You are currently browsing ninamichael’s articles.

I was embarking on a long plane ride back to New York when I decided to rifle through the random literature available in the pocket in front of my seat whilst the stewardess engaged in the standard mime routine showing what might, but probably won’t, increase your luck in the event of some objectionable, airborne misfortune. As it were, however, luck was on my side just then. British Airways has a fun magazine called Business Life (eat it Delta!) that just so happened to have a story on one of the most weird-yet-innovative ideas I have seen in awhile: trading trash. So much was I intrigued that I decided I would have to dedicate one of this semester’s blog posts to the brilliant entrepreneur of other people’s rubbish: Brooke Farrell.

Farrell has a background in marketing and advertising and was a former waste management consultant in the US for years where she learned the ins and outs of the colossal amount of trash percolating its way into landfills and on unfortunate occasions, other parts of the earth not suitable to handle it. In an interview with Smart Planet, Farrell stated of her experience in the trash industry:

I got a huge exposure to different angles on trash. The real learning there was the scale, the scope of how much stuff is generated both by communities of residents and also by business and industry. There’s just so much more than any of us can imagine. I calculated, based on the latest EPA estimates, that there was enough waste to fill trucks and wrap garbage trucks around the equator 600 times. That’s just what’s generated in the U.S. in one year”.

According to Farrell, only 30% of trash today is sent for recycling, a number she says is unacceptable. This means that the other 70% (usually) goes to landfills – those horrible smelly places where VCRs and cassette players go to die. As distressing as all of this may sound, for Farrell, it presented an opportunity – one that no one had ever thought of before.

In 2009, Farrell quit her job and together with her business partner/brother-in-law Chad Farrell started a company called RecycleMatch. What RecycleMatch does is similar to what eBay does, only it does it with trash. It is essentially “the E-Harmony for trash”, as Chad Farrell has described it – a web 2.0 platform that helps companies to maximize the value of their waste materials and lower disposal costs by matching them with another company who can make use of the waste. To start off, the pair located companies with different kinds of trash that was destined for a landfill and it would pitch those companies to list the trash on their website instead. It wasn’t that difficult; who wouldn’t want to make a few bucks on something they were about to pay a landfill to throw out? After the trash was listed, they set out to find a buyer – someone who could use the waste material for something else. Little by little, a market emerged.

Most of what is listed on the site is material waste and RecycleMatch also offers sustainability software on their website that “enables corporations to maximize the economic and environmental impact of their Zero Waste initiatives”. Since its inception, RecycleMatch has attracted thousands of buyers and sellers to its website and the rubbish trade has gotten off to a good start. Some examples of trades on RecycleMatch include food waste that was bought and converted to an energy source and damaged, non-recyclable glass that was bought, crushed and used to make counter tops and other materials for building.

RecycleMatch has been listed in a myriad of magazines, including Entrepreneur and Forbes, for its innovative idea and the success that it has seen as a result. As the company continues to grow I can only imagine that it will continue to expand both in content and in location and soon, more like it will appear. The future of cleaner trash disposal has arrived, landfill moguls be warned!

Nina Michael is in her senior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.

The recent Eurozone sovereign-debt crisis has caused a serious dilemma for not only the weaker economies of the European Union within the Eurozone, but also the stronger ones. Germany, the fifth largest economy in the world and one of the leading EU countries has played a big role in the attempts to solve this crisis, which has put it in a bit of a rough position in its internal political sphere in regards to bailouts for countries like Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and the possibility of future default, yet has also given it an advantage in influencing the economic policies of weaker Eurozone countries who are dependent on bailout money. After many deliberations amongst EU leaders, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was approved, which will replace the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) upon its expiry in June 2013.

The ESM is meant to safeguard financial stability within the Eurozone and provide assistance to Eurozone member states who are experiencing financial distress. Starting in June 2013, all new sovereign bonds will include a Collective Action Clause (CAC), which will enable creditors to pass a decision, based on a majority vote, to change the terms of payment through application of a standstill, an extension of maturity or an interest-rate cut/haircut in the case of insolvency. The purpose of the ESM is essentially to make default less risky for creditor countries. The problem is that this doesn’t solve the problem of the heavily indebted economies of Greece, Portugal and Ireland and their subsequent affect on other, stronger Eurozone economies such as Germany.

One obvious flaw in the ESM is the fact that it’s just not enough to fix the problem; the fund amounts to €700 billion, allowing for a €500 billion loaning capability, of which each member country will contribute €80 billion each in annual installments that begin in 2013 while the rest will be made through guarantees, direct purchases of government bonds in the primary market or what Wolfgang Münchau has called “callable capital” – when shareholders supply the depleted fund with new capital – a highly unlikely scenario. A mere €500 billion will not cover the debt problem of Greece by itself, let alone that of Ireland, Portugal and other countries teetering on the brink of a debt crisis such as Italy and Spain whose economies simply cannot afford to be further burdened with bailouts for another member state. Furthermore, the ESM fails to tackle some of the most pressing issues regarding the restructuring of the financial systems of all the Eurozone countries that are suffering financially, something that is needed if this crisis is ever going to be settled in the near future.

Eurozone countries with AAA ratings, which are limited to Germany and France, have devised a get-out-of-jail-free card of sorts: the privilege to not have to actually put up the cash for the fund but simply give a guarantee. This will certainly work to their advantage but that at the same time will work toward the demise of the weaker economies, who do not get such a privilege, which seems likely to produce those awful long-run effects that any economics student is so often advised to avoid. It is understandable that Germany and France do not wish to be burdened with the debt of the fiscally irresponsible, if it can be said that simply, yet nonetheless, a customs union/partial economic-union bears with it certain responsibilities and certain burdens, a fact that is always in direct competition with the social welfare programs of the participating countries and thus, will produce a political nightmare for those involved. But if Germany and France allow this circle of debt to continue (Italy backing Spain backing Greece backing Portugal backing Ireland, etc.…) at some point, the bubble will burst and they will be forced to fork over the money and commit political suicide or let the whole Eurozone economy collapse. In the meantime, speculation may kill any chance that the weaker countries have of digging themselves out of the hole, only deepening the problem even more. As an example, Portugal’s government bond rating went from an A- to a BBB after the announcement of the ESM in March, pushing Portugal ever closer to the abyss of dire insolvency.

This does not mean that the ESM is a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s a step in the right direction, but it fails to promote stability amongst Eurozone countries and burdens those who are already on the brink of financial collapse. Countries whose fiscal problems have led them to the point where they must tap into the ESM will be forced to follow “pro-cyclical budgetary policies”, whose tactics of budget cuts and tax increases may not necessarily work to the advantage of the country in question. Another reason that this might cause problems is the fact that a decrease in the money supply of any given country produces a rise in interest rates and a subsequent appreciation of the currency. The last thing that any debt-stricken Eurozone country needs at the moment is an increase in the Euro, which is too strong for many of the weak countries to handle. Of course, the CAC allows for interest rate cuts, but these must be approved by a majority vote, and speculation damages must be taken into consideration; if investors start pulling out due to interest rate cuts, this would also increase the problem.

Another suggestion that has seen some media time has been that of a single European Bond that would replace all national debt in the Eurozone. This prospect was heavily advocated by Wolfgang Münchau in an article for the Financial Times; the flexibility that would be offered by such a mechanism, including the option to be sold and traded on secondary markets could provide an alternative to “cross-country transfers”. Alas, this option might be an even more difficult sell on the internal political scene since combining Germany and France’s AAA bonds with those of the less fortunate is not something that either of the former would be too keen on, and in fact, the idea was shot down by the German Finance Minister in 2009.

Unfortunately, the Eurozone is between a rock and a hard place. Germany’s economy is running strong but the struggling economies of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy are in dire need of a revamp. The most important thing for the EU to do right now is to jump in to the gritty task of restructuring the failed financial and economic systems of these countries and demand that the government’s of these countries make a serious effort to stabilize, organize and amend their economic and financial infrastructures in a way that will help them to work their way out of the crisis slowly (Buiter et al.). This will be no easy task and will demand the active participation of all debt-ridden Eurozone countries.  The future may seem bleak but at some point, the Eurozone countries will be forced to a point where they will have to stop “muddling through”, as Münchau calls it, and take a decisive action. Just what this action may entail remains to be seen.

Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.

I haven’t yet, but I certainly will before the summer is over.

After10 years of Sporadic college, off and on classes and an ever changing graduation date I’ve finally found myself in a committed relationship, or at least one that I’ll get something out of, and boy it’s about time! Yes, my drunken wife and I (you’ll only get that if you read my first post) have set a date, Dec 2011, assuming of course that my procrastination tendencies and I can make it through a year of serious studying and commitment.

I had my heart set on that date awhile back, but there were a few problems that were making it impossible. First, I was missing about 4 classes worth of core credits that I would need to graduate and the spring, summer and fall semesters were already fully booked with the requirement courses I needed to graduate.

Unsure of a better way to solve this dilemma I begrudgingly accepted my 2012 graduation fate until late one night, when I happened upon what seemed like an answer to my problem. A friend who had been in a similar situation informed me of something called C.L.E.P., which stands for College Level Examination Program, and I feel it is my duty to share it with everyone in proper missionary style, just in case someone else might benefit.

Basically, C.L.E.P. offers 33 different exams under the themes of Composition and Literature; World Languages; History and Social Sciences; Science and Mathematics and Business. Each exam is generally worth 3 credits, at least this is the case for CUNY, and, if passed, suffices the requirement for that class. This means that if you’ve been putting off that last requirement in science or English lit, you can get it taken care of without having to register and pay for an additional semester. Each C.L.E.P. exam costs $77 to take, which can be a lifesaver if you’re only lacking a couple courses for your major.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not as easy as I’ve made it sound thus far; while it may not involve an entire semester’s worth of coursework, it does require competence in the area that you are testing in. This means that you have to study, and study hard.

The way C.L.E.P. works is almost akin to the Italian University Exam system in that you get a textbook, study the life out of it, and then take an exam to see if you’ve mastered the subject. However, in Italian University, unlike C.L.E.P., there is a classroom; attendance is not mandatory, but you better make sure you pass that exam at the end of the semester or you won’t be getting any credit. C.L.E.P. doesn’t offer you a classroom or a course to follow; you’ve got to do that on your own. It does, however, give you a gist of what information will be required of you in order to pass so that you can make sure to study what you need. Exam guides and sample questions are also available for an extra $10 and additional information and suggested textbooks are also listed on the website.

Almost 3000 accredited Universities both in the US and throughout the world accept C.L.E.P. exam credits. A tool on the website will help you locate these colleges and will also help you find the nearest university test center where you can register and take the exam.

If you are an SPS student, you can transfer up to 30 C.L.E.P. credits, which is 10 exams. Obviously, this also depends on what credits you need; usually, major requirements must be taken on campus. Each college is different so you should check with an advisor before registering for a C.L.E.P. exam to see what courses are acceptable and what courses must be taken through the university.

To those of you who are already graduating this year, many congratulations! To those of you who are working hard to graduate soon, I hope this information can help you out in some way!

Happy New [school] Year to all!

Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.

Questionable financial protagonist Moody’s is once again in the cross-hairs, only this time, the antagonist comes with an Italian name, Michele Ruggiero. The conflict? Market manipulation.

In spring of this year, Greece’s economy hit rock bottom, striking fear in the hearts of euro investors who were primed to react irrationally at the slightest news of doom.

Enter Moody’s, international rating agency giant.

On 6 May 2010 at 11:15am, Moody’s circulated a report that rated the Italian banking and economic systems to be “at risk”. In a matter of hours the value of the Italian financial market turned into a figurative picture of a Christmas tree after New Years: thrown to the sidewalk with only a few remnants of cheap tinsel hanging off a deadened pine needle. Unlike the unfortunate tree however, the walk of shame only lasted for one day. Prime minister and part-time political scandal spotlight-stealer Silvio Berlusconi, who interestingly holds the opinion for rating agencies that much of the Italian public holds of him – lost credibility – came to the rescue, stating that the “Italian public accounts are solid [and] the country is not at risk”. Other powerful figures in politics, finance and the banking industry also intervened to debunk Moody’s claims and sustain that Italy was not at risk of default. Fitch, another international rating agency, affirmed the same and the next day Moody’s decided to change its position.

Nevertheless, the misleading information and resulting freefall, however brief, prompted the main consumer associations of Adusbef and Federconsumatori to file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office of Trani. Carlo Maria Capristo, head of the office, passed the case to Michele Ruggiero, the deputy public prosecutor who was already investigating charges against American Express regarding a fraud scandal involving revolving credit cards. Ruggiero was also part of the prosecution team investigating allegations of pressure from Berlusconi on Agcom, the Italian Communications Authority, to shut down Annozero, a political talk show whose guests frequently roast the prime minister.

At the center of the market rigging investigation is Ross Abercromby, the senior analyst who backed the statements made by Moody’s in its report. Abercromby has been issued a cautionary warrant by the prosecutor’s office of Treni; charges include manipulation of the finance market and disclosure of false information, among others. The prosecution is looking for evidence that Moody’s engaged in market rigging at the cost of investors by issuing the detrimental report that resulted in a severe alteration in the value of Italian securities. If found guilty, Moody’s could be forced to make retribution payments.

This is not the first time Moody’s has come under scrutiny. The first drama happened in 1976 when Moody’s dropped the rating of NYC MAC bonds from A to B after the state of New York had issued a moratorium on payment of principal for city notes that were outstanding, causing a huge drop in the sale of bonds and prompting allegations against Moody’s of political bias as reasons for the rating drop. In 2007 Moody’s, along with Standard and Poor’s and Fitch, came under fire for failing to predict the housing bubble crash, allowing the bubble to grow to the size it did and failing to properly adjust its ratings until the last minute when it was already too late for many investors. In April of this year Moody’s was issued a subpoena from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission for its role in assigning misleading credit ratings for toxic assets, which ultimately helped to contribute to the financial crisis of 2008.

Whether or not Moody’s did intentionally manipulate the market or whether they simply made an overly negative judgment call remains to be seen. Italy, like the rest of the world, has had its struggles since the 2008 global financial disaster. It has certainly seemed to hold its own in comparison to Greece, Portugal and Ireland as of late, although last month, Citi economist Willem Buiter cited his pessimism for the future of Italy’s risk ratings as a result of continued political instability and high debt levels. The recent Parisian-worthy mob riot in Piazza del Popolo in Rome after Berlusconi won the confidence vote by 314 to 311, in addition to the many student riots (see photos) that have taken place throughout Italy in response to University reforms, can attest to a severely divided government and angry citizens, two things that can certainly give investors reason to shudder.

Nevertheless, risk or no risk, one thing is sure; Italy will not be devaluated without a fight!

Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.

Sometime last year, David Mazzerelli, a 28 year-old advertising executive from Prato, Italy, developed something that makes liberals on this side of the pond cringe; a fascination for Sarah Palin’s Tea Party Ideology.

Inspired by the cries for lower taxes and less government, Mazzerelli had an epiphany; within a year, Tea Party Italia was born.

There are some substantial differences between the US Tea Party movement and that of Italy. For starters, the US tea partiers consider themselves conservatives while Italian tea partiers consider themselves liberals. Secondly, Mazzerelli’s Tea Party actually faintly resembles what one might expect a 1776-American-Revolution-Tea-Party-inspired movement to embody.

While he may have been inspired by Sarah Palin and her devotees, Mazzerelli certainly follows a different path of action. US tea partiers, aside from complaining about taxes and pontificating as to the damaging effects of the involvement of government in just about anything, like to skirt the edge of relevance by taking up issues such as abortion, gay rights, evolution, creationism and other such issues that are hardly germane to any economic related issue. Italian Tea Partiers on the other hand, restrict themselves to issues of the state. Mazzerelli says; “Before everything we refrain from taking positions on ethical, moral and religious themes. We’re interested in economic themes: less taxes, less public spending and less government.”

In a country that actually does have reality-fueled reasons for feeling skittish about skewed governmental priorities, schoolyard-like ethical mud-throwing takes a back burner with the Italian Tea Party on issues that surprisingly made it into the 21st century. Frankly, who needs Christine O’Donnell when you’ve got Pope Benedict XVI? The chances that he knows what’s in the first amendment might actually be greater.

Mazzerelli asserts that Italian tea partiers work together despite moral or ethical differences to focus on what the real issues are; “We have those that are pro-choice and those that are pro-life, those that are for the war in Iraq and those that are against it, but what unites us is the battle to have less government and more liberty.”

What the Italian Tea Party does not have are big names followed by throngs of people infatuated with conservative ideals that have nothing to do with the current state of affairs in the economy. In this respect, they have far surpassed the American Tea Party in terms of honest approbation, and relevancy. Furthermore, they have no plans for governmental affairs, nor do they seek affiliation with any party or any political figure; they are simply “by the people, for the people”, sending a message to the Italian government that Italy needs a change.

The Italian media has not dished out to the Italian Tea Party the same incessant limelight that the American Tea Party has gorged itself on, certainly no one has paid 2000 euros to see David Mazzerelli speak and so far, there has been no Italian Glenn Beck prototype spewing out melodramatic soliloquies on national television. In fact, Italian tea partiers consist mostly of educated young people, organizing meetings and protests that address the two issues that they stand for; less government, lower taxes.

Considering these two issues, which party has more reason to howl? I often suspect that many Americans simply cannot fathom how much they take for granted in the world. For the sake of time and space, I’ve erased the comparisons that I previously slathered across two pages of Microsoft’s cyber office monopoly. Let’s compare the bare minimum. [The following figures are taken from the CIA world factbook, http://www.worldwide-tax.com, http://www.taxrates.cc].

Imagine you make $50,000 dollars a year in the United States, what would your income tax rate be? Well, if you were filing as single or married and filing separately, it would be 25%, if married and filing jointly it would be 15%. What about in Italy? The current equivalent of $50,000 in euros is  38,162, which brings a standard tax rate of 38% whether single or married. By the way, the average GDP per capita in Italy is $29,000 (which would be  22,135 and taxed at 27%); in the US it’s $46,000 (with the same tax rate as $50,000). Click on the links above for further information or to compare corporate tax rates.

What about government spending? In 2009, US revenues were $2.104 trillion and expenditures were $3.52 trillion while public debt accounted for 53.5% of GDP; this is in a country with a population of 310,232,863 mind you, and a labor force of 154.2 million. In Italy, a country the size of California with a population of 58,090,681 and a labor force of 25 million, revenues totaled $987 billion in 2009 while expenditures were $1.099 trillion and public debt accounted for 115.8% of the GDP.

Before you accuse me of running a preferred narrative, let me digress: Yes, economies are bad all over the world. Yes we are all in a recession. But whilst republicans and democrats throw ostentatious stones at each other, O’Donnell and Palin ironically campaign for Intelligent design, and Berlusconi declares “Hey at least I’m not gay!” on national television, the world is once again manifesting those fun little side effects of human society that occur when the going gets tough: pissed off groups of people that demand change, some more relevant than others.

So what will become of these tea parties? Nothing, we might argue, and we may be right. Nevertheless, the Italian spawn of the American headline grabbers certainly make the latter seem like much ado about nothing.

Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.

It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon in Piazza Duomo where I sit listlessly procrastinating at an outdoor café, consuming large quantities of coffee and toying around with my first 21st century phone (yes, I finally caved). Time stands in the corner glaring at me while I play spider solitaire, on the difficult level, and watch tourists and locals interfacing like two galaxies colliding in a far part of some star-trek worthy universe. I figure people-watching whilst sipping a caffe should somehow conform to my current studies of the modern history of the world and perhaps somehow metaphorically illustrate the random walk theory of the securities market.

For the record, trying to win at difficult level spider solitaire is like trying to catch a cab on Saturday night anywhere below 42nd street! Either that or Apple’s rigged the game for failure as part of its plan for world domination.

I’m pushing the limit of dilatory procedural tactics now but the obesity-sized portion of homework that looms over my head isn’t helping.

I shouldn’t complain, I’ve just read a delightful exposé from Rolling Stone magazine for my corporate finance class entitled “The Great Big American Bubble Machine”, written by Matt Taibbi. The article fashionably annihilates corporate finance succubus Goldman Sachs for its vast portfolio of sleazy underwriting, sneaky short sales and graceful spinning shenanigans.

While any piece of writing can be exaggerated, I tend to have very few doubts as to the legitimacy of this article in particular, although I’m sure Goldman Sachs, whose company motto is “long-term greedy”, was not the only factor contributing to the tech, oil and housing bubbles. That aside, there has been a wealth of articles lately chastising Goldman Sachs for its naughty behavior.

In Taibbi’s synopsis, Goldman stands accused of not only contributing to various financial bubbles, but of having a direct hand in their intentional creation. Goldman’s out of control, leverage-based investment techniques back in the 20s (Goldman backing Goldman backing Goldman) helped contribute to the crash of the Great Depression. During the tech bubble, Goldman engaged in serious “spinning”, or corporate bribery, for underwriting deals. They further engaged in “laddering”, or tampering with IPO share prices. Robert Rubin, former Goldman CEO was acting as Treasury Secretary in the nineties when all of this was taking place; in fact, he is responsible for much of the dis-regulation that allowed the housing bubble to inflate to the size it did. In the mid-nineties, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission suggested tight regulation of CDOs and Credit Swaps, a move drastically opposed by Rubin, who eventually persuaded Congress to listen to his side; the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed shortly thereafter, leaving firms free to trade default swaps.

The best part of all of this however, is all-American corporate luminary Henry Paulson, notoriously well-known for his controversial government bailouts in 2008. Paulson had been in charge when Rubin was Treasury Secretary; he was the one who took Goldman Sacks public in 1999. During the housing bubble, Paulson had taken Rubin’s place in the White House and Lloyd Blankfein was Goldman’s acting CEO. When Goldman blatantly engaged in short-selling its own securities, or betting against its own mortgage bundles, no one cried security fraud. Instead, our favorite financial behemoth made sure (allegedly, though not that much) that AIG got the bailout, from which they received 13 billion, while their biggest competitor, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.

Another article from the New York Times cited phone and schedule records affirming that Paulson spoke with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein 26 times between 2007 and 2008 prior to receiving the ethics waiver from the government allowing him to be involved in  “conflict of interest” affairs, or contact with his former firm. Furthermore, between 16-21 Sept 2008, there were 24 phone conversations between Paulson and Blankfein, more than there were between Paulson and AIG; hey, they were probably discussing the weather.

In my opinion, and based on principles learned in economics and investment classes taken this and last semester, financial firms seem to have become the biggest authorities on the allocation of assets in any given free-market country. This is not a bad thing if only the market could actually follow freshwater theories like the Efficient Market Hypothesis allowing stock prices to reflect all available, not to mention real, information regarding a company and its prospects. Unfortunately for calculus buffs, in the real world there exist companies like Goldman Sachs, who are also calculus buffs but armed with a “long-term greed” (i.e. short-term greed) motto; not to mention rash investors who never learned what logic meant, thus making a rational and efficient marketplace unlikely.

If you have any doubt about the irrationality of mankind, spend an hour people watching at the Duomo of Florence or at the leaning tower of Pisa.

I think I’ve got to side with Krugman on this one; saltwater pragmatists may just have it right!

Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.

This morning my profoundly immoral pre-historic spawn of technology forgot to tortuously awaken me to a lovely September day in the birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci; yes that nefarious base model Nokia deliberately set out to erroneously function causing me to arrive almost two hours late for work!

Don’t worry, my boss didn’t buy it either, but who wants to take the blame for failing to correctly set an alarm? For the record, I still blame the phone!

So here I am five hours later, heavily caffeinated and sitting in front of my laptop, thinking of what to write as a first blog entry for SPS’ new website, or ever for that matter. I suppose you’ve already surmised, aside from my passionate dislike of early morning wake-up sirens, that I live in Florence, Italy. I moved here from New York City in 2008, about the same time Lehman Brothers went the way of the Roman Empire. A year later I enrolled in SPS so that I could finish my degree more quickly while living abroad instead of losing half my credits by transferring to the local University.

In Italy, there is an old saying that goes “non si può avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca” – translation: You can’t have a full wine cask and a drunk wife [at the same time]. Basically, you can’t have your cake and eat it too; I like the Italian version better. Well, I think I’ve found a way around that ancient wisdom thanks to technology, which is not always dastardly, and I’ve now got both the full wine cask (living in Italy) and the drunk wife (finishing my degree with CUNY)!

Speaking of technology, after my dash to the bus this morning I happened to sit next to an elderly woman who was toying with her base model Nokia and desperately pressing buttons in search of some hidden truth. After I sat down she asked me if I could show her how to find the list of calls received. Despite my previous failure at setting an alarm, I succeeded. Reveling in my triumph of ancient technology, I was reminded of last semester’s e-commerce class where we discussed all the latest technological marvels in the world today and I seemed to be the only one with a phone from the technological dark ages; my friends in New York used to tell me that I ought to put it into a museum. Well maybe they were right, perhaps I ought to start toting about one of those smart phones. After all, a smart phone would never malfunction would it?

Notwithstanding my affinity towards simple cell phones, technology and the Internet have become a bigger part of my life since enrolling in the online program at SPS. My COM class from last semester together with the lack of a local school library helped me get a good grasp on Boolean searches and other information seeking techniques when researching. This kind of self-prodding online research has helped me to discover a wealth of information about technology, investments, accounting, business, Internet and E-commerce that I otherwise may not have unearthed. More importantly, it’s also helped me maintain a good GPA.

Online studying is a good experience to have if you can manage your time and keep that demon on your shoulder from convincing you to check your Facebook account every time you get the studying blues. While I do miss the personal touch of a real classroom, studying at SPS has been a rich and interesting experience so far and I tend to think that I may actually be learning more with the forced necessity of finding information from credible sources via the World Wide Web; perhaps technology does suit me after all.

To all those who read this, I hope my first attempt at a blog post hasn’t bored you out of your mind and I wish you luck in your online adventures with CUNY this semester.

Peace, prosperity and properly functioning alarms to all! Arrivederci!

Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently  lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.