August 2007


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Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of Katrina. I personally I am not or have never been a resident of New Orleans, but in so many ways I am upset about a lot of things that are still going on today. Just as a disclosure, these are my personal views and opinions. Some are based on feeling and some on fact. And given the liberties of this country, I am free to voice these opinions. I do not intend to hurt or harm anyone with my opinions.

I watched part of a Spike Lee documentary today on HBO appropriately titled “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts”. It is a 4 1/2 hour documentary, so it really tells the story from all angles. There are no words to describe the pain these people are feeling or the anguish. I was literally sitting in front of the TV just crying my eyes out for over two hours. To see that this is happening in our country, in one of the most advanced economies in the world, a super power, is unthinkable.

Katrina has been one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. The storm was atrocious. I remember because when it passed through Florida, it was a very strong Category 1. It really harmed us even thought the media did not report on it. Miamians didn’t get to see much of the Katrina coverage when the storm hit New Orleans because we did not have power at the time due to the storm. I knew in my heart thought that wherever it was going to hit, it was going to be bad. After the storm hit and all the preceding events took place, the world was stunned. But whose fault is it really??? Who should we blame for all of the things that happened??? God, global warming , the disappearing wetlands, the Army Core of Engineers, FEMA, Bush, the stubbornness of the people who did not evacuate. Really who is to blame???

New Orleans is an interesting town. The first time I went I was 5 years old. My dad loved Jazz and he wanted to take me to the birth place of his favorite music. I have listened to Jazz since I was conceived, so it runs in my veins. He took us around the city, and at night my parents would leave me in the hotel with my sister and go listen to Jazz. The second time I went to New Orleans was when I drove cross country for the first time. I went to Bourbon Street and even thought I could really feel the warmth of the city, I quickly noticed it was dirty and poor. The third time I went to New Orleans was 8 months after Katrina when I was driving cross country for the second time. No words can describe what I saw. I have been through many hurricanes and I’m used to the clean up cycle beginning right after the storm passes. Well, 8 months after Katrina and entire areas where untouched. No gas stations, no stores, no traffic lights. House after house and building after building were completely destroyed. It looked like a war zone. Cops were going around assisting other cars that had ran out of gas (remember hardly no gas stations). Only the area around Loyola University looked remotely livable. My cousin who was attending Loyola told me the city was in total disarray still. But there were workers fixing the roof of the Super Dome. You could note people’s faces were sad though. You could see it in their eyes.

I’m going to go off topic here for a bit. In 2005, my dad passed away and three weeks later my mom had a horrible car accident. She was in a comma for two weeks. She almost lost her life, and quoting her ER doctor “she was very lucky”. I was 25 years old, and not really in control of things. I had college debt and some credit card debt of my own. My mom had some debt and after my dad passing, I had to deal with some of his bills. I was making 30k at the time and really honest to God, I didn’t have enough money to cover all the bills. What was worse is that we had some issues with the car insurance and well, they didn’t cover the claim. So it was all on me. My dad was 6 feet under, mom was in the hospital with 14 fractures, organs in danger of failing and a punctured spleen. What was I to do? Well, I turned to the insurance companies and my government. Car insurance said no because of an issue. Thankfully my mom had health insurance through her work, but no disability insurance. Called all the creditors and their responses were “we don’t care, just pay us”. Called the government and they told me they couldn’t help me because we were “home owners”, but the reality was that if someone didn’t help me soon we were quickly going to be living under a bridge. In summary, some very dear family members helped me out and I was able to consolidate the debt. I also got a new job where I was making way more money. I was able to salvage the house. My mom you ask? Well, I was able to negotiate with her work to keep her health insurance active until 3 months after the accident at which time they told me I had to switch over to Cobra. I couldn’t afford it, but at that time my mom was well enough to get on a plane. I shipped her to Colombia immediately. A country where she had not lived in over 16 years but still took her in and was able to give her health insurance so she could get the remainder of her treatments. The moral of the story was that I was alone. Thanks to some instrumental people I was able to make it. I worked my a$# off at that time. But I learned that in this country, if you don’t fend for yourself, you will perish. It is truly a capitalist country. Survival of the fittest. And if you are not fit, you die. And no one will care. No one!

So going back to New Orleans, after the waters receded, what were the “refugees” to do??? Can you believe that? We called our own born American citizens refugees??? Refugees from what or whom??? Well in essence they were refugees. They were like Darfurians who had been left with nothing. If you want to pick at a certain group, let’s pick on the residents of the Ninth Ward. They are portrayed in the media as predominantly African Americans of lower income. Whatever you want to call them, they are working American citizens. These people were home owners that with their heart and sweat had purchased their homes, paid their taxes and insurance premiums. When you lose your house, you call the insurance company and put in a claim. Well, what happens when the insurance company denies your claim? What happens when the government that you have been very diligently been paying your taxes to claims that they have been to your house and checked for “bodies” but when you get there you find your “dead” mother or sister or daughter??? What happens when you do everything by the book, but a levee breaks and your house gets flooded, moved from its foundation and ultimately destroyed? All of your memories, your hard work, your sweat. A few weeks ago, my uncle broke one of my mom’s tea sets (she collects tea sets), she almost had a coronary!!! Why? Because she has worked so hard and for so long to buy each of those tea sets. And in one second, someone came and took that away. Someone who didn’t care. Picture that you have been living on this planet for about 50 or 60 years, you are reaching the end of your life and you have to start from scratch because you have NOTHING!!! That is beyond heart breaking. I still have a pile of bills, I had given up friendships, family, and relationships to maintain my house and my mom. It is a struggle and a sacrifice but at the end is all I have. And that gives me the courage and strength to keep working harder and harder. But if Katrina went by Miami today and blew everything away and then my insurance company told me that they were not going to give me a penny, I think I probably would have 5 coronaries!!!

New Orleans is located in a low level area below sea level. In the outskirts of the city there are some areas that are referred to as the “wetlands”. These wetlands are located naturally there and they function as a barrier to protect the city from the storm surge. But these wetlands have been “disappearing” because strategic personnel have been starving them of their natural habitat. Why you ask? Because that way the waterways that lead into the city and the Mississippi River are not clogged. It also allows for easy transportation of such products such as crude oil. And that takes me to my next point. Are you aware that 25% of US oil comes from the Gulf Coast? Predominately from the coast around Louisiana, yet the state doesn’t get compensated for that. All the capital gains go to the federal government and the big oil companies. It seems our current administration only cares about “oil”. In a way 9/11 was the best thing that happened to Bush. It gave him the perfect excuse to go the Middle East and justify a war. A war that its sole purpose is to secure oil fields for our “oil corporations”. Before graduation, I remember interviewing for an “oil company” and the interviewer asked me what is a sweet girl like me want in an oil field??? He was right. I wouldn’t have stood for that. For any of it. Barbara Bush went to visit the “refugees” at Houston’s Astrodome and she said that they were lucky because since many of the affected victims were poor, they really had it better living in these shelters. If the President’s mama is saying that, no surprise he reacted the way he did. Truthfully, it was not in his best interest to help these people. It was only in his best interest to protect the rigs in the area and secure the oil companies. Once that was done, he let bureaucrats take care of the rest.

In these elections, I continuously see reports on the investment portfolios of the current candidates. I wonder how much profit has Cheney, Bush and cronies made from all of these wars and hurricanes. I’m sure the “kick backs” have been nice…

So, I conclude my rant for now. I am a law abiding citizen and I will continue to pay my taxes. Taxes that instead of going to help fellow American Citizens is only going to fund more wars to secure more “oil” fields and more government kick backs. To the people of New Orleans, you are strong in spirit and you will prevail. The Levees will break again, but you will rebuild. To all my other readers, think about your choices and think about what will happen if you were in a desperate situation. Who will help you? And then in November 2008, choose wisely.

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In my quest for the perfect MBA program, I am doing quite a bit of research. Several B-Schools have monthly magazines where they publish different articles on research conducted at the school and on other current matters.

Columbia BS publishes “Ideas at Work: Connecting Research to the Practice of Business”. It is a great magazine with some interesting articles. I highly recommend it even if you are not that much into business. Today, I came across an article appropriately called “Jerk or wimp: What’s your assertiveness style?” In it, Daniel Ames who led the research on this topic, comments on how your degree of assertiveness can determine your success as a leader. I encourage you to read the entire article, but there is one portion that stroke a chord with me.

Given that assertiveness is partly a personality issue — and therefore difficult to change — what can people do to change their assertiveness style?

I like to think of it more specifically as assertive behavior, and people can change their behavior. We see a lot of our students doing this, and a lot of them end up becoming very eager and committed to doing it. Can you rewrite your personality? There’s a lot of debate in the academic literature about whether that’s possible or not. But we can set that debate aside and focus on assertive behavior. You have a choice about how to start a conflict. You can pound your fists on the table and shout and berate your partner and act like an alpha male, or you can open up and cultivate rapport and work hard to listen and put your partner at ease. Personality has a role in that, but that’s a behavioral choice. Can people become more aware of their behavioral repertoire and make different choices? Absolutely. We see it all the time with our students. We’re not asking people to rewrite their personalities, but we are encouraging them to rethink what behaviors are most appropriate in different situations. And we find with the right awareness and the right kind of coaching they can absolutely do it.

Getting candid feedback is the first step. Often this means some kind of multirater or 360-degree evaluation system, because the people around us won’t tell us to our faces that they think we’re a jerk or they think we’re a wimp. This may be especially true for people who are over-assertive. We found that while most people don’t really know how they’re seen by others in terms of their assertiveness, people who are low on assertiveness tend to be slightly more aware. They know the times that they’ve been pushed around. It might be a very frustrating but common occurrence for them. People who are highly assertive may not always see the consequences of their behavior, often because they see that they get their way. But what they don’t see is that their partner walks out of the room frustrated, angry, disappointed, feeling abused.

One additional reason for this is that highly assertive people may surround themselves with a handful of colleagues who are kind of like them. And so they’re around people whose behavior looks a lot like theirs, and they believe that this is the way that things should get done. Once they leave that environment and engage other people, they don’t realize the consequences of their behavior and how it’s affecting other people’s perceptions of them. I don’t think anyone has as their goal that they want to alienate and frustrate other people. Most people don’t want to be seen as a jerk, but they don’t realize that their behavior is causing other people to have these perceptions of them. If they can see what their behavior is doing to others, then they understand this. And then it becomes natural for them to try to recalibrate their behavior.

The second step is to think about the costs and benefits of your style. If you’re a very assertive person, think about what that allows you to do, and think about how that limits you. If you’re not very assertive at all, again, think about the costs and benefits. The immediate imperative is not that you must change or that everyone should seek some middle level of assertiveness. People should first be more aware of how their assertiveness is seen by those around them and think about what that affords them and what that prevents them from doing.

One response is not to change one’s personality but to think about reaching out to others who can complement your own style. A real wimp might team up with a hard-charging agent or representative when heading into a negotiation with a tough adversary. If your problem is that you’re overly aggressive or overly competitive, if you need to be in a situation that calls for tenderness or empathy, bring in somebody who has some of those skills to work with you on cultivating trust in a difficult situation. So there are ways to work around this without having to rewrite yourself. But we find that a lot of the managers and students we work with, when they hear this feedback, they want to change. They don’t want to change into a different person, but they want to be strategic about the repertoire of behaviors that they can bring to bear in a conflict or in interpersonal exchanges.”

In my life, I have found many times that I have an issue with “assertiveness”. I’m what you describe as a type-A personality. I consider myself to be driven, intelligent and just a go-getter. I like to resolve problems and I like to feel accomplished. Well, when it comes to work this could be a challenge when you are partnered up with some type-B personalities that are a bit more relaxed. You want to get the work done, and you want to do a good job at it, but you don’t want to be a jerk about it to your team. What to do if they don’t comply or they don’t want to do something??? It is a struggle. How you are viewed is almost as important as how productive you are. But at the same time how the above paragraph states, there needs to be a balance. It is a behavior and all behaviors could be learned and adapted.

In conclusion, I have been trying to “adapt” my behaviors and really scale my assertiveness to the appropriate levels depending on the situation. I’m experimenting with this at work and also at home. I’m working on my listening skills as well. I asked one of my assistants in my last job to describe my leadership style (in all honesty since it was my last day)? She said that I was tough but at the same time fair. She went on to say that she liked working with me because she knew her point of view could be heard and felt that she was given a fair chance. Above all, she said she learned a lot. I don’t know how honest she was, but I am trying to be a better leader. I do confess that sometimes in the face of authority, I do not feel assertive enough. So those are all points that I need to work on, but what about you? Have you experienced this in your life? How assertive are you? Are you a wimp or a jerk?

In remembrance of a great footballer, the following story is courtesy of BBC Sport News. It just goes to show that the only guarantee in life is death…this is a sad day indeed…

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Spain international Antonio Puerta has died after suffering a heart attack in his club side Sevilla’s 4-1 win against Getafe on Saturday.

Defender Puerta, 22, collapsed in the first-half and medics prevented him from swallowing his tongue.

But he collapsed again after going off and was given cardiac resuscitation before being taken to hospital.

He was placed in intensive care and doctors said on Tuesday his condition had deteriorated before his death.

Puerta collapsed after jogging back towards his own goal 35 minutes into the opening league game of the season at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday.

Team mates and medical staff rushed to his side and were seen preventing him from swallowing his tongue as he lost consciousness.

He was able to walk from the pitch but doctors said that he collapsed again in the changing rooms and had to be given cardiac resuscitation before being taken to the Virgen del Rocio hospital.

Sevilla were due to play AEK Athens in the second leg of a third round Champions League qualifier on Tuesday but the match has been postponed until Monday 3 September.

As a consequence, the league match against Osasuna that was scheduled for next Monday has been postponed.

There will also be a minute’s silence in tribute of Puerta before every La Liga match next weekend.

Déjame liberarme de ti

Déjame ser mí

Déjame de enredarme

Déjame ser…

Pues este deseo me tiene atrapada

Pues atrapada en el pasado

Quiero ser yo

Quiero ser libre

Quiero ser sola

Quiero estar sin ataduras

Pero me atas siempre

Pero este deseo no me deja ser

O será el miedo???

So y’all know by now that I’m studying for the GMAT…hence, I will not have time to write long posts. To keep you entertained I will be posting random little quotes that I just hear on a day to day basis…

Today’s quote…

“Running or moving away will only make you avoid yourself”

Hmmm…after touring the country, don’t I know that is true…

On other news…I watched this past weekend some of the episodes from the Johnny Cash Show. It was amazing. In half an hour I saw Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Elvis, a really young Eric Clapton, Jerry Lee Lewis and some others play…great TV…

K, back to GMAT

I heard something to day that I think is true…

“Love only matters to you. It is your actions that matter to the people you love and who love you. So it is simple. Just do whatever it takes.”

In my quest for procrastination for the GMAT, I’m going to tell you a little bit about SambaDa and a bit about Rodrigo y Gabriela…they are my two new finds for the week…

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SambaDa…

I discovered SambaDa a while ago. They are an Afro-Funk-Brazilian band residing in Los Angeles and I consider them to be one of the hottest things out there. Regardless of what you like you become captivated by the mixture of samba, capoeira music, hip hop, reggae and funk. They get your blood boiling and dancing in about 1.5 seconds. They are vibrant and bring a unique Californian and Brasilian taste to the table. I highly recommend them.

This Friday SambaDa will be playing at one of my favorite places Temple Bar in Santa Monica, CA…if you are nearby…should definitely check them out

This Friday
August 24th 2007
THE TEMPLE BAR – SANTA MONICA, CA
An evening of Brazilian music of RIO and BAHIA Brazil!!
1026 Wilshire Blvd. $12, 21+, 9pm doors.
http://www.myspace.com/sambada

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Rodrigo y Gabriela…

Well, some try to keep up with the Joneses and I try to keep up with the MTV generation. True confession since I arrived in the US (1989) I have never stopped watching MTV. That does not make me dumb either (for all of the judgmental minds out there).

This week MTV’s artist of the week is Rodrigo y Gabriela. MTV describes them as “acoustic guitar geniuses” and they are. These “metal” heads from Mexico extenuate a command over the acoustic guitar that is hardly heard anymore. They’re influenced by Metallica, Megadeth just to name a few, yet their style is a mix between flamenco, rock, and Mexican rhythms. All in all, it is just a delightful mixture of flavors that stimulates any ear. They are currently on their US tour and will soon go to Europe as well.

I suggest you check them out at http://www.myspace.com/rodrigoygabriela.
They have concert info, some songs and even an acoustic cover of stairway to heaven.

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