Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reflections on Coming of Age in the 1980s

For those of you that don't know, thirty isn't exactly knocking on the door for me--as it is pounding. I wish I could say I was nervous about leaving my twenties, but I would be lying.

I grew up in a marginally bad area of Brooklyn in the 80s. When I was old enough to realize what was going on around me there was rampant crime, extremely high unemployment in the inner city, a terrible recession (because of Reaganomics--and the lack of the trickle), and the dawn of crack.

It's funny that despite the drugs and the crime there was still a community. There were black owned businesses, which seemed to have faded from existence, there were beat cops (back at the time when the coolest jobs were policemen, firemen, lawyers, doctors, and astronauts), and a very strong sense of community. I think the sense of community, which I believe has been loss, was out of necessity. You shared food, money, babysitting responsibilities. You gave up your last dime. You reprimanded kids on your block for misbehaving, and didn't have to deal with the fury of their parents. Crisis actually strengthened the community.

It makes me wonder if "prosperity" pulls it apart. It separates the middle-class from the working poor, the poor, and the affluent. It creates a since of jealousy, instead of giving others a sense of hope. Misery does love company, the same way that getting through miserable experiences usually takes being around people with similar collective experiences.

I am in a completely different place, from a financial standpoint, than when I grew up. As a kid I dreamed of making 48K and being an engineer or an architect (and sometimes a writer. That or a track star. I hoped that I would live past 25, due to the high percentages of black on black crime. I wanted to attend St. Johns or Syracuse University.

I was the small, talkative, observant child, with big dreams. In that since much hasn't changed.

I hope that if I continue to prosper, especially after getting my MBA, that I don't forget about where I came from. I intend to share my experiences, perhaps start some scholarship opportunities, and mentoring programs. It would be nice to know that we can all pull each other up, rather than seeing just a few escape the barrel.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Open Door Policy

I just read a really inspiring New York Times Article: Elite Colleges Open New Door to Low Income Youth

It chronicled a growing acknowledgment that providing opportunities to low income students to enter "selective" programs--which are typically dominated by more affluent individuals--provides excellent opportunities for social mobility for the working poor and poverty stricken.

This isn't the first article that I've read about traditional academic powerhouses, including Ivy League Schools, opening their doors to talented lower income students. However, it struck a bright chord with me because I've just finished reading Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's compelling non-fiction account of 2 Hispanic families in the Bronx during the rise of the drug epidemic during the late 80s and that continued to plague the 90s (Random Family).

The book realistically portrayed how it is to survive on meager incomes, in the worse neighborhoods in the country, with little support and/or guidance. The book was great yet bleak.

So coming off of reading the book, this article is exactly what I needed to read. I needed to feel that some do escape, that some can aspire to the American dream, instead of a life of frustration and poverty.

So reading this article was just what I needed. It really focused on something that I've said to people many times: socioeconomic factors can often be more powerful influences than age, sex, race, or sexual orientation. Seeing doors opened to give these kids the opportunities to pull themselves, and hopefully their families, from the same environments (breaking the cycle), is all that one can ask for.

I suppose this is the new Affirmative Action. I'm sure it will have it's share of critics as well. I hope that individuals like Mr. Jack will make people open their minds and that such programs become common place in this great country.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Chance Encounter

Some times you look for answers and life has a funny way of revealing them to you. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have mild anxiety about starting my graduate program. It's mostly from uncertainty.

Well on my way from work I ran into a guy that was in my shoes a few years ago. Ironically, I inspired him to open up his own business a few years ago. We all went to my coworker and friends wedding in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico a few years ago. He was unhappy at work, as all of his coworkers were fired and he was the lone man left standing. He was making millions of dollars for his company, so they kept an entire office in New Jersey open just for him.

I knew that he'd gone to get his MBA at NYU and that he wasn't making the type of money that his intelligence should've demanded, and that leaving the company would easy his anxiety about getting fired. So we talked during the wedding vacation and I inspired him to leave his job and to start up his own business.

Today I left work frustrated, because I'd stayed late and still hadn't finished what I wanted to do, thanks to a rogue firewall. I had to leave. Well I ran into Mr. Inspiration. He was in a business suit and looked so happy. I told him that I'd got into graduate school. He shook my hand and asked where. I told him Babson and about the great people that I'd have the chance to learn from (true industry juggernauts).

He stops and goes that's the number one program in the country for entrepreneurship. Then I thought to myself you're in the number one program in the country, relax, and take in all that it has to offer.

I eased his anxiety and in turn he eased mine. Talk about pay it forward.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This is an impromptu poem. It's not as much about me be frustrated today, but about me knowing who I am, and not being afraid to express it. It's about me finding the balance between what decision best fits me and what best fits others around me.

Some Days

Some days lifting my head above it all seems impossible,
I do it out of habit, not necessarily out of choice.
Instinct drives me towards greatness,
Insecurity some times towards mediocrity.

Some days opening my eyes seems pointless,
I do it out of habit, not necessarily out of choice.
My body tells me that I'm tired and need more sleep,
My mind tells me you can't afford to lose your job.

Some days listening is not one of my best assets,
I do it out of habit, not necessarily out of choice.
Closing down will only make me more vulnerable,
while taking it all in might lead to suffocation.

Some days opening my mouth is fruitless,
I do it out of habit, not necessarily out of choice.
Some things should be thought and not expressed,
others demand their place.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Higher Education

Let me start by telling those of you that don't know--I will begin my graduate program in the Fall. I'm equally excited about the program as I'm anxious. The anxiety isn't about academic performance, it's just about being back in school for the first time in 7 years. I think that's pretty normal.

It's not the first time that I will have worked and gone to school. I worked full-time during my last year as an undergrad and carried 15 credits per semester. It was draining, yet fulfilling. I got through by telling myself that what was around the corner was worth the blood, the sweat, and the tears. Thankfully, the classes that I took were either in my major or played up to my analytical abilities. I carried a 3.8 average my last semester, I'm sure the semester before was barely lower. I saw the finish line and I didn't allow myself to stumble.

It's funny that my grades were the highest that they were in college when my back was against the wall, the first semester in college (a lot of family drama) and my final semester. I think that my brain had one thing to concentrate on and used school to filter out everything that was going on around me.

All of this is reminding me of a conversation Al and I had about me being a psychotic runner. I told her that even when we did the President's Physical Fitness Challenge in school I had to be first or second. I beat out people that were bigger, faster, and stronger than I was. I did it by staying out front. I never looked back. You were going to catch me, I wasn't going to fade. What I had more than anything was an unbelievable confidence in myself.

I never lost it. I might have had questions at different points along the way, but I've never lost that mentality. I'm going into an MBA program. I'm going to be competing/learning from industry juggernauts. I can't sit in the back. I need to take advantage of every opportunity that the program affords me.

I'm happy that I have such a strong base. I looked at my acceptance pamphlet and see that I can skip the prerequisites, thank you Baruch.

I say this all to say if I expect to be an executive I have to be used to being out front. I think I'm capable and only time will tell if I reach the pinnacle of my potential. I pledge to you today that I will not disappoint. I have no choice. It's up to you to make your dreams come true, unless nepotism is a viable option or some good connections. So it's all on me, success or failure, and that's alright with me.

Wish me well!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Random Thoughts

I'm currently in a bit of pain, just finished the second half of a root canal procedure. I dipped into my stash of prescribed painkillers for the first time. It's not excruciating so I only took one. I'm off the antibiotics now, which is great, so I can drink again, LOL. Not that I completely stopped. A Long Island Iced Tea found it's way into my system on Mother's Day, post-pills, a Gin and Tonic found it's way into my system at Bozenka's party (compliments of KA--who wouldn't let me not drink--only one I had), and I had a wine cooler yesterday. So I guess I can't say I didn't drink, LOL.

Now what's funny is knowing that I wasn't supposed to, made me want to drink more. I don't crave alcohol. I have wine at home if I really wanted to dive in. It was like once I decided that I shouldn't every liquor in the world started sending me evil vibes, just one drink, oh you're not drinking, pussy, LOL.

I'm glad that I won't have to see the dentist again until November. I have a very good dentist, otherwise I would've never let them convince me to partake in some cosmetic dentistry. Lets just say I had minor complication from said dentistry. So I had to make two additional trips this year. I got my toothbrush, but not my damn floss, LOL. I want my floss.

This post is clearly random. Perhaps the codeine and acetaminophen are kicking in! I'm going to put away my laundry and goto sleep, and try to ignore my throbbing post root canal tooth.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What were you thinking?

Okay so I'm basically poor right now until Thursday, pobre a Jueves. You might see some more of my Spanglish erupt over the course of the next few months as I practice for my long awaited trip to Costa Rica, which is the same in Spanish, since it' guessed it--Spanish.

Okay so I'm tight until pay day. I just got through Mother's day, a lot of lent left-over as a result. You have to go all out for mom. I also went out for my friend Bozenka's birthday, where we saw perhaps the most beautiful view in Manhattan, from a bar on the 20th floor (in the Flat Iron District). It faces the Hudson River from one angle and the Empire State Building from the other. So let's say I roughly had about a $240 weekend, a $240 unbudgeted weekend--well mostly unbudgeted.

So I planned to scrimp and save, by bringing food from home to work. Where is my food from today? It's in the refrigerator. Okay let's bring this insane post together. So the plan, as a result of the aforementioned broke state, was to bring in lunch from home. I bought some lunch meat yesterday from the deli. I also bought detergent and fabric softener for my date with the laundromat today. Where did I leave everything? On my floor. When did I realize it? This morning while in the shower. I run out of the shower, grab the bag throw the meat in the fridge after smelling it and then jumped back into the shower.

So my turkey and pastrami are pretty much done. I thought about keeping it until Al told me that bacteria probably started growing on the meat after two hours and that listeria wasn't something to play with.

So I brought in leftovers from last night. I didn't want it. So I transferred four dollars from savings so that I could take out $20 so that I could eat Cuban food. Who does that? Well the food was great, but between that and the antibiotics that I'm on--I look like I've smoked mucho marijuana.

So about savings for Costa Rica, LOL, I'd better get on that. Only two more months and I'm going to need nearly 1 grand for expenses. I have my coin fund, which is probably pretty close to $200, but that's far short of 1K or un mil dolares. Hasta luego, yo estoy mucho cansado (I'm very sleepy!)

Monday, May 14, 2007

On Comedy

I consider myself to be a somewhat funny person, some times downright hilarious when I get on a roll (when people get my somewhat warped sense of humor)--or I've ingested enough alcohol that I feel very little boundaries. I have such respect for good comedians, because I could never stand on a stage and feel the pressure of being funny. Al is pretty damn funny. She used to do improv at her college so she's pretty damn quick. Her father is funny too. We all have very different senses of humor, but I think what we all have in common is that we are all pretty good (and dramatic) storytellers.

I've been travelling the circuit with a couple of amateur comedians, basically lending my support, and even giving my constructive criticism if they ask. So this journey has probably been for the better part of four years. I've been to so many places where you have a $20 fee plus a two drink minimum, and know that you'll usually get some pretty awful comedy. Now that doesn't mean that there aren't some jewels in the rough or some pretty funny ones either. The guarantee is that you'll have some awkward moments and you'll search for the red light hoping that the comedian will be pulled out of their misery.

Well one of my coworkers recently had a pretty encouraging performance. Al went with me. We both thoroughly enjoyed the small venue. The comedians were all reasonably good, the worse being the one that told me I'd love his act before the show.

Masturbation was actually the theme of the night. Everyone pretty much had a pretty awkward yet funny stab at it. The funniest, a comedian named Shane, from Boston, told a story about her mother catching her pleasuring herself with a naked cabbage patch doll, and wrestle with her mother to keep her from pulling down the sheets. What this woman had was presence. She was a bit awkward, but played up to it. You didn't feel like you were listening to a comedy act. It was more like reading a page from her diary. It was unguarded, pure, and hilarious. She let the audience in. What's funnier than self-deprecating humor?

I'm not an expert on comedy, I'm just someone that has seen so many bad acts that I wanted to give a shout-out to what works, instead of bashing what doesn't. I'm looking forward to seeing my coworker rise to his potential. I know he'll get there one day, and what impressed me so much about him is that he's learning what works for him, and nobody can teach you to be funny (no matter how much of your money they take--telling you otherwise).
The Plight of the Disappearing Tenured Faculty Members

I just read an interesting article from our Careers database. I don't know how many of you are faculty members, or are students, or have family or friends that belong in one or more of these groups. I found the information below a bit disturbing:

There are almost as many nontenured full-time faculty members at Boston University as there are tenured professors. The growing percentage of temporary, adjunct, and part-time faculty on American college campuses is of major concern to many in higher education—but none more than concerned college teachers.

In 1975, 36.5 percent of all college teachers held tenure and 20.3 percent were in tenure-track positions (total: 56.8 percent), but these declined by 2003 to 24.1 and 11.0 percent (total 35.1: percent), according to the American Association of University Professors. Of these figures, the most disturbing may be the decline in numbers on the tenure track, historically the source of future academic leadership.

The drop-off in tenured faculty is not limited to second- or third-tier schools striving to save money. Among the institutions with a higher number of nontenured faculty than the national average of 56.8 percent are New York University (71.9 percent), University of Colorado at Boulder (73.3 percent), University of Missouri (59.7 percent), University of Pittsburgh (58.4 percent), and the University of Southern California (59.5 percent). Just a shade better than the national average are Harvard University (56.6 percent), Yale University (50.3 percent), and Brandeis University (50.7 percent). Almost alone is Stanford, where only 8.5 percent of its faculty is outside the tenure system.

The bad news, according to a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, is that accrediting associations seem less and less alarmed by this trend.

This article is interesting to me, because with the ever present demand for students to have higher GPAs and higher standardized test scores combined with rising academic costs, is the wool being pulled over our eyes. Are you paying more for less is the question that I'm posing?

This post should not be seen as a slap in the face to adjuncts or visiting professors. It seems odd to me that the whole reward system, you teach, you prove yourself worthy of being tenured over the course of time, has gone completely out of the window. Wouldn't a university want the best professors available--to produce the best students possible? Or is the university system truly for profit? Has the goal of higher education become to cut costs and to maximize profits? Are students receiving less bang for their buck?

I know that a lot of universities and colleges have graduate assistants teaching courses. I know that many professors work as adjuncts at several schools to make ends meet. I just find this whole trend bizarre. Can the students/should students have a voice concerning this trend? If you demand that I get a 1500 on my SAT or 700 on my GMAT can I demand that the percentage of tenured faculty members not fall below a certain threshold? Of course you can always choose another school, but what it sounds like, based on this article, is there aren't a lot of choices out there.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Notes from the Bronx Zoo

So Al was down for the weekend. She's been wanting to go to the zoo for the longest time. She's into Conservation Biology and I love learning about nature, currently watching Animal Planet (Tasmanian Devils earlier today, Leopards now).

It's the first time that I've been in almost 15 years. The last time that I went I was 15. I was chaperoning a group of toddlers, my first time meeting them too, wow that was an experience. Having to run after toddlers at the Zoo, midday, with no training--just instinct! I did tame the children by the end of the trip, putting them on my shoulders, sharing brown bag lunches with them, and laying the foundation for a great summer job experience.

I digress. So we went to the zoo. First of all it's a hell of a lot more expensive. Adults pay $14 for general admission. Entry to a few of the more exotic houses are additional, as is the price of jumping on the monorails (which is truly the only way you could see the Zoo in one day).

I was excited though. It was a chance to see Allison in her element. It was like going to the zoo with an expert from Animal Planet. We saw the wild dogs, giraffes, my favorites (cheetahs), and hers--the birds. I'm sure she's going to post about it. She has all of the wonderful pictures, as she had a brand new high powered camera to capture the experience. She even has a video of the wild dogs yelping.

The most amazing thing about the zoo was seeing so many different cultures. You saw so many families, each doing their own thing, no fighting, just reveling in the experience.

The best thing for me was not just seeing the animals, I've been to my fair share of zoos. It was to see how good of a job they did educating people about conservation, about the animals and the environments that are at risk, about the efforts of the zoo to protect habitats, about what they actually do with the funds from the different houses that you pay for. You even get to decide where and how your money is spent, when you go through the Congo exhibit.

There was an ecotourism bathroom (which eliminated wasting water--and educated you what you could do to save this precious resource), and just so much there. I asked Allison to take a few pictures of some of the signs. I'll try to get them and add them to the post. In essence they were telling people that where our planet's future stands is up to us.

I loved seeing the children so into nature, so knowledgeable, reading, pointing, some a bit overzealous, but it was so interesting to remember myself at their ages. I just hope that they'll remember, as they get older, all the animals that they saw along with their responsibility to make sure that our future and the future of the animals on our planet will be determined by our actions--and they'll be willing to do their part.

Good night, I have more to learn about leopards, LOL.

P.S. Part of the greatest joy from the experience is me projecting Allison in a similar environment. I'm sure she'll back me up that there's nothing else that she can do that will give her that level of joy, well--cough, LOL. Hardly anything.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I'm not going to go into too much details on this post. Lets just say the brilliant idea that I pitched only to have it sabotaged due to office politics is going to bite that person in the royal arse, LOL.

Nothing better to prove someone wrong than to have more evidence to substantiate the fact that the idea that you posed had so much merit, that it practically unified the un-unifiable.

I will probably be gloating for awhile once the shit really hits the fan. The person will deserve it, because that's what happens when you're more interested in politics than furthering the ambitions of your company.

Pumps fist! Hell Yeah!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tales from BusinessWeek

Hello, all. First of all I'm back at my desk, woohoo. Second I can talk about an interesting article I read in last week's BusinessWeek. I find it interesting that Al is posting about something about business and I'm discussing something about the environment, but I digress.

So I'm not going to pretend that I'm an expert on renewable forms of energy. However, I know that global warming is a reality. I read an article yesterday that said Europe and Africa experienced record temperatures over the course of the last few weeks. People all over the world are starting to realize that environmentalists aren't deluded. The earth's temperatures are the highest that they have been in 350 years.

So the article I read talked about alternatives to fossil fuels: biodiesel, animal fat, and ethanol. It talked about the unfair advantage that corn based ethanol has (subsidy-wise) compared to further alternative energy sources.

Now I've been reading a lot about corn-based ethanol. I know that the price of corn is rising, and meat as well, based on the government backing it as a viable alternative to oil. Another huge issue is Ethanol can't be used in high concentrations in existing pumps and pipelines (huge infrastructure concern)--why isn't anyone talking about this?

From an environmental standpoint, ethanol is a deal with the devil.

From what I understand, correction might be warranted, sugar based ethanol is more efficient than corn-based ethanol ($0.51/gallon subsidy). I know that sugar-based ethanol is widely used in Brazil (thank you Amazing Race). Well the article mentions that corn-based ethanol contains less energy than gasoline (30% less in fact). So you would lose gas mileage. It mentioned that biodiesel ($1/gallon freezes easily, kind of a problem in the winter. Can you imagine a frozen tank in a cold winter, bad idea? It also mentioned that biodiesel can smell rank. Also, neither option has really been proven to offer major advantages to the current global warming issues (Al I expect you to comment on this one--I know when we discussed this article you mentioned the problem would be that we'd still be using a combustion engine. However, both biodiesel and corn-based ethanol have been backed by Congress and some other options are not being given a level playing field (subsidy-wise).

Thanks to years of lobbying by ethanol and biodiesel producers, two fuels get the big breaks. A number of states mandate that ethanol or biodiesel be blended with oil based fuels...the laws also narrowly define biodiesel in terms of a specific process, shutting out innovations and improvements.

This seems ridiculous to me. We should be exploring any viable alternative energy source. One such fuel is generated by animal fat. In this scenario you would use a waste product for fuel, quite intelligent if you ask me. The article mentions that it would be beneficial for farmers that are being hit hard with higher corn prices. Other options include butanol, which can be used in existing pipelines and pumps, and hydrogen (which President Bush--the only compliment that you'll ever see me give him)--earmarked over a billion dollars for--or at least he claimed to have done so in the 2004 election and set a firm timetable for us to switch over from our dependence on gasoline.

It's a global issue, people. The United States needs to play ball internationally if we are going to see any real change. It has it's share of the environmental damage to account for, but it also needs to team with other industrialized nations--hello ratify the Kyoto Protocol--if we are going to have any realistic changes.

Forgive us Mother Earth.