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

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 4)

Vonage live support

Hm, let’s see how this works, after 25 minutes waiting for a live person:

9:13pm Vonage tech support answers, guys pokes around and wonders if my cell phone picks up its own voice mail, well, duh! but that’s not my problem, my problem’s why doesn’t vonage’s voice mail answer..

9:16pm he’s calling me to see how this thingy works, i’m hold with horrible rock muzak that’s all high tones and no bass (argh)

9:18pm call waiting is beeping…that’s him calling to test it…more annoying than bad rock muzak? bad rock muzak with call waiting beeps every 2 sec.

9:19pm yep, my cell phone rings, the forward’s still on, no vonage voicemail,

9:22pm wait a minute, I get a vmail notification from vonage. it must work then. He explains the way it really works: call forwarding happens first, if no answer after 50 secs, then forwards to my cell, and if no answer for 10 secs, it sends to vonage voicemail. Aha! That’s it, the timings are in sequence and not parallel like I thought, because this is how the settings are shown on

Is set to ring for 50 seconds before being forwarded to 1XXXXXXXXX
If your number is busy or unanswered for 10 seconds, the call will forward to Voicemail.

this is basically a usability issue. Presenting information is critical here. If you can’t display all information in sequence, vonage needs to add a graphical arrow to show the sequential process of the timing of forwarding and voicemail settings. I made suggestion to fix the presentation layer on the webpage

9:25pm finally resolved issue, agrees to submit suggestion

9:25pm explained the phantom rings issue, he finds it strange

9:27pm on hold while investigates phantom rings issue…

9:30pm he says they shouldn’t occur because of VoIP, but they can occur in analog because of line noise, suggests that because my netgear router is the main firewall it may cause some noise. I find it hard to believe, but it could very well be comcast or others sending random packets to my the voip ports for vonage

9:34pm suggests I reboot my motorola adapter or do a factory reset, I promise to do it later because I’m on the vonage line right now…

9:39pm all done, if phantom rings persist, aliens must think I’m the chosen one, if so, then send email.

not bad for a rare call to vonage. so far I’ve had no complaints from them

Vonage issues (argh)

I’m having issues with my Vonage (had it since Nov 2003, with rare problems). I double- and tripple-checked my settings, but none of my incoming calls goes to the voicemail.

Problem: I’m set to have v/m after 20 secs of rings, and forwarding to my cell after 50 secs if unanswered, just in case or network is down. Still, all calls go to my cell after 50 secs.

Problem: I get occassional rings on my home phone (siemens, cordless gigaset 4000). No phone number, or caller id, just a ring, it lasts for 10 secs, then goes away. If I pick it up, no answer, just dial tone, like nothing happened. I feel like aliens are trying to talk to me, but they haven’t figured out VoIP.

Now, after 27 mins on hold for tech support, finally I get a live person, Yipy!
will keep you posted.

Q4 is underway, 6 weeks to go till graduation

Wow, hard to believe but only a few courses stand between me and my graduation: Pricing Policy with Prof. Raju, Operations and Marketing by Cachon and Hoch, Channel Management, Adv Corp Finance and Dynamic Competition. All classes are turning out to be quite good. I especially like Prof. Raju’s style of cold calling during his lectures. I’m not a huge fan of lectures in business school. They are required in small instances, but I think the case method is far more valuable because it reinforces mental tools that will be most needed after b-school. However, Prof. Raju has a list of students for cold calling each class, plus with a slight humor make his lectures enjoyable and useful. Many lectures at Wharton, sadly, can easily deteriorate due to poor participation from the class or dry presentation style. This one is an exception. Come to think of it Prof. Itay’s Adv Corp Fin is also an exception because so many students are interested in corp finance at Wharton that his lectures are hardly boring and well paced.

Citizenship ceremony awaits!

I’m becoming a US Citizen today. The ceremony should start at around 11am or so. I’m very excited and have been waiting since my November 1, 2004 interview when I passed with flying colors (yea, that was one hard test 😉 What a journey, I came to the US in August 1992 at the urging of my parents and very resistant because I was leaving my girlfriend at the time. But I made the best of it all, survived the 1994 Northridge earthquake in an apartment in Los Angeles and the September 11, 2001 attacks from Jersey City. My entire college education and bulk of work experience has been in the US which is now my new home where I raise my family.

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!

Fall semester finals are almost over

I have 2 finals to go before this Fall semester is over. I had my best classes so far, including strategic implementation, marketing strategy, marketing research, problem solving and design, and new product management. The final case for strategic implementation was due today and our team of 4 did what I’d call an excellent job and submited the case yesterday. This was an outstanding class taught by Prof. Zbaracki, formerly of the University of Chicago. I highly recommend it to any 2nd years or even first years. Hugely important to understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur in an organization or politics and implement a strategy. This is essentially where typical consulting job ends and implementation of your ideas begins.

It is interesting how you can actually do a group project very well and write an excellent paper with 4 people. I used to think this was about your group, but the OPIM class by Prof. Ulrich taught me that this is more about how you structure and break up the problem and the tasks. Writing a good paper require thinking a lot about your ideas, hashing out a plan and then writing and revising a clear argument on paper. The writing depends on the discussion and the argument for the paper and can’t be broken up among participants. Everyone has to be on the same page and with the same ideas before you write your first draft. It is where hand waving, generating ideas and OneNote become very useful. I’ll talk about OneNote in another post, but all I can say is, I haven’t writen a single page of paper this semester. It’s all in OneNote.

It is very typical at Wharton, especially in 1st year classes to meet once or twice and break up a project. Usually, most everyone has a different idea of where you are going. Some even end up shirking their responsibility or not doing much because they are waiting on other to finish. This is very inefficient. However, once you hash out all your ideas, you can easily substitute people within the writing structure. It’s like painting a room: if someone leaves, just hand a brush and paint to the next person to finish the part, but you still need to decide which color you’ll use to paint the room. I know it sounds common sensical, but it’s amazing how often it’s ignored especially at Wharton.

Marketing strategy was another fun class. Prof. Christophe taught an excellent semester. His case selection was very good and the structure of the classes enjoyable. He did go into some very quantitative classes where we had to create market response models using exponential or Adbudg functions to determine sales given spending on advertizing, promotion or other marketing mixes. It was all a piece of cake for me and my team, small thanks to my 7 years as a expert “quant” at Citigroup. However, and this was truly important, Prof. Christophe didn’t dwell too much on the quant work but always highlighted the managerial implications of the modeling exercises. My biggest takeaway from quant modeling has always been to know where it breaks down, not how good it is. Knowing your boundaries can help you in your modeling to avoid becoming an LTCM. While it may have been a turn-off for some, I’d say this class got as close as possible to Technology Marketing as you can get at Wharton. The cases weren’t always about Tech, but we did discuss Lotus, Siebel, Documentum, and Xerox, while cases on Viagra, Telstra/Optus and Schwab had very Tech-heavy implications which coupled with the Tech interest and background from some of the students, myself included, made for a very useful class and after-class discussions. Considering this class went for about 150 pts I’d say this was a total bargain. There’s definitely a herd mentality at Wharton when it comes to bidding on classes and great classes are often available for close to nothing. This fall, I paid less than 1000 pts for all my classes.

Newly processed photos

It’s amazing how long it can take for me to finalize a photo that I have take long time ago and turn it into an image. I finally added a half-dozen photos to my Various… gallery on my website. I’ve been tinkering with these photos for ages. Some were ready long time ago and are sitting printed in my albums, just I never bothered to posted them. The photo of the water taxi in Elliot Bay, Seattle, took me quite a while to edit so it is just right. The quadtone of the moon over fields in Greece was taken in September 2001 while on vacation. I could never decide how to format it and frame it how much contrast was enough. This is really my best edit so far.

Couple of other photos took very little time to edit, for example. The photo of the twin triangular towers in Century City are probably one of the most filmed objects. Back in 1993-1994 while I attended Santa Monica College I used to live few blocks from there. The photo came straight from my Westin Hotel room where I stayed while on a tour of the UCLA Anderson School early last year. It was a lovely LA day in February with strong winds that left an unusally clear day. Only people who’ve been in LA will understand what I mean when you see the mountains behind the buildings — something of a rarity given the typical smog. The depth coupled with the strong shapes and the shadows left a strong impression on me.

The other image that I really like is the sunset over Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty. It was a very cold windy day after snowing. The sun light came out at the end of the day just peeking through the clouds and left a very beautiful light over the harbour and especially on the snow. Finally, the photo of the full moon over Philadelphia was a very lucky shot. Luck is preparedness in the face of opportunity — an often quoted definition by Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape describing the occasions that lead to some of the best photos from photographers. This was just such an occasion when I grabed my equipment and climed the roof of the Locust Point building where I used to live last fall and took this photo. Great timing combined with patience to finally figure out the proper blending for the moon and the cityscape.

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