January in Berkeley

While most of my classmates are traveling around the world, I decided to return to Berkeley early this year to enjoy everything the Bay Area has to offer before the beginning of my last semester. This picture says it all… But I figured I would leave you with a few more impressions of Berkeley and the many attractions close by. Yesterday, I went down to the Berkeley Marina mostly to just enjoy the sun, but ended up admiring pelicans and almost stepping onto a snake. Today I climbed (or rather walked) Mount Diablo for some exercise and for spectacular views from the top (everything from the Golden Gate Bridge to the snow covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada).



Long time no blog, I guess. But then the first-years have done a good job taking over this blog, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

My third semester is almost over. Three down, one to go. I am currently busy finishing papers for a number of classes. Having just come back from a four-day trip to Copenhagen for the final round of the Vestas Winnovation Case Competition, I am both jetlagged and a little behind on all of the end-of-semester work, but the trip was well worth it.

I had worked on this case competition together with another second-year student and along with another team of Haas students we made it to the final round in Copenhagen where we presented our proposal to Vestas executives. Key buzzwords for our presentation: Renewable energy and China. Even though we did not win, this was a great opportunity to learn more about the energy sector, to network with people from Vestas and other MBA students (15 MBAs made it to the finals along with 15 engineers) and to visit beautiful Copenhagen. And since a UC Berkeley engineering student came out winning the Engineering price we still got to cheer for a fellow Cal student.

Now back to my marketing research paper.



Jetlag is kicking in and it is time for me to go to sleep. But I nevertheless wanted to finish this series of posts with a few words about Tokyo.

We were lucky to be in Tokyo just in time to watch Sakura – the Japanese cherry blossoms and over the course of four days had a number of opportunities to see the cherry blossoms and to hang out in under Sakura trees in addition to the usual Tokyo hangout places: Karaoke joints, arcade halls and endless walks in subway stations.

Of course we hit all the typical sightseeing spots (including Tokyo’s fish market), but I really enjoyed just being in the city and experiencing city life in the world’s largest metropolitan area.

I wanted to use this blog post to once again thank the organizers of this trip – 7 of our fellow Haas students. We all had a blast and I will definitely come back to Japan in the future.

Update: Check out Helen’s blog to read about her experience in Tokio as well.

P.S. In case you wondered, the post titles all refer to song names. I have only picked those songs names because they in some way refer to Japan, so please disregard any other connotations they might or might not have.

  • Turning Japanese was originally recorded by the Vapors in the 80s.
  • Big in Japan is another 80s song, this one by Alphaville.
  • Tokyo is a song written and recorded by the Swedish band Local Boys.(The last link starts the MySpace music player immediately – so don’t open it at work.)


Big in Japan

I arrived back in Berkeley this morning with a slight cold and major sleep deprivation. I had planned to post more during our Japan trip, but all the activities left little time to go on-line.

Osaka had proven to be quite a party spot, but given our jetlag we had decided to skip the large clubs on Saturday night and instead ended up at a concert of a Japanese hardcore band in a small bar and watched about 25 Japanese kids headbanging. We left Osaka on Sunday morning for Kyoto, but not without enjoying Japanese breakfast at a street stall first.

After a short train ride from Osaka to nearby Kyoto – one of the historical cultural centers of Japan – we arrived at our first “real” hotel and met with the rest of the group and the trip organizers, 7 Japanese Haas students. We took the afternoon off to explore our surroundings and visited a few of the mandatory shrines and temples. I was particularly impressed with the “womb” at Kioyomizudera, a small tunnel underneath the temple that we got to explore in complete darkness, clinging to a cord on the side on the path to make sure we wouldn’t just bump into a wall or wander around in circles.

That evening, we had our first group dinner at a local restaurant, enjoyed plenty of Sake, and ended up at a Karaoke bar later.
Given that we spent half the night singing Karaoke, it was tough to get up Monday morning, but we made it to the train station in time and took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, about 90 minutes away from Kyoto, where we visited the famous Itsukushima Shinto shrine and the impressive Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum commemorating the first ever nuclear attack of 1945. After returning to Kyoto we joined the rest of the group for dinner in Kyoto’s geisha district and watched the performance of a Geisha and a Meiko.

Tuesday was reserved for more excursions in Kyoto and I decided to went to a local market before we left for Arima where we stayed at a traditional Japanese hotel, enjoyed a bath in a Japanese Onsen and had a fabulous 15-course Japanese dinner.

Wednesday saw our only “real” business related activity: We visited Toyota’s Tsutsumi plant to observe first-hand some of the priciples we had learned in our operations class just a few weeks earlier, took a brief look at Toyota’s trumpet-playing robot and then met with two Toyota executives for a Q&A session.


Wine and Solar energy, an interesting mix

Today, with a group of 9 students, we went to Napa to visit two wineries that are investing in the solar energy. We first start at Peju, a winery which has already installed three nonths ago some solar panels on one of their roofs to supplement their current power consumption and then try to reduce their bill from PG&E (the local utilities company).
Apart from tasting their interesting wines, we had a nice chat with on the the Peju representative and also with one person from the company which actually did the installation. The discussion was about their commitment to renewable energy, the financial data behind this decision and all consequences for the winery.

After a lunch at a lovely winery owned by the parents of one of our classmate, and the organiser of that trip, we went to Far Niente (I love that name!) Their situation is a bit different as their are currently in the process of installing a large scale installation (500KWh) of solar panels. The discussion went about their commitment to act as leader in the fight of global warming and the process they went through to choose the most interesting option, which result in covering a pond and a piece of land with solar panels. We also had a deepen discussion about the best way to finance such installation, and what are the impacts of taxes and subsidies.

On the whole, this study trip is typical of student led initiatives, bringing us to learn more about specific subjects, while mixing them with interesting visit. I owuld have never think before coming here to learn about solar energy in a winery.

—Raphaël F.