side) and I told him that we italians are all born on a moto
This video is taken on the final part of the highway that links milan with genova. This part of the highway is famous because during the weekends many riders challenge their friends, themselves and their lives on this narrow set of turns. With a car there are some turns that you can do at no more than 80 km/h (and u hear the tyres sliding) or 150-160 if u have a Carrera 4s.
Look around minute 5 he does a wheelie into a tunnel. Impressive!

Monday, November 20, 2006

I need some breast rest

Thank you thanksgiving. It's monday and my week is already over. No classes until next monday. I needed some rest. I have to take some time to visit the city with the daylight, walk into some museum, eat the turkey. I think I need also some rest from the nightlife of NYC. Well I'm not having a good start with this proposition.. I planned already to go to the French Tuesday tomorrow, another party in a club on Wednesday.. but overall i would like to not go beyond that. My liver is in a bad shape and deadlines for 3 papers are approaching.

In three weeks the term is over! Unbelivable. I'm already sad of leaving NYC in a month. I didn't expect to get so into the life of the school in this short period. I was talking about this with Medea today. I think I've been quite lucky to get introduced into her and all the other italians since the first days. Many exchange students are doomed to stay among themselves because it's not that easy her to get into groups of already formed friends. Whatever..I would like to have a bag to put all of them in a bag.. and with them the streets of soho, the cafè havana, the clubs in 27th street, tom's restaurant, central park, the monday class of private sector, the atomic clock of Amar Bidhe, the squirrels crossing the campus with the mouth full of nuts.


And by the way, I've included two cool pictures i took this weekend.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The "wooo hooo" saga

Can you believe that at columbia you have a course called "Innovate or Die"? Sounds wierd, isn't it? I'm wondering what's on the sessions' outline.
Session 1: kill your competitors..
Session 2: slap your lazy secretary..
Session 3: a hundred ways to fire your employees...

Woooo hooo!

In IESE, we have mas o menos the same course: "Dilemas Humanos"

By the way, I'm talking about this because the dean Glenn Hubbard (it's not a fantasy name, it's real!) just wrote an article on the FT in reply to Anita Roddick's position that those with an eye toward entrepreneurial careers can't and don't benefit from an MBA education ("Don't get a business degree, get angry", November 15). The dean's starting senctece "I should say that I greatly respect Anita Roddick and admire her success as a business leader." seems something that come out of the Word Editor Grammar Check on an original sentence like "shut up, you stupid b**ch".. but let's say it comes from his heart. The summary of Glenn Hubbard's position is that at top school they don't prented to teach you how to become the new Bill Gates but rather give you a mindset that allows you to better exploit opportunities that you might encounter in your life. And it's fuckin' true. I mean... not all the succesful entrepeneurs were born because IBM gave them the opportunity to produce a "side" component for their machines. Most of the time entrepeneurs just see the opportunity to replicate some other people's idea or maybe change it a little, relocate it in another country, or apply it to another context. And if i have to add something out of my brain, in the deveoled world i think the space for opportunities is becoming quite narrrow. Only if you have breaktroughs like the PCs and Internet this space broadens and gives room to the people to find their own succesful path. The MBA gives you an extra torch that you can use to move in the shadow.
Going back to the things that really matter. Look at this combined picture. They are exactly the same! I remember when I was young and I was at the gym talking with a lawyer friend of mine. We were used to ride the ciclettes for some twenty minutes talking shit. Among the stupid things you discussed, one day he told me about the theories of Cesare Lombroso about criminal anthropology. Basically his theories say that there are some phisical features of the human bodies that are common in criminals. So, for example, if you have a big chin, your eyes are distant more that 3 cm one from the other, your lips are not the same size.. either you are a picasso or you are going to kill somebody during your life. It's funny to think how life has changed. This man spent his whole life to study these kind of relations. Than one day, in a remote valley in the black forest, a german guy called Franz Heukampf was born.. and with an excel sheet you can run a regression analysis and you have the exact forumla for this. Two minutes work!

Woooo hooo (second wooo hoo of the post!)

And that's what I did on the Columbia-IESE deans. And I discovered that if you:
- are not bold but your hairs have this "see-through" effect
- your head has an upside down trapezoid shape
- you are not elected chairman of the FED
- the suit has the same shape when you wear it and when you put it on the hanger
- you can say wise things disguised as non-wise things, and the other way ronud
congratulations.. you are a dean!

Woooo hooo (final one!)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Candice said my nickname should be Georgie. And then she sang me this US nursery rhyme.

Georgie Porgie, Puddin' and Pie,

Kissed the girls and made them cry,

When the boys came out to play

Georgie Porgie ran away.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Gini Coefficient

I was googling around to look for some let's call it "inspiration" for a final report of en exam on economics, when i stepped into the Gini Coefficient! The Gini coefficient is interesting first of all because it has the same surname as a good old friend of mine. But if this is not enough, it is interesting also because it is used to measure wealth inequality. I've found a very easy explanation of the Gini coefficient on, guess what, wikipedia. Check it. Just want to report the graph that shows the path of this coefficient for some countries. A coefficient close to 1 means lot of inequality.. the more you are close to 1 the more the curve that relates share of wealth and percentage of population gets closer to the shape of the "capacity/queue". Clearly the gini curve doesn't tell the whole story of inequality and it's measure because for example a wide country tends to have a higher coefficient than a small one. But still is considered a reasonable measure of inequality. Interesting to notice how US is growing while many european countries are decreasing. The US high inequality attracted many people in the past and is still attracting many people.. the ones that are self confident, that want to risk, the one that want to fight for the right side of the curve. Europe is more attractive for the ones who fear the left side. But it also attract people who want to stay on the right but can't cope with inequality and don't want to stay on top of a peak with a high cliff behind them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hell & Heaven

They say New York is the city for singles. Indeed if you go around at night, you go into cool clubs, that's the New York you see. Every weekend I put myself into these shoes, going out until late, getting almost drunk at guest house or marquee, sweating my clean shirt and eating pizza in 110th street corner with Broadway. It's cool. Lots of girls around, an easy task if compared to snobby girls you can meet in Milan, good music, strong drinks. Even the restroom is cool. I spent 10 minutes talking with the waiter (with cufflings) in the restroom. He was very proud of his offer of parfumes and candies! Wow... this is Heaven! And that's how you feel. You thank God that you are single! Or not? Mmm maybe this is not heaven, this is hell. And I think that especially when I put my sneakers on at noon, trying to get rid of the hungover by having a run in central park. You walk into the park and you see another New York. The landscape is amazing. The autumn foliage shows unbelivable colors and patterns. I love this park. I love this season. And among all the couples in the park, I am running by myself. This is Heaven! I hate to be single! Or not? I'm confused.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Like a Python

Yesterday we went to Peter Luger, the famous steakhouse in Brooklyn. For those who don't know it, don't worry. It's basically the best place where you can eat a steak in New York, and probably one of the best in the world. On the menu they have only steak. It's both restaurant and butcher shop. The meat? Amazing. Tasty, soft like butter. Mmmmm... And in quantity. So much meat that I think I had around 1kg of meat just by myself.
After that I was in a sort of trance... Have you ever seen one of those reports on Discovery Channel where a python eats an antelope and then is there... paralized by the digestion, with a big belly, vulnerable.. able to move only the eyes. That's exaclty how I felt. They charged me on a cab and went home.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I didn't understand one thing so I sent an email to the professor... and this is his reply.

Good observation. The choice between one and the other is not always definite. In most high leverage cases the cost of debt is very close to the unlevered cost of capital and the difference is small. When the changing debt schedule is predetermined the natural choice is the cost of debt. I computing wacc every year one is forced to assume that the debt ratio stays constant during that year, which means that debt moves up and down, however little, during the year with the value of the firm in order to keep the debt ratio constant as assumed for the year. That imparts additional risk to the tax shield: the risk of the free cash flow and makes it appropriate to discount the tax shield at the cost of the unlevered firm. The choice in practice varies. Whenever it is felt that the amount of debt is highly dependent on the cash flow, the cost of unlevered firm is used. Otherwise the cost of debt is used. The example of p. 93 is continued in the following pages and the 2nd para of p. 99 makes reference to the results attained with one or the other assumption. As you can see the difference is relatively small. Finally, one important point to consider is that by computing wacc every year one is assuming that the tax shield is discounted at the unlevered cost of capital. Hope this helps.

Now I don't undestand naffing! (nothing)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Death Capital Markets

Once again one of the advantages of being in exchange is the fact that you broaden the faculty you can listen to. As I already said, in "Private Sector & Intl Develpoment", I have the pleasure to have Fisman which is a sort of super young guru of economics. On top of this, we have started an amazing series of guest speakers which is really impressive. From Bill Browder (read about him @ gazprom) to Jeffery Sachs. Jeffery Sachs is the head of The Earth Institute at columbia, a renowned macroeconomist and special adviser to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, responsible of important successes in economic reforms in Poland and Bolivia. He is the author of many books like "The end of poverty" and you can see him talking with the presidents of many countries, the pope and Bono. Today he was talking to us. For the first time I heard an american speaker who didn't talk only about "let the free markets rule the world". He is the advocate of "yes to the market economy but no to the free-market ideology". Even if he doesn't criticise the idea of the free market his main theory revolves around the idea of the "poverty trap" in which some countries are locked in. For historical, rich-countries-behavior, geographical, environmental and other exogenous reasons some countries are now locked in a poverty status by which they won't be able to escape if left to themselves and let the "free markets" do its job. If you are in a poor country which is landlocked (no ports around which develop a trade) you are basically fucked up. If you have oil, drugs and diamonds you are exploited by rich countries and probably someone will drop troups once in a while to make some mess. If you don't, you are screwed as well. It's false the idea that countries like India and China rose on their legs and made the path towards growth. They received huge financial aid from foundations and governments and they had the luck of being able to develop special economics zones from which to start development. Look at bangalore for example. For a country like India it is impossible to develop from scratch good infrastructures for the whole country. It's easier to develop special zones in which concentrate the government spending and use them as highlights to attract internetional funds. Unfortunately not all that countries are that lucky to have the phisical possibility to such development. But still Jeffery Sachs sees as the only way to help poor countries to use huge financial aids from developed coutries. Many argue that high corruption will make this effort useless because probably money will flow to some swiss bank account. His idea is to provide funds straight to local government and plant a high control over spending by intenational observers. And while to help 1 billion people to escape death from malaria it would be enough that rich countries collect 3 bucks per person, it has more echo in the news the fact that saddam will be hanged rather then 20.000 children dying every day in sub-saharian countries.

Death in the middle

Even if was very happy with the offer of BCG Milan, I decided to ask for the London office. There were several reasons why I asked that, now there are several reasons minus one. However, I'm still convinced about it. Few days ago I've been contacted by the worldwide head of BCG recruiting who called me because she didn't know I asked that transfer. So she englighted me about the process, the interviews and so on. The fun thing is that I had to explain to her first which are my reasons. So I started talking about the fact that the private equity practice is based there, that I think in the city I will be closer to a substantial network of iese alumni and also personal friends who work there since many years. And again the fact that I would like to have some international exposure also in terms of office diversity. Then I had my big ace in the sleeve which was "and you know what.. even if you think I'm an asshole, I think I want to stay in London just a few years and then go back to Italy..". The message i wanted to convey was "no worries, i'm not going to bother you that much". No time to mention this and the recruiter said "ok ok.. good reasons, the important thing is that you don't say you want to stay just few years!". Wow. That was my ace card! Mmm..
Then I discovered that I have other three case interviews with London office partners. My chances to fail this step are very high. And then i also learned that now is not that straighforward that I can go back to the Milan office. So I'm already projecting me in January in a desperate research of the last resort employer. Wow. This is the death in middle.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Halloween in NYC is crazy. Among the parties, french tuesday was the best. This home made costume was amazing. The LCD monitor was real! Marco.. Good luck she has the camera.. i left mine at home! What a big mistake. I missed a lot of cool pictures! We hired him as a cleaning lady afterwards. I tried hard with this girl but then i found something i wasn't expecting to find :)