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Friday, August 09, 2019

Beyond Interview with Serhii Tkachenko from UNICHECK

Many educators are familiar with the phenomenon of plagiarism as a form of dishonesty in the classroom. Plagiarism is wrong for many reasons, but eventually it is the cheating person who is ultimately negatively affected. Using this unfair method in your study will lead to a lack of knowledge and blindspots in qualification.

We caught up with Serhii Tkachenko, CEO at UniCheck, to talk about the role of technology in education and how his team is transforming the quality of education in the world.

Serhii Tkachenko, UniCheck
Susan: What is your background?

Serhii: My career path has been evolving in a multi-faceted way: I have worked as Head of Sales Department, Partnership Manager and Business Development Manager. This diverse experience gave me the exceptional knack for managing a multidisciplinary and challenging project. I am passionate about innovation and quality of education and my aim is to help people become well-educated and successful.

Susan: What is Unicheck?

Serhii: Unicheck creates innovations in the area of plagiarism detection services, authorship verification, and checking of source code for plagiarism. We offer cloud-based plagiarism detection software with advanced functionality to education institutions.

Our work is based on a deep understanding of our users’ needs - manual tasks such as checking the sources in an academic work are meticulous and time-consuming. By providing an automated solution for these routine tasks our tool allows students and teachers to focus on the priorities of the educational process.

Unicheck is integrated in all major LMSs which makes the usage experience smooth and convenient both for students and educators.

Susan: What makes Unicheck different and better than other plagiarism detectors?

Serhii: We develop a community-driven product and our team is always open to our partners’ comments and queries. We listen to our clients’ needs and implement new features that would cater to them.

Our competitors provide results for a submitted paper in 24 hours which is excessively long in the days when information spreads immediately. Unicheck offers a comprehensive similarity report in just four seconds per page.

Unicheck is cloud-based so it provides users with system updates on the go. Any new feature becomes available to our customers once we release it. At Unicheck we strive to comply with all personal data regulations, that's why we have moved to the Amazon cloud to process the user data in the regions that are close to client’s physical location.

Unicheck architecture, Amazon Web infrastructure, and support services make our tool the most reliable (99.9% uptime) and scalable cloud-based plagiarism detection software in the industry.

Susan: Who uses Unicheck? Please describe a few successful use cases.

Serhii: Unicheck is used by middle schools starting from 6th grade, high schools, colleges, and universities. More than 1,500,000 students and 100,000 educators from 69 countries worldwide trust Unicheck.

When we think of our client, we always think of people. Our client is not an academic institution but an individual end user: teacher, student, IT specialist integrating our software in a particular school, or a representative of the school administration. We address the needs of the people: we deliver the software that helps students become successful; that helps teachers focus on personalized approach to each student. Talking about an IT specialist, we want to make the process of integration smooth and seamless. Caring about the concerns of an administrator, we make sure that our pricing policy is reasonable.

It is a huge honor and responsibility to create a product that brings change and value to society. I believe Uniсheck is one of those products as it is already elevating the quality of education standards in 1,100 academic institutions globally.

I think the most successful use cases are when our product can actually change the educational process for the better. By helping to detect plagiarism, we encourage the administration to review the internal processes and curriculum. Utilizing our tool, administrators can take data-driven decisions to implement positive changes.

Susan: Are there any "off label" uses or potential uses for Unicheck?

Serhii: Basically, Unicheck can be used by any content writer to ensure correct citing, it helps bloggers and SEO specialists to avoid text plagiarism as well. Some other interesting use cases include looking up for matches in legal documents or product barcodes in retail databases.

Susan: What are your goals with Unicheck?

Serhii: We strive to reduce the overall rate of plagiarism by raising awareness about the problem and providing an efficient solution to fight it. Our mission is to create community-driven software that makes students well educated.

For the last 3 years Unicheck has been growing nearly x3 times - at large, it is thanks to a word-of-mouth communication. Instead of winning customers through strong marketing strategies, we focused mostly on product quality and service excellence.

Susan: Can Unicheck be used to help detect mental illness in student writing?

Serhii: We believe that our technology has the potential to not only raise the level of academic integrity but to address other social issues. For example, our Reseach and Development department is working on an innovation that will help detect traces of racism, sexism, or any other kind of discrimination in the text. Identifying these symptoms will help point out an existing problem.

Susan: Can you recommend a few good books to read?

Serhii: My favorite business books are “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” :-) They will teach you how to reach your goals and how to treat people in a generous way.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Creative Writing Workshop #2: Uncovering Hidden Realities, with strategies for your workplace writing

In this second of our series of workshops, we explore seeing things an a brand new way. Try out these writing prompts and worksheets, all designed to kick start your creativity and develop "flow."  As an added benefit, you will find that creative writing strategies are highly effective in developing new ideas for scientific, technical, and business problem-solving.

July 16 workshop at the Coffee House at Cherry Street, Tulsa
Pattern Recognition:
Creative writing is a lot like machine learning. The raw data is processed multiple times until patterns form, and those patterns can be assumed to have meaning. The intriguing part of poetry (and all literature) is the interpretive process in which the reader finds patterns and suggests meaning even if / when the author was not conscious of generating them. At the same time, part of the author’s craft involves creating patterns through recurring juxtapositions and repetitions. 

Generate 15 random words. You may use

Then, look at the 15 random words that you have generated.  Can you make any sense of them?
Arrange the words, then add 15 more words (of your own choice or also randomly generated), but place the new words in a places that make sense.

The Idea of Order at Key West” by Wallace Stevens

How can I use this technique for my work?
Sometimes your message gets lost because you have too many words, especially in the case of proposals, resumes, and web presence. To help you focus on what really matters, select 15 key words. Then, work with them and make them really convey your message.  Remember that less is more. You may wish to let the words stand alone as bullet points that link to pages that have more details.

“There is no meaning without repetition.” – J. Hillis Miller.

The repetition can be something that approaches an incantation (as in the case of Poe’s “The Raven”) or can be a color, symbol, or set of images or characters. For example, a series of characters may appear at different times, and each is a trickster figure.

Try it out! Write a narrative and deliberately incorporate repetitions, then see how each repetition starts to affect that way that one reads and interprets the work.

The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
White Noise by Don Delillo

How can I use this technique for my work?

As you write a report, design a report, or create marketing materials, keep in mind the following:

1. Engage your reader / audience quickly with the main idea

2. Make sure your topic sentences in your body paragraphs or pages connect to the main idea

3.  Repeat the main idea, but with each repetition, add a facet to it. (For example, the main idea can be “a great deal”, and then you can elaborate with separate pages / paragraphs on price, efficiency, return on investment, experienced team, track record, etc.)

First workshop / July 9 / Coffee  House at Cherry Street, Tulsa
Minimalist Experiments: Juxtapositions
In the first part of the 20th century, minimalists (influenced by the Futurist Manifesto by Marinetti and others), “outlawed” most poetic devices. They preferred “found art” – the equivalent of the “objets trouvees” somehow bundled together.

The same works for poetry: find everyday words and phrases, and then place them in ways that they suddenly “pop” and reveal something unexpected. In the 1980s, the “Language Poets” took the earlier minimalist fashionings of William Carlos Williams, the Dadaists, and Futurists to unfasten language from its denotative moorings.

Try it out! Select two or three words or concepts and then write a work that includes them several times. Here are a few:  QuikTrip, OXXO, feral cat, ginger smoothie

Complete Destruction” by William Carlos Williams
Advent” by Rae Armantrout

How can I use this technique for my work?
Think of how you can put “found objects” together to create something completely new. Here’s “Debris Collage” by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, in which the title in French "Débricollage" contains a nice play on the words "debris," "collage," and "bricolage"

Débricollage by Jean Tinguely

The goal is to juxtapose or bring together seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts in order to create something completely new, and to encourage people to see things from different perspectives. 
So, be sure to keep your copy spare, use lots of white space, and incorporate useful and thought-provoking images that make your readers want to ask questions.

(check out The Adventures of Tinguely Querer )

Conspiracy, Urban Legend, or a Hidden Truth?
"There is a necessary relation between the fictions by which we order our world and the increasing complexity of what we take to be the 'real' history of that world." Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending.

We quell our existential anxiety by means of telling stories, or at least putting a nice, neat beginning, middle, and end on it. Aristotle wrote in Poetics that plots must have a beginning, middle, and end, something that was echoed by the Roman, Horace, who took Aristotle’s ideas even further and insisted on the “unities” of harmony, proportion, and narrative structure.

These highly ordered ideas were revived at a time when the French were making order from chaos with Louis XIV, the Sun King. Nicolas Boileau’s  L’Art Poétique (1674) was a tremendous influence on poetry and drama in both France and England and effectively ushered in Neoclassicism in literature.

The 20th century largely abandoned the early structures, and yet the mind still seeks the “unities,” to the point that the mind will impose them even when they are left unstated or jumbled.  Some authors deliberately leave out parts, and they let the reader fill in the gaps.

Write a quick story that explains something very odd about the town you are living in now, or in which you lived earlier.

How can I use this technique for my work?
Keep in mind that our minds are structured to crave stories, and that is why a compelling story (even if a complete urban legend or conspiracy theory) will appeal to people more than simply a list of facts or statistics, even though technical details are important as evidence to back up your story.

So, include a story in your presentation.

1. Include a story – make it interesting and engaging. Think of your audience as you create the title of your story. “We beat the odds.. “ “The t-shirt that saved a thousand cats, dogs, and parrots.”

2.  Analyze your audience. What are they going to expect, and what are their competing narratives? If you’re dealing with a controversial topic,  you can expect that your audience will have a countering story which they will potentially consider to be the ultimate authority (not yours). So, be sure to refer or accommodate their story.

3. Consider using engaging graphics.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Creative Writing Workshop #1: Seeing Things in a New Way

Once you've seen a tornado, you never look at a severe storm alert in the same way. Alerts are no longer abstractions - they have the roaring wind, blinding rain, and golf ball-size hail as their concrete objective correlatives.

It's refreshing to be able to see things in a new way, and many times, creative writing strategies can help you alter your perspective.

In a recent workshop that took place at the Coffee House on Cherry Street, a diverse group came together with the goal of building creativity and seeing how we could apply them in every day life. Organized under the auspices of Tulsa Geological Society, AAPG, and Humanities Institute, the workshop emphasized using examples from literature, especially literature that explores the sciences and psychology, to help teach oneself to re-perceive the world around us. 

Changing places:
Think about reversing activities or changing places.  You may wake up one day and find that your self and consciousness are now inhabiting the body of the white German Shepherd you teased as you walked the fenced yard it protected.

Heart of a Dog, by Mikhail Bulgakov
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain

Write from the perspective of a different person:
Consider yourself to be another person and write as though you were that person. It can be in any form; a dramatic monologue, or simply thoughts.

The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa
“Cuchulain’s Fight with the Sea” by William Butler Yeats

Disjunctive modifiers:
Vivid descriptions by creating modifiers that clash and do not seem to go together, but they make you see things in a new way.

A Route of Evanescence” by Emily Dickinson
Abstentions” by John Ashbery

Mangled Quotes

Find quotes from a person that is more or less famous, and first, respond to it (as though the quote were an introduction) and then modify it for your personal entertainment.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
   Thou art not so unkind
      As man’s ingratitude;
        William Shakespeare

“Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination” – Immanuel Kant
“No man's knowledge here can go beyond his experience” – John Locke
“He who thinks great thoughts, often makes great errors” – Martin Heidegger

Recommended Books: 
Levin, Lynn, and Valerie Fox (2019) Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, Vol. 2. Texture Press.

Nash, Susan Smith. (2013) Writing for Human Relations. Texture Press.  (free Kindle version)

 Recommended Energy Leadership MBA (100% online, low tuition options) AACSB Accredited. Information page. Texas A&M University Texarkana.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Remembering George Economou (1934-2019): The Magic in the Gaps between the Words and Worlds

Today, we take a moment to remember George Economou, poet, literary scholar, and translator, who passed away in early May at the age of 84.  George, who was quite unusual in his broad range of scholarly endeavors (poetry, translation, medieval literature, modernism, and classical Greek), produced a fascinating work, Ananios of Kleitor, which we contemplate here, along with his life.

George Economou
A conversation about Sappho
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with George Economou one evening when I was visiting his wife,  Rochelle Owens, and him in Philadelphia.  I had taken the train that winds its way down the Hudson River from Albany, New York, where I was living and working at Excelsior College. I had just completed a study of Classical Greek and Latin literature and had been immersing myself in Sappho.  It always surprised me that the classicists could fawn over Sappho when all that remained of her manuscripts were very small fragments and scraps.

“How can anyone possible assess the merit of the poetry of disconnected scraps, fragments, partial phrases and words?  And, how do you know which goes with which?  Do any of them actually go together?  Are they from separate pieces of parchment or papyrus?”
George went into a long discussion of how it was possible assess the poetic merit of a work even if all you had were disconnected, disjointed bits of distressed papyrus.

Scraps of papyrus and a rediscovered minor Greek poet
This conversation took place a few years before Ananios of Kleitor was published. He was, I believe, working on it… Ananios of Kleitor was (in theory) an extremely scholarly investigation of long-lost papyri, found by German investigators working in Egypt in the 1930s. The fragments were assembled on the page of the book to represent how the scholar had pieced them back together. In doing so, Economou discusses the life, times, contexts, and accomplishments of an ancient Greek poet, Ananios of Kleitor, with bawdy details as well as technical preoccupations. The poem fragments, when rendered as a full poem, turn out in some cases to be erotic (even pornographic), you would never guess it by looking at the minimalist layout of seemingly random words and letters.  The overall impression reminded on of the early 20th century DaDa and concrete poetry. 

But, back to the question, which George had clearly been considering in-depth for some time: “How do you know what goes in the gaps?  And, how do you know if it’s any good?”

The introduction to Ananios of Kleitor explains just how the gaps (and even intellectual lacunae) are filled; he describes the way that people attach well-known narratives or quotes from anecdotes in the cultural consciousness to a quote. The extreme exigesis reminds one of Borges and Nabokov.

Supposedly, the provenance of the papyri was a German library’s special collection, and one immediately thought of the Vermeers and other classics collected by the Nazis (along with a number of brazen forgeries). The layer upon layer of ontological uncertainty is intriguing for many reasons. I was reminded of the prolific schizophrenic forger of renowned artists’ minor works, and when finally exposed (he made the mistake of forging the same work five or six times, and then gifting them to different museums, not thinking about how they might issue press releases that would make some recognize they had the same gift), he had duped more than 40 museums in the United States. 

George did not go as far as to fabricate papyri or have extensive photographic plates in his book (or on the publisher’s website), but I suppose he could have done so.

Classical Greek, Medieval, and Modernist / Postmodernist mergings
In doing so, Economou gives a living example of the rhizome-type quality of texts (those which appear in on the page and those which remain in what Derrida might call the “trace” of signification).  But, instead of being incredibly obscure, Economou made the abstract deconstructivist notion a living, organic example.

The rhizome has interconnected roots beneath the surface, just as the fragmentary piece of a well-known quote or extract from song, literary work, folklore, or even quotes from drama or film, will trigger what is in the mind(s) of the audience. It is the mechanism behind the dialogical imagination as described by Bakhtin.

And, even as you erase the words between those in a well-known phrase, you leave the “trace” and full erasure is never possible.

Economou, who loved the intertextualities between periods of literature (even when the relationships were antagonistic or appropriative), was extremely rigorous in pointing out all the references and inter-textualities in Dante and Piers Plowman, not just to other works of literature or antecedents, but also to religious and philosophical belief systems. The tension between appropriation and appreciation were always a matter of the political realities of the day. Dante, Boethius, and Rabelais were just a few of those who spent some uncomfortable moments in prison for the various ways they subverted authority. It was interesting to see in Dante, in particularly, how the blend of Greek and Christian personae led to layer after layer of interpretative possibilities (and their subversions and reversals).

Lifework: Translating Piers Plowman
In addition to working with medieval and 20th century texts (which often resituated themselves in the medieval), George was a prolific translator.  In one course I took from him, we examined theories of translation and took “translation” to anything that is transported from one side to another. In doing so, we looked at Lawrence Venuti’s ideas about translation, which could be considered “interpretation” and thus a work of art as viable as the original.  Such was obviously the case in many of the translations of Dante.

Now we live in a world of Google Translate, and I believe there is a privileging of the literal, rather than the artistic or interpretive version. Economou, who was a friend of Louis Zukofsky, pointed to Zukofsky’s homophonic translations of Catullus, which focused only on the sound of the words, and rejected altogether any sense of denotative meaning.

In doing so, Zukofsky forced a return to the actual sound of poetry; the meanings we spontaneously weave from the sounds when they hit our verdant minds.

And, in the gaps in the texts from Ananios of Kleitor, we have a chance to return to what our own minds contribute to the meaning-making process. Those gaps are filled in with projections from our own mental libraries and emotional repositories.

What is fascinating about Ananios of Kleitor is that we see the process of gap-filling, as Economou creates ruptures in the text itself, opens up gaps, lets the reader mull the gaps, filling in from his or her own repositories. Then, the reader is able to see the filling-in process of the author himself, in his notes, findings, inter-textual discoveries, and scholarly detective work. All is a construction, and the suggestion is that both construction and the disruption of meaning are intentional – until they’re not.

I’m very sad that Dr. George Economou passed away. He touched my life in many ways, first as a refugee from the earth sciences who for some odd reason wanted to follow my Bachelor of Science degree with a Master of Arts in English.  Dr. Economou was the chair of my thesis committee, and then when I followed with my Ph.D., he was the chair of my dissertation committee.  More than that, he and Rochelle were deep friends, guides, and inspirations. Dr. Economou placed in my hand the keys to a locked door that, once unlocked, changed my life with an infinitude of tools and texts.

And, deep abiding admiration and friendship. 

Susan Smith Nash
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Interview with Raven Howell: Children's Book Writer and Artist

Inspiring children to feel good about themselves, to express their creativity, and to embrace nature are some of the goals of Raven Howell, a children's author who lives and works in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York.

1.   What is your name and your background? 
My name is Raven Howell and I live and work in the Hudson Valley, NY. Writing for children has always come naturally to me. I’m also the daughter of a poet. Creativity, writing and all the arts were encouraged in our household during my childhood. As a full time author, a lot of my time is spent in classrooms, working along students with learning disabilities, and presenting workshops in libraries.

For the past 25 years I’ve been specifically focused on children’s stories and poetry, releasing picture and poetry books, and writing regularly for many kids’ magazines such as Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Jack and Jill, High Five, and Humpty Dumpty. Before that, my work also involved writing verse for greeting cards, and I enjoyed being a songwriter and working in publishing at Atlantic Records in NYC.

2.  What is the name of your book and what is it about? Greetings is the title of my latest release, a picture book for preschool through K. Written in lyrical rhyme with bright, colorful illustrations, it melds the seasonal joys that occur between nature and children.

3.  What inspired you to write it?
Two things inspired my writing Greetings. I credit my mother for instilling me with my love of nature and the seasons. She was the first to teach me tenderness and awe with the new sprung sprout, an unexpected rain shower, or the magic of patting and rolling snowballs for snowmen. I learned appreciation for the slinky green inchworm or sneaky fox in the woods. I wanted to share that joy with the preschooler! Also, my publisher was in the midst of expanding their children’s book division, and a concept book was the perfect fit.

4.   What is special about it?
Greetings is a special combination of being a concept teaching book as well as poetry! The reader is not only taught the four seasons, but taken on a journey through the year exploring sights, sounds, smells, touch and even taste.

5.   Can you give a few examples of people who have successfully used the approach?
Preschool and K class teachers have used the seasons to help students understand cycles. It can be an “Ah-ha” moment when a child starts experiencing the world as it runs on cycles of time, day and night, and the seasons.

As far as parenting is concerned, what’s a better way to inspire your child to physically go outdoors and explore nature and get exercise than to encourage them with the gifts of the seasons? A teacher who had been given a pre-release copy of my book mentioned how it helped her students relate to nature better and in turn relate to the environment in their own lives.

6.   What are your plans?
I have many book events during this school year until the end of June, and am scheduling presentations for the fall already. Some of the events coming up: I will be at the Blodgett Library in Fishkill, NY on May 11th, The Millbrook Literary festival on May 18th, Hellertown Library in Pennsylvania on June 21stand sharing my books with underprivileged children at the Beacon Book-reading Blast-off June 26th in NY. My book events are coupled with fun children's activities including a simple magic marker/water dropper craft the kids create into weather clouds and seasonal suns!

I also have another book release in June, a picture poetry book for readers ages 5 and up. It’s titled Glimmer, Sing of Sun, and is a companion book to Shimmer, Songs of Night. Presently I'm writing six fractured fairytales for a publisher's new imprint. My website is a good go-to for updates, information on all my available work, and teaching tips. I hope you’ll check it out!

A big thank you for the opportunity to share and participate!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

PreDoctoral Fellowships Offered by Humanities Institute

Humanities Institute has established a Predoctoral Fellowship program which may award up to $30,000 to each fellow.  Following a highly competitive application and selection process, each fellow pursues research in conjunction with interdisciplinary humanities courses. Fellows will also receive free tuition.

The mission of the Humanities Institute (HI) ( is to provide high-quality humanities education free of charge.  Over the years, HI has developed an extensive array of courses, articles, and studies written and developed by experts and commissioned directly by HI for the purposes of developing a unique body of knowledge

Art Nouveau by Antonio Gaudí - Barcelona - Casa Battlo - mosaic battlements
Art Nouveau by Antonio Gaudí - Barcelona - Casa Battlo - mosaic battlements
In addition to making its library of resources available to the public free of charge, HI also has developed high quality courses and certificates, which consist of lesson plans and assessments. They can be used by professors for their courses.  In addition, the courses are used in conjunction with HI’s certificate programs.

HI courses are taught by HI by Ph.D.-credentialed experts who work one-on-one with students.

To apply for the Predoctoral Fellowship, please visit the website, and send your materials to If you have more detailed questions, please contact the Humanities Institute's founder, Dr. Turhan Baykan (  He is happy to answer your questions and discuss your goals and aspirations.

The Importance of a Humanities Education

The humanities matter now more than ever, in a time of rapid change across the spectrum of human endeavor. The study of the humanities helps us develop an appreciation for multiple points of view, and to approach problems with flexible, creative thinking.

To study literature, history, philosophy, the arts, we learn about different cultures and how civilizations are born, develop, and evolve. We also explore how and why a knowledge of the humanities is foundational for development and application of organizations, business, math, science, and technology.

Studying humanities develops multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted thinking skills, and an ability to think about the future, its opportunities and challenges, and to approach them with fresh insights and wisdom.
The Mysterious Stone Kingdom of the Great Zimbabwe
The Mysterious Stone Kingdom of the Great Zimbabwe

Art Nouveau by Antonio Gaudí - Barcelona - mosaic
Art Nouveau by Antonio Gaudí - Barcelona - Casa Battlo - mosaic battlements

Monday, April 22, 2019

These Are the Slides You Need to Include in Your Next Pitch Deck

You will need a strong pitch deck in your quest to find funding and commercialization partners for your new technology or business idea. Welcome to a discussion with Rae Steinbach, The Funding Circle, about the perfect pitch deck. 

Businesswoman, Consulting, Business, Meeting

A strong pitch deck is an invaluable tool for any entrepreneur looking to attract small business funding or an investment, and there are countless examples available online detailing the various strategies startups use in their presentations. Many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of the factors that are most important to potential investors, so it’s crucial to consider things from their point of view when designing your pitch.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a successful pitch deck, and it’s important to remember that what works for one business may not be as effective for another. That said, you should consider including these fundamental slides in your upcoming pitch deck.

Your Problem

Finding a problem to fix is one of the most crucial steps involved in creating a successful business, and the problem you plan to solve is just as important to your investors.

Connect your idea to real-world situations and needs that investors can relate to. Numbers and strategies are important too, but every strong pitch fills a critical need in the market.

Your Solution

Following the explanation of the problem you plan to solve is the way you plan to solve it. Solution slides are all about explaining how your idea changes the way people approach your problem.

Demonstrating your solution typically involves showing how your service or product would be used. Again, this section ties the big ideas from your other slides in with real-world examples and shares a clear value.

Your Team

Investors are used to hearing about the next big thing, but what they’re really interested in is what makes your team the right group for the job.

Your team slide should highlight the main contributors along with their expertise and relevant experience. If you’re still looking for new members, use this slide to identify the positions you need to fill and what they will do for your business.

Your Competition

Competition is critical to the success of any business, especially for startups that are still building their brand.

Including a slide about your competition gives you a chance to talk about other ways users are solving the problem your business targets and how your company is different. You’ll be able to highlight any competitive advantages and demonstrate why you’ll succeed over other businesses in the same niche.

Your Investment

The point of a pitch deck is to encourage investment, so you should add at least one slide on investment near the end of your presentation.

This slide is meant to explain how much investment money you need and how it will contribute to your short- and long-term goals. You can also mention others who have already invested in your business.

More than 600,000 new businesses are founded every year in the United States alone, and investment is crucial to growth and stability in the early phases. Adding these critical slides to your upcoming pitch deck will tell investors everything they need to know to feel confident in your startup.

About Rae Steinbach: 
Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Flared and Stranded Gas Solutions: Mini LNG Plant

--> First, there was horizontal drilling, then massive multistage hydraulic fracturing. Then "smart oilfield" with factory drilling and remotely operated operations dramatically improved productivity.

This was good, except that production outstripped pipeline capacity, especially for gas. It also glutted already saturated markets, resulting in a price collapse. The best thing to do with gas was either to flare it or not produce it all, and neither option was good for companies that counted on cash flow from operations to pay for their capital expenditures and private equity financing.

Martin was in a bind. He raised money for two different projects. One was a plan to go into the Panhandle Gas Field and drill horizontal wells to liberate the gas left behind by vertical drilling.

"Fish in a barrel," he gloated inwardly. And, it worked.  What he had not counted on was the terrible condition of the 40-year-old pipelines that had weathered price collapses and negligent owners.  He had "stranded gas" unless he wanted to pay the midstream company to update the system.

"Good grief," he said.  "I might as well buy my own midstream company." But, buying a pipeline did not make sense. After all, he did not know how long the gas production would hold up. or at what production volume.

Martin's other project was equally challenging. He drilled horizontal wells in the Antrim Shale in Michigan, which was really close to the hungry market of Chicago. But, the field was not huge, and there were no nearby pipelines. Given that the wells had a productive life of about 36 months, he could continue to time the development of the new wells to compensate for the depleting ones for at least 5 or 6 years. But, after that, unless they found another field, there would be nothing to produce into a pipeline.  Given those conditions, no midstream companies would touch him.

Martin found a solution:  small-scale, portable LNG facilities

He decided to contact the company and find out how to put in portable LNG solutions, and instead of putting the produced gas into a pipeline, the produced gas would go to the LNG plant, and then they'd put the liquid natural gas in bottles to sell or put in a warehouse (rather than flaring or not producing at all).

  • Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles (old Panhandle Gas Field)
  • Marcellus (remote parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania)
  • New Mexico stranded gas
  • Utica (remote parts of New York and Ohio)
  • Antrim (Michigan)
  • New Albany (Indiana)
  • Mancos (remote parts of Colorado
  • Haynesville (Louisiana, East Texas)
  • Fayetteville (remote parts of Arkansas)
  • others...
Now Martin is looking for more available gas fields.
Contact me him if you'd like to explore the economics of getting a mini-LNG plant on your property.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Mysteries of Dinosaur Extinction: What Really Happened? Dragon's Heir.

Part of the mesmerizing pull of science fiction and fantasy is the opportunity to travel in the mind to a new universe and to experience what Mikhail Bakhtin referred to as “bestrangement” – that vertiginous experience of being off-balance and aware that language and languages are only loosely anchored in a correlative “other,” and that we rely perhaps more than we should on our own experience and what we have socially learned is “real” or “true.”

In a text, the space within the words where there is little or no comprehension of the denotation, much less the cultural meaning(s), gives a reader a feeling of extreme vulnerability due to the inability to “read” the discourse and anticipate behaviors of others.  At the same time, “bestrangement” imbues a sense of invulnerability and a sheltering psychological distance from the workaday reality that the reader may live in. It’s escape in its purest form.

The novel by medical specialist Glenn Parris, The Dragon’s Heir: The Archeologist’s Tale, begins comfortably enough in coastal Maine in a tavern. But, the conversation quickly becomes bestranging, as we become aware that Earth has had some sort of transformation and we’re either in the distant past or in the future, where there has been an Exodus Corridor, a Jing Pen, and Efilu, Nelky, and more. There are no explanations of what the terms mean, and in Chapter 1, the special vocabulary and language of the different world, continue to be developed. The narrative does not pause to explain the terms (although there is an Abridged Jing Pen Translator at the end of the book.

So, it’s a bit of work to make one’s way through the world and follow the dialogue and plot. But, as one reads, and continues to float along in a sense of being transported to another world and another time, it becomes clear that what has happened is that we’re seeing a world that is the result of a mass extinction event – the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K/T) boundary event 65 million years ago that marked the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the subsequent rise of the mammals.

Instead of being single-mindedly predatory (the gaudy, feathered raptors), the dinosaurs were highly evolved creatures with technologies that allowed them to escape the terrible conditions on Earth. In their absence, the mammals rose to power.

Now, as in the way of all diasporas, there is a desire to return to the original home. In this case, it’s also a time to find out what happened to the ancient beliefs, the culture’s leaders, and to understand the traditions. So, they launch a space ship with archeologists, soldiers, and scientists.  Vit Na, the head archeologist, is in charge.

What she finds is a culture of vile mammals who rose, as Vit Na observes, without the pressure of a predator class.  And, they have been able to run amok, undisciplined, and to develop divided, sneaky minds as they foul their own nests.

The book begins to shift tone and to be about survival and hope, and also about levels of communication and alienation in experiences of beings that have powers unfathomable by those who do not share the same ones.

In a certain way, Dragon’s Heir evokes James Joyce’s Ulysses, with a sense of wandering and extreme attention to detail. The narrative refuses to attach to a single plot or sub-plot, and the only reality that one can be sure of is the reality of the body itself. In the heroic acts (or villainous), there is a building sense of philosophy of beingness and reality. What does it take to reinvent our way of understanding the world so we have a chance of survival? Where are the ancient beliefs? What good is a mystic? What good is magic (or technology)?

As in Ulysses, the main issue is that of time travel – in other words, of memory, experience, and the uncovered beliefs and institutions of the past. What have we lost?  In the case of Dragon’s Heir, what has been lost is reborn in the heart of a reinvented heroism: Vit Na’s careful listening to all of those around her, and an awareness that learning the language and beliefs of those around her will require her to decide on her own reality, and to live in a constrained world. The “rage for order” in Ulysses is a return to Dublin, and an affirmation of the power of love, and in the case of Dragon’s Heir, an enlightened self.
Parris, Glenn. (2019) The Dragon’s Heir: The Archeologist’s Tale.   X-Libris. 978-1-9845-4151-2.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Brexit Supply Chain Collapse: What Should Sarah Do?

Sarah Carruthers was fit to be tied. She watched with horror the way that the members of the British government argued and debated with each other, but were unable to come up with a plan to harmonize with the European Union. That mean that all imports and exports from the European Union would hit a wall of red tape, not only tariffs but of documentation, which could amount to, in some cases, upwards of a hundred documents required for a single export into the European Union.

"Don't worry! We're going to replace the European Union market with our old standby, the Commonwealth!" crowed a 20-something Brexit-er on his YouTube channel.

Sarah watched him with mounting animus. "I hope you get deplatformed!" she glowered to herself.

She thought of her own business. She had a small restaurant in the cathedral town of Bury St. Edmunds and she catered to Londoners who liked to go to farmer's markets on the weekends, and also to walk through some of Britain's most historic reaches, where assiduous treasure hunters had found hoards of Roman silver, Anglo-Saxon cloisonne and intricate braid-patterned knife hilts, hidden Catholic abbey chalices during Henry VIII's rampages, and then Georgian and Victorian knick-knacks. There were walking and biking paths, and it was altogether a historical gold mine.

"I should expand into a boutique hotel," she told herself. But with the impending Brexit shock, Londoners were scared. They were not in a mood to explore history, charming walks in nature, and fascinating churchyards immortalized by novelists and poets.

Sarah went into survival mode.

1.  She looked at what it would take to keep up her sales to Germany and France of English Shortbread and Peter Rabbit Chocolates. Most of her sales were around Easter and Christmas. Perhaps she could work with a broker.  At least she understood the anatomy of the demand.

2.  She looked at how complicated it would be to import the packaging, and other elements she used to create her hand-crafted shortbread cookies and chocolate rabbits.

Then, Phase II. She looked at how she could replace lost sales to the Commonwealth. Here were her first thoughts.  The biggest markets in the Commonwealth were India, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and South Africa.

1.  Peter Rabbit chocolates for Easter.  Sarah had to smile (albeit through tears) at this one. Easter?  in India? Pakistan? Peter Rabbit may seem exotic, but it's not going to capture the Hindi, Muslim, or Buddhist populations.

2.  Christmas shortbread. Same problem as Peter Rabbit in South Asia.

3.  There's always Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, right??  Sarah's heart sank. They celebrated Easter and Christmas, but the seasons were opposite, and she did not know how chocolates and shortcake were viewed.  Plus, there was the distance, and the costs of transportation.

Also, there were complications with logistics: transportation, warehousing..

And, there was the pesky issue of brand recognition and marketing -- Sarah's products were well-known in France and Germany, and, thanks to quirky and cute advertising, their jingles were a part of the culture at large.  With the Commonwealth, they'd be starting from ZERO.

Challenge: You've been hired to give Sarah advice. What should she do to keep her sales high and profitable?

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