Snapshots From Hell: The Making Of An MBA

Category: Books
Genre: Nonfiction
Author: Peter Robinson
Snapshots From Hell: The Making Of An MBA
Peter Robinson
Warner Books, Inc. . 286 pp.
This book is a personal account by Peter Robinson, a former Reagan 
speech-writer who left his job at the Whitehouse to pursue what many 
consider as a ticket to a six-figure salary and the inside track to 
wealth and power–an MBA. 

Being a poet-at the Stanford Business School, poets 
are students with very little quantitative or business backgrounds such as 
writers, historians, and philosophy majors-Robinson finds business 
school both fascinating and frightening. While some of his classmates, 
especially those who were former financial analysts and management consultants (non-poets in other words,) easily managed the quantitative subjects such as QA and Finance, Robinson struggled through much of the first year. 

During his stay at Stanford, he encounters different “characters”; from 
Kemal, the twenty-something Lebanese professor of QA, to Connor, his 
insecure and distraught fellow poet, to John, the hotshot Finance ace 
he aptly calls, “Mr. Perfect.” Soon, he begins to doubt his ability to 
survive at Stanford and even asks himself whether going to B-School was a right 
choice after all. Along the way, he takes a long look at Stanford, an 
institution with a long tradition of excellence, and discovers for 
himself the disconcerting internal issues that many MBA schools face.

While obviously written for people who are still contemplating the 
business school proposition, the book will be nevertheless be appreciated by 
present students and those who have actually gone through the arduous two-year journey Robinson describes as hell.

I was amused by the numerous parallelisms between the MBA experience Robinson describes and the one I experienced. Robinson writes about struggling through a QA class on decision trees, trying to apply the Expectancy Theory of Motivation to a case, gruelling Finance exams, and endless cold-calls. I personally enjoyed his account of his group’s presentation of the Southwest Airlines case, a case our first year class discussed as well.

Robinson’s writing is clear and entertaining. One of the best things I 
liked about the book is the way Robinson describes the rigor MBA 
students go through in the first year with such vividness, and more importantly, 
humor. Consider the following excerpt:

“For more than an hour I seized up, unable to think or to write. Not 
until there were fewer than twenty minutes left did I succeed in forcing 
myself to begin working. I took the single piece of paper that the answer 
sheet provided for this question, filled it with a portion of my tree, then 
ripped a second sheet from my notebook in order to continue drawing 
decision nodes, event nodes, and branches. I soon filled third and 
fourth sheets, and I covered a fifth sheet with instructions to Professor 
Kemal for taping the first four sheets as though they were pieces of a 
puzzle. When the exam ended, my decision tree, still incomplete, contained more than sixty branches. Since I had not even begun to calculate the 
optimal strategy, I scribbled a guess: “Wiley should go to Barn 1, 
then to Barn 3. If he finds the horse, he should shoot it. If he does not, 
he should shoot himself.”

The only thing I didn’t like about the book is that it focuses too much 
on the harrowing part of business school and could lead some readers, 
especially those who have no plans to pursue an MBA, to miss the whole 
picture of what going through such a program is really like. My personal 
opinion is that academic rigor is just one factor that contributes to the 
development of an MBA graduate. The opportunities for interaction with 
a diverse mix of ambitious individuals is, in many respects, just as 
important. Apart from this minor flaw, the book makes very good 
reading, especially if one wants to find out what the Stanford MBA is like and 
compare it with the MBA program one is presently taking. 

70-200mm f2.8 VR vs 85mm f1.4

The Nikor 70-200mm f/2.8G AFS VR has been reviewed on numerous occasions by professional photographers and enthusiasts alike, and the overall consensus is that it is one of the best lenses in Nikon’s lens lineup, regardless of category. Pundits hail its sharpness, focusing speed, bokeh, and build construction among its biggest strengths.

Meanwhile, the Nikor 85mm f/1.4 is Nikon’s fastest telephoto, praised for its exceptional bokeh and low-light capability.

Both lenses occupy the apex in their respective focal ranges so I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison based on a very limited scope. The purpose of the comparison is not to determine which lens is better, as that would not make sense since they are meant for different uses, but rather, to find out which lens is sharper and provides better color and contrast at the 85mm focal range. The traditional view is that prime lenses are better than zoom lenses at a specific focal length, but the 70-200mm VR has, at least on studio-based MTF curve tests, generated results that are simply off-the-charts.

I’m not geared to do any scientific lens evaluation and frankly, I don’t have any interest to do so. Furthermore, this comparison will focus exclusively on image quality and ignores other lens characteristics such as autofocus speed and accuracy, build quality, and handling. I will just leave it to the site visitors to come to their own conclusions based on how they see the output.

Test setup: handheld, f/5.6, 70-200mm VR on, auto-tone curve in lightroom

Camera: D70s

Test Results:

The subject of the test is a stop sign about 50 meters from my balcony. It was about half an hour from sunset and was a good time to test the VR feature of the 70-200mm.


70-200mm Test 1 Stop Sign


85mm Test 1 Stop Sign-6550


The two lenses are very similar in terms of sharpness but the 70-200mm seems to achieve better color rendition. White balance was kept constant and the gap between the two shots was a matter of seconds so the setting sun could not have been a factor.