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Vancouver May 27, 2006

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After the chaotic experience in the DFW airport, we finally got on the flight and arrived safely at Vancouver Thur. night.  The rental car company couldn't find us a compact car, so we got a Crysler convertible instead with the same price.  It's the first time ever I've driven a convertible.  It's quite cool.

Friday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel and left for Stanly Park, the world's largest city park, in North Vancouver.  It was raining in the beginning, then the rain stopped.  We drove around with our top down for the rest of the day.  The park is full of trees and it's so nice to breath with the smell of forest.  Spent a couple of hours in the park and walked around a little bite.  Went to a Korean restaurant for lunch.  Gone down to the old-fashion street, sunset beach, canada place, gastown, and chinatown for the rest of the day.  It's good to have both forest and beach in an accessible distance in the city.  I think that's why people want to retire up here.

When we toured around the chinatown, we even found a little night market going on.  What a pleasant surprise.  However, the surprise was cut short due to the rain.  We headed back to the hotel and spent the rest of the night in hotel Jacuzzi and sauna..

I carried my Game Theory book with me all day long and didn't even read any single page of it… Felt kind of guilty… 

To-Go Ideation May 25, 2006

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Lisa invited me to an off-site meeting about To-Go Ideation today.  It's the first ideation meeting I've ever been.  I've learned in the textbook that any new product innovation starts with ideas generation.  However, I've never experience the process of how new ideas are generated.  Today, I finally did.

The supplier we hire brought us a lot of fun toys and 6 customers whose specialties are idea generation.  They are trained to generate new ideas for different products and services of different companies.  It's amazing how many new ideas they generate in one single day.  It's an all day long process with very few breaks.  We have to work with these customers to generate ideas regarding to to-go service, food, menu, packaging, alcohol, multi-brand, hit and run, occasion themes and all sorts of topics.  It's so fast pace and the moderator just works us until we are dried out with any ideas.  Everyone just threw things out there without worrying about anything.  There is no "yes, but."  It's all good.

Mother’s Day May 14, 2006

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Chi called on mother's day morning.  She said SungSung and Didi order a cake and make a mother's day card for her.  SungSung used her own money to order the cake a week ago and asked Didi to covered Chi's eyes in the morning.  Didi was like "mom, you have to close your eyes so you don't see the cake."  Completely let the secret out right there.  Chi blowed the candles and read the card.  SungSung wrote to Chi "Mom, thanks for taking care of us.  We will try to help you out with housework and behave in the future."  So sweet…

Jen was describing the stories of the kids last night.  They are so much fun…  Makes me wonder how much I have missed out in their life…  It's such a shame that I can't grow up with them…    

Atlanta day2 & day3 May 12, 2006

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The first group of OTB turned out to be productive.  Got a lot of information about personalities of OTB.  The second group was just completely dead.  A couple of participants were just standing there with armed cross and not able to say much about their experience with OTB.

The first group of RMG was actually good, but can't really get a read on the RMG personalities.  The group can't actually give deeper dive on the service components.  We had a discussion before the the second group.  Mark actually probed even harder on the second group so we get more in-depth information on RMG personalities. 

I will say 5 out of the 6 groups are sucessful.  The only bad one is probably due to the bad recruiting. 

It's a very different experience for a researcher.  As a quantitive researcher, never been a big believer in qualitative research in the past.  You can't generalized the data you collect from qualitative data.

However, getting face to face of your customers and listen to what they feel about your restaurant really puts a different perspective for me.  You might not be able to run frequencies or do significant testing on the data.  But focus groups do give researchers exploratory information about the underlying components that customers are really looking for.  It's not just about getting it right on the food and service.  It's the underlying feeling and emotional components that you provide when you are getting your food and service right.  Those underlying components are never going to show up on the quantitative data. 

Who would know that Margarita actually creates a fun and up-beat atmosphere and makes "my wife somewhat more attractive" and cleanliess of restroom >> cleanliness of restaurant >> safety and security of food >> a reflection of how management care about their customers.

It really broadens my thinking on what customers are really looking for when dining out.

Had a couple of drinks with Mark and Rich after the final group.  Got to head back to Dallas tomorrow.  Time to go to bed.  Good night Atlanta.   

Atlanta Day 1 May 10, 2006

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It's really not a good idea to fly early in the morning.  Get up before 5:00am.  Drive myself to the airport.  Pass the park and fly exit.  Went to the airport remote parking.  Hopped on to the wrong shuttle bus that goes to terminal A, B, D, E rather then C.  Got out of the terminal E (after 30 mins touring the airport).  Took the terminal link bus to terminal C.  Arrived the counter at 6:30am and of course the flight was gone already.  Had to catch the next flight.  Took the skyline train to the correct gate.  Finally, got to the right gate for boarding after the airport tours.  Lesson #1:  just park at the terminal next time when late.  It's $16 per day, but might get you on the right gate.  Lesson #2:  make sure the shuttle bus goes where you want to go before you hop on.  Lesson #3:  try to get up earlier when you have to drive yourself to the airport. Well, at least I have my first experience with terminal link bus and skyline train in one day….   Arrived around noon at Atlanta.  Of course, I can't make it to the 1:00pm meeting.  Mark went to the meeting without me.  Got on the North Spring Marta train in Atlanta and exited the Medical Center Station.  Called for the hotel shuttle bus.  Finally arrived at the hotel at 1:00pm. Can't believe I screwed up so bad on the first day. Met Rich at 4:00pm to go over the process of focus group.  Went to the facilities for the groups.  The group facility is actually fun.  It was three rooms connected.  One room with tables and chairs for about 10 persons, with a glass wall.  Behind the glass is another room where observers observing the focus groups.  There is another game room connecting to it with all the fun stuffs where observers watching the groups on the recorded TV.  The room has all kinds of fun stuffs (food, drinks, chess, massage chair, and nice couch).  I guess researchers are drinking beers and watching the groups like watching a sport's game behind the glass.  Since I am the only person behind the glass, I have to take detailed notes during the process.  Intead of drinking a couple of beers and enjoying the groups,  I was taking notes like nonstop…  Hopefully, I will have much more fun with day2 and day3 groups… 

Asian Festival May 7, 2006

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There was an Asian Festival in Fair Park this Sat.  Went with Vic on Sat afternoon.  Vic kept complaining about no India in the Asian Festival.  There were no India food, no India crowd, and no India performance in the Festival.  Well, at least we saw the India signs in two booths.  I didn't even see any Taiwan sign anywhere at all.  It's like we are non-existence. 

We both grabbed some Tai food and sat down for some performance.  We saw some kids dances, dances from some teenager girls, martial arts performance.  I enjoyed it a lot.  Very impressed with the martial arts performance.  At a later time, we started to see some india coming to the festival.  I told Vic the Asian Festival is going to become the India Festival after 4:00pm. 

Then, all of the sudden, the rain started to pouring in.  I guess the India Festival was ruined.  We had to ran back to our car with this pouring rain.  We got soaking wet.

We then decided to go visit the Science Place museum and watch the 3D movie called "The Elephant Kingdom."  The museum is like a kindergarden playground.  All kids…  We felt so misplaced.

The elephant movie is interesting.  I did learn some stuffs new about elephants.  The problem is that the theater is like a freezer.  It's like freaking freezing.  I though I was going to become an ice cube.

Such an adventurous Saturday…        

PHD boys May 7, 2006

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Are all the PHD boys so different or am I just overreacting again?

Friday night, I got out of work and went to school to do my routine email checking.  Walked down the hallway, there are about 4-5 PHD students chatting, all boys.  I said hi to everyone and asked them if there is a party going on here.  They just said hi or nodded their head.  Everyone stopped the conversation right there and looked very serious on their face.  I thought I might have interrupted some important conversations.  So I walked into my office and checked my email.  Then, there were some whispers outside the door and the meeting was off.  They all left in none of seconds to go out for dinner.  Vic came back and asked me if I want to go to dinner with them.  I told him I need five minutes.  He left with them. 

It felt really shitty.  Felt like I am such an intruder and are rejected.  I didn't even do anything wrong and got all the cold shoulders for saying hi to everyone.  Completely ruin my Friday evening.

I called Tania and asked if I can stop by to play with Julian.  Julian can sit still now.  Haven't seen the boy for two months and he is much more sturdy now.  I played with Julian for a couple of hours and calmed myself down.  Baby is just the cuttiest thing in the world.  Julian turned a shitty night to a more pleasant night.  I love baby boys, but I hate PHD boys.  Why boys become nasty animals when they grow up?

I got home and hit straight to the bed.     

Atlanta Travel 05/09/06 – 05/12/06 May 5, 2006

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Lisa comes today and wants me to go to New York with her for a meeting with PM groups for the traffic decline analysis.  I told her I can't go with her since I am going to Atlanta for GEM focus groups.  Such a hot week for traveling.  She said maybe next time then. 

All of the sudden, everyone starts sending in their requests before you have to leave for a week.  And of course, they all want it done before you leave town.  Godly, that's why I hate traveling.  Things keep piling up before and after. 

The groups are all scheduled after 6:00pm at night.  That means we are going to work at nights for three nights.  Mark also scheduled tons of meeting with brand tracking suppliers during the datetime.  He also wants me to take the department laptop with me so I have access to work server.  Sounds like it's going to be a stressful trip. 

However, this is the first time I involve in focus groups.  It's a new experience.  I hope those are fun groups and say things that are useful for us.  At least give us some useful and actionable suggestions so we can provide good insights to the new GEM. 

I really hope it's not wasting of my time… Don't really have much of time to waste this summer… 

End of Spring; start of summer… May 3, 2006

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Spring semester is officially over.  Got two B's for the spring semester.  It's expected and no surprises.  At least safe for another term.

Got to squeeze out the second research paper this summer…