Vele discusses investing in Macedonia, technology, digital photography, business and international affairs

Month: January 2005

Entrepreneurship and Classes

Wow, I’m excited this weekend. Finally, I’m fulfilling one of my pledges from the Wharton application of 2 years ago to be part of the Wharton Business Plan Competition. Our team entered a business plan summary for Phase II this past Friday and I’m really psyched! The team pulled off a great plan that looks awesome and the business is very promising. We’ll see how this turns out.

Other than that, I’m swamped with 2 cases due for Monday and other extraneous work. Advanced Corporate Finance is turning out to be more work than I bargained for, but I like the realistic nature of the courses. This is what I was hoping. With all the finance in my background (I was a VP at [Salomon] Smith Barney’s Global Quantitative Research Group), you ask why I need a another course? But after all the marketing and management I’ve taken I need one finance refresher just to make sure I distinguish wacc from crack (hint: they are both addictive!)

Advertizing management, quarter course, is finally where I wanted it to be 2 weeks ago. A typical problem at Wharton is that quarter long courses (13 classes, 6 weeks) pack about 3/4 of a Semester worth of material. Profs in these course trow everyting but the kitchen sink, which leaves students rushing from 1 class to another just doing stuff but not really spending time to learn things in depth. My suggestion to profs has always been cut down material in half, pick 2 topics you want everyone to learn well and go in depth. Nobody wins with mile-wide and inch deep materials and bulk packs. This was unfortunately the case from last semster’s New Product Management course.

More new (old) photos on my site

After eyeing several photographs from the past couple of years, I finally updated my portfolio of Various photos. The key with these few photographs has been isolating the elements and muting the color to reach the desired effect. Photography, unlike painting, is an art of substraction. Whereas with painting or sculpting the artist creates something from scratch, continually adding elements to fulfill the vision, photographers with a good eye are trained to remove elements from nature or from the scene in order to bring out their vision from the scene. What’s interesting for me is how I’ve evolved in finalizing the photographs to account for the vision that I had when I took them. Each step of the way, I have improved on a different element or tool: color, framing, contrast, patterns, center of gravity. While some of these new photos are really old, it’s clear to me that I saw something striking but wasn’t sure how to bring it out, both digitally — which refers to the techniques in Adobe Photoshop — and in the context of the scene — what’s the emotion or theme in that particular photo. The main work for my most recent photos has been in removing or reducing the effect of color and details, while bringing out the patterns, contrasts, shapes and dynamics of the scene to the forefront.


How big is Philadelphia really?

There are 4 things certain in Philadelphia: death, taxes, bad drivers, and parking tickets. The bad drivers are self-explanatory and if you don’t believe me, just ask for a car insurance quote. The parking tickets are something else. I don’t know if this is an outsourced operation or not, but you are virtually guaranteed of getting a parking ticket if you violate the meters in Philadelphia even 2 minutes because they have some very dedicated officers trolling the streets and watching the meters, from dusk till dawn. Wow! Don’t mess with the meter, apparently the city knows who pays the bills. But how big is Philly, really?

This is a legitimate question. According to this site, Philadelphia has about 1.5 million people. For compairson, Jersey City has about 200k people, or very close to the population of Iceland. Also, Philadelphia is about 135 sq. mi in area, compared to 13 sq. mi for Jersey City, or about 10 times the size. I’d venture to say that Centry City is about half the size of Jersey City and it’s downtown area, yet it’s probably more densely populated then JC. Also, according to a similar site, the Greater Philadelphia, South NJ Metro area is the 4th largest in the US, next to LA, Chicago and NYC. So, why is Philadelphia acting like it’s smaller than Jersey City?

Basically, Philly Sanitation cleans streets and plows snow about as often as the Eagles win the Super Bowl. The point is, we had a big snowstorm this weekend. It was highly anticipated, 5+ inches of snow expected. Yet, by late Saturday, you could hardly see a snow plow working. From my apartment on 2400 chestnut I can see a lot of the major Center City streets and most were packed with snow even into early Sunday. Philadelphia acts like a big and efficient city when it comes to enforcing parking, but acts like a small town when it comes to plowing snow. Over the past couple of days I saw at best 3 city-owned snow plows working only a few major streets, and doing a so-so job at that as well. Most streets in Center City are still packed with snow and we had school closings today across the board because of snow. What snow? It stopped on Saturday night and hasn’t started since. This, to my dismay, happened last year as well. Makes you think Philly has 3 people who know how and when to plow snow, but they also have other jobs as well, so watching the weather channel or preparing is a low priority.

Jersey City isn’t a model city when it comes to servicing its residents. It endured a long property boom in the 90s after all developers took advantage of the tax abatements (which lead to local coruption) and the empty prime land facing the Hudson River and Manhattan. Streets went from nice and driveable to pot-hole and sink-hole ridden nightmares. And still, I recall vividly how our building and the city was up and running whenever snow came. Trucks went about putting salt, plows were used and most streets were cleaned in a matter of a few days. How’s a city like that with financial problems so much more on the ball when it comes to snow (oh, they are pretty close to Philly on the parking thing) than a big city like Philadelphia. When will Philly learn that it snows (surprise, surprise) here in Winters?

Perhaps, they need to outsource this as well..oh, wait, plowing snow doesn’t bring in revenues, but it may reduce outlays if liability suits from snow-related accidents are to be avoided.
Good luck next winter, I just hope schools re-open tomorrow,

Last semester dilemmas

First week of my final spring semester at Wharton is over. Auction’s are almost done and I hope to have my final set of courses nailed. This was a particular dilemma considerring that a lot of good electives this semester are slotted for the precious 12pm-4:30pm slots. Almost too many of them. I guess profs decided to sleep late this semester and opted for later slots which creates a scheduling and thus auction nightmare. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get two very good courses that I really wanted to have: Entrepreneurship through acquisition and Negotiations. The first one it thaught M-W 3-6pm, by a great prof who’s also a practitioner. Unfortunately, this clashes with my required marketing courses. The other course is offered in many slots, but the most desirable section by the legendary prof. Diamond on Fridays went out for over 9k points. I missed it a couple of times by a little and then it’s too late because once in, you don’t want to sell, especially if you are a 2nd year with over 10k points left and no more semesters.

That was the other problem this semester. For some reason, speculation, cheap courses or luck, many, many 2nd year students ended up with well over 10k points. Some even bid 35k on a course. This is only possible if you have that many points!!! But what’s the point, we’ll be done in May and out of here. Too bad you can’t transfer those points to some 1st years for $$$. That would make a nice contribution to our burgeoning student loans whose debt/gdp (income) ratio is starting to rival a number of 3rd world countries.

So, come next week I have to drop one of two OPIM (operations, that is) classes that I don’t like.

On the bright side, the Wharton Tech Conference is going super smooth! I had an exec and panel meeting this week and was impressed at how well this conference is coming together. We only need about 10 panelists and a the logistics are coming together nicely with strong media coverage. Awesome, I’m very excited about this.

On a potentially interesting side, I decided to run PR for over the next few months during what’s looking out to be a critical stage in the business. The Daily Pennsylvanian wrote an article on Terrapass this past Wed and we are expecting greater coverage over the next few weeks. This is going to be very exciting.
Stay tuned!

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