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David Sifry, Engr '91 — a self-described "serial entrepreneur" — is used to quick entries and exits. But the CEO of Technorati, a Silicon Valley company that tracks activity in the exploding world of blogs, insists that he's not going anywhere.
"I'm riding this one all the way through," says Sifry, 36,
who founded Technorati in 2002, when the word "blog" was
still a mystery to most Internet users. Since then, the
four-letter abbreviation for "Web log" — a Web site
containing an online personal journal — was named
Merriam-Webster's 2004 Word of the Year.
Sifry and Technorati developed technology to identify in
real time the blogs that attract the most links. It's
essentially a search engine for Web logs, but the time
element is a new twist, Sifry says.
Bloggers who search Technorati can find out what's hot in the blogosphere right now and locate other bloggers with shared interests. Businesses can use the information to spot emerging trends and find out what their customers are saying.
According to Sifry, blogging's explosive growth in the past three years represents a fundamental shift in how people use the Internet. "It's more like having a telephone," he says. "You end up with people writing blogs just to talk to Grandma or just for really small groups of people."
Technorati currently monitors more than seven million blogs that generate more than 800,000 postings daily. Thirty-five thousand new blogs are created every day, with a new one popping up every three seconds. "Seven million people are joining in a humongous civic conversation, and by the way, a lot of them are talking about their cats," Sifry jokes.
He believes that Technorati is poised to play a role in helping people make sense of a whole new universe of ideas and information. "The interesting thing here is that there's this way for people to have a voice," says Sifry. "Everybody truly has the power to publish, and it's become so easy that they're really doing it."
Even in junior high, Sifry knew he wanted to be a player in Silicon Valley. He launched a computer consulting service at age 16, a business he continued while working his way through Johns Hopkins, where he majored in computer science and engineering. After graduation, he took an engineering job with Mitsubishi Electric in Japan. He returned to the United States in 1994 and, after a brief stint on Wall Street, relocated to the West Coast to strike out on his own.
Sifry, who now lives in San Francisco with his wife and two young children, honed his entrepreneurial skills at other technology-based enterprises, including Sputnik, a wireless network company he co-founded, and Linuxcare, a Linux services pioneer, where he was co-founder and chief technology officer.
"After starting four different businesses, I've learned that it takes just as much time and effort to create something really small as something really big, so why not do the really big thing?" Sifry says of his decision to start Technorati.
The company makes money through advertisers, a subscription service, and partnerships with Web sites that pay to publish content from Technorati.
Convinced of blogging's power and influence before most, Sifry even challenged Johns Hopkins to get on board. His 2003 proposal called for the university to make blogs available to its researchers and scientists to move their work beyond the narrow confines of academic journals. Sifry suggested a contest to award $1 million in grants — in $10,000 portions — to the best blogs.
"It would open a window to the entire world of the interests, knowledge, and thinking of 100 of the world's finest professors, students, and administrators in higher education today," Sifry wrote in his blog two years ago.
"That challenge is still out there," Sifry says. "Come on,
you guys. You want to attract the best researchers in the
world? Show off what you're doing. I'm still waiting
— tick tock, tick tock."
The toddlers who come to Yolanda Bricard's Musical Kids
classes know what they're here for. Before they're even out
of their strollers, they shake their little legs, eager to
begin singing, bouncing, clapping, and dancing.
and los niños.
"It's a big music celebration," says Bricard, who created
Musical Kids six years ago to provide children 5 and under
with a deeper connection to music. "We celebrate
These days, diversity is high on the list of things to celebrate. Last fall, Bricard added Bebé Musical — classes featuring music from Spain, the Caribbean, and Latin America — becoming the first bilingual music class for children in the city's Upper East Side (and garnering a spot on Time Out New York Kids magazine's list of the top five music classes with "more pizzazz"). Next fall she will add French, Korean, and Japanese classes as well.
"Many people want their children to be close to a different language or a different culture at an early age," says Bricard.
A Dominican Republic native, Bricard has always been close to the music, cultures, and languages she teaches. She has taught music in French, Spanish, and English in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Paris. She says her love for teaching music goes back to her childhood — when at 14, she began giving piano lessons to her cousins. "My dream was to have a school," Bricard says. "Teaching has always been my life."
Bricard earned a bachelor's degree in piano from Peabody and a master's from Teachers College at Columbia University before teaching at St. Ignatius School and the Diller-Quaile School of Music in New York. In 1999, she founded Musical Kids. Though she has no intention of opening more Musical Kids schools ("I prefer to be like one good restaurant and not a chain," she says), she does plan to create a printed Spanish curriculum and an accompanying CD by the end of the year.
Tiring administrative work pays off on the days she gets to teach, Bricard says. She describes babies that never stop singing. Another child goes home and sings to his shoes. "All those things are signs that the children really love what they do," says Bricard. "And I think it's because I love what I do so much." — Kathryn Hansen
Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the
Mercator Projection, by Mark Monmonier, A&S '64,
University of Chicago Press (2004).
Grudge Match, a Chris Sinclair Novel, by Jay
Brandon, A&S '79 (MA), Tom Doherty Associates (2004).
Last spring, psychiatrist Gordon Livingston found himself at a crossroads.
The medical group he'd worked with in Columbia, Maryland,
for 33 years was closing. As Livingston contemplated his
professional future, he began to reflect upon his thousands
of conversations with patients over the years. Had they
learned anything? Had he? Or was it all, he pondered, just
"words in the air"?
Livingston started writing — and soon his words took
the form of essays, each one themed to a truth that he
deemed worthy of sharing: "We are what we do. Feelings
follow behavior. Our greatest strengths are our greatest
weaknesses. Not all who wander are lost." The insightful
essays soon became a book, borrowing its title from an old
Pennsylvania Dutch proverb: Too Soon Old, Too Late
Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now (Marlow
and Company, 2004).
The book is Livingston's second. He first wrote Only Spring after his 6-year-old son died from leukemia in 1992. It was an incomprehensible tragedy for Livingston, who had lost his older son to suicide just 13 months earlier.
Only Spring earned a place of status among
bereavement literature — and caught the eye of
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Senator John Edwards, when she
was struggling with the death of their son. Edwards and
Livingston met in an online community of bereaved parents
nine years ago and have maintained an email friendship ever
since. The foreword Edwards wrote for Too Soon Old, Too
Late Smart praises Livingston's directness, compassion,
and sensible wisdom.
"For he knows, as well as anyone could," Edwards writes,
"that life will have its way with us and that all we can
hope to do is to keep ourselves in alignment for the bumpy
The story of Livingston's own bumpy ride would be a book worth reading. Raised in upstate New York, he graduated from West Point in 1960. After a two-year tour of duty with the Army, he enrolled at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and graduated in 1967. Then he was off to Vietnam, serving as a surgeon at the height of the war. He received the Bronze Star for valor — and, not long after, a general discharge after writing an anti-war treatise called "The Blackhorse Prayer" (in the same spirit as Mark Twain's "War Prayer") and distributing it to high-ranking officials and journalists.
The prayer got him arrested but not court-martialed. He resigned from the Army and was accepted into the residency program at Johns Hopkins. Livingston later married Clare King, a psychiatric social worker at Hopkins, and is father to four adult children. It is Livingston's life experiences, and those of his patients, that flavor the truths he sets forth in Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.
"You don't have any idea if what you're thinking — what you think you know — is of any interest to others," Livingston says, admitting he finds his book's success somewhat inexplicable. He was shocked — and thrilled — to stumble across a mention of his book by columnist Maureen Dowd in The New York Times.
"That took care of the first printing," Livingston laughs. The book is now in its fifth printing, having claimed the sixth spot on The Washington Post's nonfiction list and ranking as high as 20 on Amazon.com. Good Morning America, NPR, and a host of local media have kept Livingston in the spotlight.
"Life is a gamble," he writes in his book, "in which we
don't get to deal the cards but are nevertheless obligated
to play them to the best of our ability." He's obviously a
man who takes his own advice to heart.
Armed with a pot of coffee, a pen, and some paper, Emily
Richards begins sketching a businessman carrying a
briefcase and wearing a pink tutu and toe shoes. She draws
him pointing at another businessman and exclaiming, "Dress
for the job you want, not the job you have." Published in
the front of The New Yorker's November 2004 cartoon
issue, it remains Richards' favorite published cartoon.
Richards did not always work as a cartoonist. After earning
her MA from the Johns Hopkins Writing
Seminars, she was co-editor of this magazine's alumni
section. Two years ago, she moved to New York to pursue a
career in writing and got a job as a fact checker at The
At a bar one evening with friend and assistant cartoon editor Marshall Hopkins, the cartoon ideas started flowing. "We were laughing hilariously, like the best laugh I had had in years," says Richards. "I was cracking myself up." She went home and that Sunday spent six hours drawing about 20 cartoons.
On Monday morning, her cartoons lay atop a pile of the week's 1,000 or so submissions. To Richards' great fortune, head cartoon editor Robert Mankoff happened by the pile and noticed her work. He liked what he saw, and Richards has since published six cartoons in the magazine.
In the beginning, Richards says, ideas came to her easily. "I couldn't keep up with my own brain. It was great!" Now she has to work for inspiration. "At first you would think that trying to be funny is like trying to be tall or something — just not possible," Richards says. Her trick: to consider a common item or idea, then give it a twist.
It seems to be working. Though no longer a staffer —
Richards now works as a freelance editor and writer for
Scholastic's Literary Cavalcade magazine and writes
the voice-over script for TLC's new reality decorating show
Moving Up — she still submits 10 cartoons to
The New Yorker each week. "It seems like a sort of
silly hobby," she says. "And it is. It's just like
doodling. But a lot of people would make good cartoonists
— it just takes sitting down and fooling around for a
In February, President George W. Bush selected Peter Allgeier, SAIS '74, to serve as acting U.S. trade representative. A career trade negotiator, Allgeier had been serving as deputy U.S. trade representative under Robert Zoellick, who is now deputy secretary of state.
Mike Griffin, A&S '71, Engr '83 (MS), has been nominated by President Bush to be the next NASA administrator. Griffin, currently head of the Space Department at JHU's Applied Physics Laboratory, is a veteran aerospace executive who has held multiple senior-level positions at the Pentagon, NASA, and in the aerospace industry.
Danny Kelley, Peab '71 (MM), '85 (DMA), is the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black university and the second oldest institution of higher education in Texas. Kelley has been a member of the faculty at the university since 1978 and served as chair of the Department of Music and Drama since 1997.
Edyth Schoenrich, SPH '71, deputy director of the Master of Public Health Programs at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in May. She received that recognition for her clinical preparation and practice in internal medicine, hematology, and general preventive medicine.
Aaron Thegeya, Engr '03, an analyst at Analysis Group in Washington, D.C., has been awarded a 2005 Rhodes Scholarship. He is one of two recipients selected from his native Kenya, and he intends to pursue a doctorate in economics at Oxford University.
New Whiting School Dean Nick Jones
Photo by Ray Studios
The Whiting School
of Engineering welcomed a familiar face to a new role
this past summer when Nick Jones — former chair of
the Department of Civil
Engineering — was appointed dean.
For the past two years, Jones headed the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The bulk of his career, however, has been spent at Johns Hopkins. He began as an assistant professor at the university in 1986 and spent the next 16 years in the Department of Civil Engineering. A native New Zealander whose research interests include wind engineering, structural dynamics, and earthquake engineering, Jones recently spoke with the Development Office's Brian Shields about becoming dean and where the Whiting School is headed.
What brought you back to Johns Hopkins?
This place has always been special to me. I've been given a wonderful opportunity to take the helm of the School of Engineering and guide it into the future. We've got so many exciting things going on here, and the opportunities are extraordinary. The potential for collaboration — within and among departments and divisions at Johns Hopkins, including APL [Applied Physics Laboratory], and with local industry — is almost limitless.
What will you tackle first?
I have a list of initiatives that are high priority, but near the top is strengthening our undergraduate curriculum. There is a committee at work right now examining how to make our bachelors program truly distinctive. Involving undergrads in research is done here on a scale unseen in other universities, and we can build on this to create a distinctive signature for our undergraduate program. I want the next generation of engineers to pick Hopkins because we offer the best education and the best opportunities.
Attracting and retaining students and faculty is also a key
focus. We are in an increasingly competitive environment,
and we need to be able to ensure that the best students
continue to attend Hopkins and have access to the best
faculty. We have terrific faculty, and they are highly
sought after by other institutions. And so we must compete
— which means we need to invest in professorships.
The same case can be made for aid for students at the
undergraduate and graduate level. I think these are wise
|Engineering professor Bill Sharpe works with undergraduates in his micro-electromechanical systems lab.||
Along those same lines is something I like to think of as "academic venture capital." The Whiting School faculty have some wonderful ideas for research and projects, and I think one of the best things I can do as dean is to make strategic investments in the best of these ideas. Researchers do not inhabit a "sleepy world" of academia. This is a highly charged environment, and we need to be able to quickly assess and take prudent risks on those ideas that show promise. Philanthropy is crucial in all of this because it allows us flexibility to invest in new ideas, which is vital to keeping the School of Engineering competitive.
You've mentioned an interest in students and faculty reaching out beyond Johns Hopkins.
I see tremendous potential for collaboration with industry in the region, and I think our alumni can be a great resource in helping us in this regard. We've already seen a great willingness among our alums to help push the Whiting School forward. At the same time, we need to engage with the city, with our state, and with our region — to be good neighbors. We have a particular responsibility to Baltimore and Maryland, and we are working to ensure that the School of Engineering is contributing effectively to local education and to the local economy.
What do you see for the future of Hopkins Engineering?
I have a simple vision statement for the Whiting School: "leadership through innovation." We are not after rankings for the sake of being "number 1" or "top 10," but we are looking to be seen clearly as leaders in what we do. This means offering a strong core in the fundamentals of engineering while building up strategically those areas where we already excel, like biomedical engineering, and more generally, engineering for the life sciences, and computational science and engineering. There are plenty of challenges ahead, but I am confident we can meet them. I am excited about working with alumni, friends, and other supporters of the school as we move toward an exciting future.
When Joe Dukert graduates from Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies this May, he will become the oldest person to receive a PhD from the school — a distinction that was 50 years in the making.
Half a century ago, SAIS opened the
Bologna Center in
Italy. Dukert received a full fellowship and was among the
small group that completed the first year of classes there,
receiving his certificate of graduate studies with honors
|Joe Dukert at his Mexico City dissertation celebration, 2004||
At the Bologna Center's 35th anniversary celebration in
1990, Dukert says that then-president Steve Muller's
presentation of recent international developments reminded
him how impressed he was with the SAIS approach to the
world. Within a year he inquired about a PhD — but
not before SAIS Washington asked Dukert to serve on the
Advisory Committee of the International Energy,
Environment, Science, and Technology Program, of which he
remains a member today. The group meets once a year to
discuss curriculum, programs, and the general energy and
environmental outlook, both domestically and
"I think Johns Hopkins-SAIS is without a doubt the outstanding international relations program in the United States," says Dukert. In 1993, he earned a master's degree in international relations from SAIS in Washington (with an emphasis on energy), and afterward enrolled as a doctoral candidate.
Dukert already had a successful career writing, lecturing,
and consulting in the field of energy policy analysis of
North America. He served on two advisory committees for the
State Department. One was Oceans, Environment, Science and
Technology; the other, Antarctica, became the subject of
his book, This is Antarctica. But a decade after beginning
the PhD program, he still had not written his dissertation.
Determined not to remain a member of "A.B.D. — all
but the dissertation," Dukert says, he focused for a year
on writing and defending the paper. Titled "Creation and
Evolution of North America's Gas & Electricity Regime," it
was approved in December. Dukert was 75.
Joe Dukert in
Bologna, Italy, 1955
Obtaining a PhD "didn't make any economic sense," says
Dukert, who has written three and edited two national
energy policy plans. "Most people thought I had a
doctorate. It wasn't going to enhance my reputation as an
"I really have a love of learning, which is a basic reason," he adds. "I wanted to get back into the academic discipline because I thought it would be good for me."
Following the approval of Dukert's dissertation, his wife, Betty, a former Meet the Press executive producer, "produced" a celebration for 30 of their friends that included dinner at Hacienda de los Morales in Mexico City and a guided bus tour of the city. After Dukert gets his degree this May, he plans to present an energy policy paper in Taiwan before heading out with Betty to Vietnam and Cambodia, perhaps followed next year by an African Safari.
"All in all, it's been an interesting life," Dukert says.
"And it ain't over yet!
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The Johns Hopkins Alumni Journeys travel program organizes alumni trips all over the world, combining leisure and sightseeing with the university's commitment to lifelong education. This year, the Travel Program offers two exclusive, custom JHU trips:
Footprints of Ecuador
Berlin: A Musical Journey
For information on these and other alumni travel program trips, visit www.alumni.jhu.edu/travel.
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