Thursday, December 10, 2009

Vivek Kundra: Applying Information Technology to Government

Vivek Kundra became the Chief Information Officer for Washington, DC earlier this year. He replaced the city's antiquated tech system with a new one that provides information for the city's mayor in real time. This will allow those who run the US capital to more efficiently track how money is spent.

Vivek Kundra was an instrumental member and leader of Obama administration's tech team that set up, which provides information on how stimulus money is being and has been spent. He has also been tasked with numerous information technology projects in the District of Columbia, from middle schools to ensuring that the District of Columbia's various agencies provide information on police response times, crime rates, health care, and other data.

His unique upbringing has made Vivek Kundra very aware of the value of money. Born in India and growing up in Tanzania, he saw the poverty endemic in Third World countries, and perhaps because of this he is more able to find solutions that are economical. He has urged the US federal government to move away from costly solutions that include heavy investment in infrastructure and instead look to less costly ways in which to store data, including outsourcing to private IT providers, consolidating servers, virtualization, cloud computing, and shared services. In any case, it is good to know that there are some government employees like Vivek Kundra that are working hard to save American taxpayers money.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics

The University of Chicago is one of the most prestigious universities in the midwestern United States, so it comes as no surprise that a man like Steve G. Stevanovich would allow his name to be put on to an educational center like the Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics. Steve G. Stevanovich donated $7 million to the University of Chicago to make this center possible. His reasons for doing so can be told best in his own words:
"World financial markets are becoming more and more complex and mathematics is increasingly becoming an invaluable and necessary tool in understanding these markets. The financial mathematics program at the University of Chicago is at the forefront of providing students the necessary tools to filter and decode this complexity. It is an honor for me to be a part of this endeavor and to continue the legacy of excellence at the University of Chicago."

Steve G. Stevanovich received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and went on to found an asset management firm that has offices in North America, Asia, and Europe. The Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics brings together financial professionals and mathematical scholars in order to help solve the problems facing the financial industry. Looking at what has happened in the past few years to this industry, this is indeed the time for the Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics to make its mark on the world.

Sak Narwal Can Now Play the Blues

Harmonicas are a big part of American folk music, and Sak Narwal has developed an affinity for this instrument, known also as a blues harp, french harp, mouth harp, and mouth organ. Sak Narwal discovered the harmonica while on a business trip to Trossingen, Germany, where Hohner harmonicas are made. While attending a harmonica competition there, he decided to learn how to play it.

As a successful entrepreneur, Sak Narwal worked hard to become successful, and he also put this same spirit into learning the mouth organ. Considering all his successful business endeavors, one would not think he would be able to master an instrument that has been linked so essentially to the blues. Yet, as with his business endeavors, he was able to play songs within a week of taking lessons. That in itself is an accomplishment of note!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Short Introduction to Deven Parekh

What do Insight Venture Partners - a multi-billion dollar venture capital firm that specializes in software and businesses that utilize the Internet - and Publicor - a non-profit organization that works with disaffected youth - have in common? One of the managing directors of Insight Venture Partners, Deven Parekh, also sits on the board for Publicor.

Deven Parekh graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School with a Bachelor of Science in Economics. He worked at The Blackstone Group, where he advised on acquisitions and mergers as well as participating in principal activitivies. Prior to working for Insight Venture Partners, he worked as a principal at the New York merchant banking firm Berenson Minella & Company.

The Aspen Institute also honored Deven Parekh as a Henry Crown Fellow. The Henry Crown Fellowship fosters leadership based on values. The fellowship was started to commemorate the late industrialist Henry Crown, who espoused industriousness and philanthropy throughout his own life as well as a strong commitment to moral principles and honesty.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Carl Sgro - Internet Marketer

Catching customers is a lot like catching bass. Carl Sgro has developed a strategy along with a team of experts to help companies harness the marketing power of the Internet. Sgro's company helps develop marketing plans for businesses by managing their Internet presence, utilizing time honored sales techniques and good old fashioned marketing along with types of advertising that have just come into use within the last couple decades, such as search engine optimization and search engine marketing.

This includes pay per click advertising, algorithmic marketing, and targeting topic pages. These three techniques are the key to successful Internet marketing. We have all seen ads on sites that will click you through to a business home page, where customers can then buy products or services offered by the customer. The algorithms which rank websites are also important elements of any marketing strategy, as the higher ranked sites on search engines are the ones to which customers invariably go first. Topic pages offer a way in which to communicate with customers by directing potential customers towards a specific product or service.

Though other companies claim to be able to bring in customers easily and with minimal expense, according to Carl Sgro one should not believe this hype. I know from personal experience that Carl Sgro is right about this. New customers are hard to come by, and it is much easier to hold on to the customers that you aleady have. It is much more difficult to gain a new customer than to keep an old one and in order to develop a new customer it costs many times what it would cost to retain an old customer.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gina Penzarella: Dressing Others for Success

I came across Gina Penzarella, who lives in the LeHigh Valley that cuts a swathe through northeastern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey. I lived in New Jersey for a year, where I spent a year at Trenton State College in Trenton. I got a chance to travel around the area a bit, and we camped in the mountains above the Lehigh Valley in northern New Jersey.

Gina Penzarella has an entrepreneurial spirit. I saw that right away. She has a boutique dress shop in Easton, PA which right across the Delaware River from New Jersey. She offers personal service and an inventory reminiscent of New York City, from where she comes, for all manner of special occasions, from weddings to proms. One thing I found particularly interesting is that she will only sell one dress per high school, so that no one at a school's prom will be wearing the same style of dress. That in itself I found to be a very unique approach to customer service.

Besides the dresses, Gina Penzarella is also quite the gardener, and I found a blog written by her on the topic. I would wager too that she would get along with both my mother in law and wife, who are both aficionados of preserving plant and animal life.

Amos Tamam: An Immigrant's Success Story

It interests me how people like Amos Tamam can become such successes through hard work, innovation, and diligence. I explained in an earlier post about how he developed a system so that cabbies in New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere could accept credit cards rather than cash. Cash has always made cab drivers targets for robbers, and I wonder how many people's lives this simple innovation saved.

Through his innovations that allowed taxi riders to pay through a wireless credit card system, Amos Tamam started Taxitronic Inc. Now, this is not the only innovation involving taxis that he helped develop. He also helped to integrate global positioning systems and other state of the art equipment into taxis to make passengers more comfortable and safer. He is now CEO and president of Verifone Transportation Systems, Inc. and is a leading the way in marketing cutting edge technology for taxi passengers.

His success as an immigrant coming from Israel to New York City reminds me of the rags to riches stories that were written by Horatio Alger in the latter part of the 19th century. Amos Tamam is indeed riding a wave of success.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Harley Swiftdeer Reagan & the Path of Beauty

I keep finding out more about Harley Swiftdeer Reagan that I like. Anyone who has dedicated themselves to a path of spirituality that seeks to "fight against ignorance, slavery, bigotry, racism, war, disease, dogma and superstition to seed future generations with beauty, power, knowledge and freedom" impresses me. But I think I have got a bit ahead of myself.

Harley Swiftdeer Reagan began the Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society in 1986, and the society has taken up the mantle to encourage humans to look at the Earth and each other in a different light. Too often in modern society we find that people are so engrossed in their lives that they do not truly live, and in fact too often destroy far more than they create. Living without acknowledging how our actions affect others is not a life worth living, in my humble opinion. Sometimes, our actions can even negatively affect our children and their children.

I believe Harley Swiftdeer Reagan deserves kudos for his efforts to teach a spirituality that will awaken the people of this planet before it is too late. We must respect our world, and all the people in it. There are numerous traditions, including those that come out of the Native North American tribes, that teach people a better way to live.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Harley Swiftdeer Reagan on the Strength of Women

My wife would certainly agree with what Harley Swiftdeer Reagan says about women. They definitely are not weak. Emotional, certainly. Weak, never. And yes, I concur with his belief that we all have elements of male and female in us.

Now, I do not believe Harley Swiftdeer Reagan means this in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. There is a part of the human spirit that seeks to nurture, which can be deemed as "female", and there is a part of the human spirit which seeks to control, which can then be deemed as "male" and which Swiftdeer calls "tyrant". Western feminism has essentially tried to turn women's roles in society to be the same as men (aka the tyrant), something that is implicitly wrong. While there have been women who have taken on men's traditional roles of leadership, and have arguably done well in these roles, for the most part there are certain innate personal traits within us all that can be seen as either male or female. Whether a person is male or female physically does not mean that one is male or female spiritually.

Western culture puts people outside the realm of nature, and we are finding that as a "modern" society we are actually causing serious harm to our planet. It is becoming ever clearer that the energy we pull from the earth is contributing to global warming and that our "modern" way of life is unsustainable. The teachings of Native American tribes to respect the "female" Mother Earth, as Harley Swiftdeer Reagan also refers to the planet on which we live, is becoming ever more important. After all, we only have one planet...

Sak Narwal: a Fisherman with a Conscience

I came across Sak Narwal when doing research online about various people who are pressing for greater use of green technology in the US economy. Apparently, his thinking about the green economy is similar to my own. I noted in one of my blog posts, titled The Way Forward, for The Creating Wealth Blog that when Barack Obama became president we were going to see increasing investment in green technology. I found that Narwal supports recycling efforts, reduction of toxic emissions, fuel cell technology, and other development of clean technologies.

Yet that is not all I learned about Sak Narwal. Apparently, he is also quite the fisherman. Now, having done a bit of research on overfishing and how it is negatively affecting fish stocks around the world, this may have dampened my positive feelings towards the man. Needless to say, it did not.

While I support subsistence fishing as a means for survival and understand the importance of seafood as a primary source of protein for a large proportion of the world's population, I generally do not approve of hunting for sport, which would include fishing. Perhaps it is because of the horror stories I hear about canned hunting of wild game in Africa. Though Sak Narwal is a sports fisherman, he is also a "catch and release" fisherman, meaning that the fish he catches will survive to spawn another day. That said, Mr. Narwal is genuinely both a green businessman and a green fisherman.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Harley Swiftdeer Reagan: The Spiritual Teachings of a Medicine Man

I came across an old article from the 1980s about Harley Swiftdeer Reagan. In it, he explains about his place as a medicine man, which combines a number of roles that include teacher and spiritual leader. I know a bit about Native American traditions, as I began studying the history of the native peoples of North American back in my time at university. I have never lost interest in Native American history or culture.

I find it interesting that Harley Swiftdeer Reagan apprenticed to the former president of the Navajo Native American Church and now espouses a unique spiritual culture. The Navajo, the common name known for the Diné, are the second largest tribe in North America and occupy an area in the southwestern United States.

As a spiritual teacher, Harley Swiftdeer Reagan is also a spiritual warrior and an accomplished martial artist. As such, he espouses the male, which embodies the power of the sun, and the female, which embodies the power of the earth.

What Your Money Means, the Book by Frank Hanna

I like this guy, Frank Hanna III. It's not just because he believes in sharing his wealth, either, though I find this ideal very commendable. Rather than an attitude many wealthy people have of "If you've got it, flaunt it" it seems Mr. Hanna is more of the "If you've got it, give it" sort of guy.

I saw an article about Frank Hanna III online at the Reader's Digest website, and respect that he also has a strong faith in God, something my father would definitely find commendable. He's a pastor at St. John's in Hollywood, Minnesota.

Frank Hanna III also has a book out, called "What Your Money Means and How to Use It Well." So he and I are also both authors, though I've yet to publish. He talks in his book about how those who have wealth have a responsibility towards others in society to give of themselves, whether it is money, their talent, or just a person's time. I'm not looking for money here, Frank, but perhaps you could help me find a publisher for my own book, CAT'S WORLD?

Amos Tamam: Taxi Innovator

Living in South Africa, anything someone can do to prevent crime gets my vote. I came across Amos Tamam and found out he was the one who created a system for New York taxi drivers to accept credit cards. This system has probably saved a number of taxi drivers from being robbed, and sounds like something that would go over well here in South Africa. I rarely carry more than the equivalent of US$5 in my pocket, but always have a credit card.

Amos Tamam has led an interesting life. Having trained as an electrical engineer in Israel, you might have thought he was working below his ability when he came to the United States and started servicing taxis in New York City. Instead, he thought of this little innovation that, including making a person able to pay for their cab via credit card, also gives the rider information about weather, sports, as well as local restaurants, nightlife, and even news.

Sounds like Amos Tamam has done well with his life, and I hope he continues to innovate, wherever his career takes him.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

One of the Tribes

I came across the Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society and it took me back to my days of traveling around North America, occasionally dropping by various Rainbow Gatherings around the country. It was a carefree couple of years for me as a roaming spiritual warrior at the turn of the millennium, and my life was very much in tune with the vision of the Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society, which promotes "Beauty, Power, Knowledge and Freedom for all."

I have left that life for now, though it lingers in my memory and will always be a part of me. I try still to remember the way the Spirit guided me on my various paths. Especially I recall the inner voice that led me to a library in Santa Cruz, California, where I met my wife. At times these days I feel as if I have become spiritually adrift, as my life now revolves around caring for the material needs of my family, and especially for my three children. In this material world in which we live, organizations such as the
Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society can offer comfort and direction, much as that of my own spiritual journey.

A Tale of Two "Nigerians"

I wonder if my uncle has ever me Mohammed Babangida. My Uncle Ed lives in Okoja in Cross River State in the south east of the country while Mohammed lives in Niger State in the north, so it is probable they have not met. But you never know...

Mohammed Babangida seems more of a business man, and an important one at that, while my uncle is a missionary dealing with the translation of the Bible into the
Bokyi, Kukele, Mbe, and Yala languages. I know, however, that both of them love African music, with Mohammed being partial to jazz, something that would carry the conversation should they ever meet.

Also, I seriously doubt my uncle has an interest in polo, a passion of Mohammed Babangida, though with my uncle's diminutive physical stature he could have been
a jockey.