On My Hard Drive: Miles Davis

In addition to being an Architecture Nerd, I am also a Jazz Dork. I have the luxury of being able to listen to music throughout my day, and it's almost always Jazz.

Miles Davis died when I was a college student, and it's one of those days when you remember the time and place you heard that it had happened. I have this memory from when John Lennon was killed, and when Elvis died as well. Anyway, I digress.

This is from the album Kind Of Blue... The video here is from 1958 and features John Coltrane as well. I listened to this yesterday, and thought it might be time for another installment of this ocassional little ditty we call "On My HardDrive."

For the record, other installments are listed here for your listening pleasure:
John Clayton - Nature Boy
Sly and the Family Stone
Wynton Marsalis - Cherokee

Go see Blueroof.com - seriously.

I've been watching this little company for a long time now - I noticed the billboards shortly after they went up, and the web site ROCKS. Go see for yourself. And read the blog too.

It's no secret that I am no real fan of real estate agents. My general problem with them is that they offer no VALUE for their services, and only exist in a transaction because of some autonomous hold they have over the MLS, and because Utah is a nondisclosure state, the MLS is about the only resource for home sales data. But you and I don't have access to it. Enter the prick real estate agent. But anyway.... don't get me started.

However, Greg Tracy is different. He believes that a consumer (a buyer or seller) should have access to as much information and education as possible, and that an agent's presence in a transaction should add VALUE, not just access to tightly-held information. If you read here often, you'll know that those are the guiding principles to MY business as well, and I value anyone who takes the same bent.

I've worked with A LOT of real estate agents. I would only recommend one - Greg Tracy.

One thing about Greg, his drink of choice is Jack and Coke, and I don't like Jack and Coke. My drink is a three-cherry Manhattan. But that's not to say that we couldn't co-exist, we just couldn't share drinks. Not that I would want to. Just sayin'. He also likes french-cuff shirts - as I do. I know, it's eerie.

And while we're on real estate - here's something for you: the most recent data is out in Utah regarding home price valuations... being a non-disclosure state as we are, this is about the only data available to the public here that isn't controlled by the Board of Realtors. It offers a nice snap-shot of home price movement, quarter by quarter, year over year.

New Lender: You

First you were Time Magazine's Person of the Year, now you're a leader in a new online person to person finance system - you're now a lender. Let me explain.

A friend of mine sent me a link a while back about a site called prosper.com. He noted that it sounded like a good idea, but that I, as a mortgage lender, wouldn't be too happy about it. Here's the thing in a nutshell: It's eBay for money.

If you are looking to borrow money, but want more favorable terms than would otherwise be available to you, or if you want the money for something for which you could not obtain financing in other venues, you go to Prosper.com and enter your details, and what terms you are willing to live by. Sounds easy, right? Well, it is.

The site is driven by people who are willing to lend you money from their private funds. You "compete" for these funds by writing a profile or your need, and the (thousands of) lenders agree to contribute money to your project. For any one borrower's project, there may be several individuals who agree to give you money. Say you wanted $10,000 to start a business - you outline your plan, make your case, and people can contribute as little as $50 to your cause. Once you have garnered enough "bids" to fund your request, the loan is made to you, and you close. You are then expected to make the agreed upon regular monthly payments on that debt until it is paid, just like any other loan.

But here's where it gets interesting. As a lender, if you have say, $5000 at your disposal, you could do lots of things with it. You could put it in a 12 month Certificate of Deposit, making about 4% upon its maturity. Or you could put it in your savings account, and make 2-4% for the year. Or you could go to Prosper, and spread your money (and your risk) across perhaps 100 different little loans, some of them conservative, with a return of 5% or so, and some with a much higher rate of return, say 10-13%. Because you spread your risk among several borrowers, your aggregate rate of return will be much higher than other things you might choose to do.

Prosper is structured just like any other lending institution - the confirm the borrower's identity, his credit score, assign risk factors, and disclose them to you, the ultimate lender. They report payments to credit bureaus, just like banks and credit card companies, and bad debt is assigned to collectors as well, just like other lenders. Because your risk is spread across as many borrowers as you choose, the loss of your money is minimized, and generally offset by the rates of return paid by borrowers. Borrowers like it because the program can help them build a credit score, with credit terms better than high-risk specialty credit card lenders, whose rates are astronomical.

They've been going for almost a year, and they had a nice spot on NPR yesterday as well. Microlending goes tech - freakin' brilliant.

My prediction on rates is reinforced: Thredgold

It seems that Zions Bank economist Jeff Thredgold has been reading my other blog, Mortgage Times, where I noted a while back that I felt like interest rates would flatten and remain generally untouched for the time being. In this morning's Tribune, Thredgold made the same comments... Geez, I'm on a roll.

My politics

Apparently Joe Biden is reading this blog. He saw this post, from May 06, and has taken my advice to run for president. No exploratory committee, no nothin' - "I'm just runnin'."

I hope he stays pissed off. It seems like most of the other candidates, on both sides, are celebrity, or novelty, candidates, rather than true political powers. Having said that, I do think Hillary Clinton is qualified, but I just think there is too much baggage with her, and she is ultimately unelectable west of, say, New York. I guess we'll see how that little prediction goes. I also think Obama is vapor-ware, ultimately a novelty. When the rubber hits the road, he won't be there.

I noted in May that Biden seems like he was truly pissed off with the whole interior of the Beltway. I hope he remains so. There are some tough questions that need to be asked, and answered.


My Sundance moment: copping a feel.

Since it's Sundance season, the time when the Heber airport is overrun by private jet traffic and the streets of Park City are clogged with glitterati and their black-clad hangers-on, I thought it appropriate to share my little claim to Sundance fame:

Background: Sandra Bullock is even more beautiful in three dimensional real life than on emulsified celluloid. I mean "ohh-emm-gee" beautiful.

The year was about 1993-ish - not quite sure. When you're as old as I am, the years start to melt together. Yeah, that's it. She was in a film that year.

Anyway, at the time, I was a sound designer in a local theater here, and I was doing a lot of freelance work as well. On one of those occasions I was contracted by MTV to provide sound services to a local camera operator for three days of shooting at the Sundance Film Festival. Our assignment was to work for the MTV crew doing interviews of anybody they could wrangle, and then hit the party circuit in the evening. I think it was for a daily update show that was airing on MTV during the festival. I don't know if MTV still does that or not, seeing as I don't really WATCH MTV at all.

Anyway, one of our daytime interviews was Sandra Bullock. As all sound guys know, the ideal is to capture clean sound without being able to SEE the microphone in the camera shot. I had a boom with a big fuzzy "beaver" mic on it (don't ask), and a wireless mic set, which would send audio directly to one of the camera's two audio channels. I made the decision that since we were indoors, in a controlled environment, the wireless mic was the way to go, because there wasn't a lot of other ambient noise, and we'd capture her very well with a little lapel clip.

I approached Ms. Bullock, holding the mic clip and the belt pack in my hand, and told her we needed to "mic-up", she was in a makeup chair and her handlers were doing her hair and makeup, etc. She said "sure, go ahead".

I turned pale. Okay, paler.

Then I grabbed the second button of her shirt with my left hand and fed the mic up under her shirt from the shirt tail with my other hand, concealing the mic wire under her shirt, and clipped it to the second button area where my other hand was waiting.

By this time, all blood had now left my head, and the room was spinning. I got it all situated properly, clipped the pack to the back of her pants, and we were set.

We bonded. She's now my best buddy. We go out for coffee all the time. Okay, well, not exactly.

But there you have it: something odd that most people can't say - "I've had my hand up Sandra Bullock's shirt - and she approved."

And in case you're wondering, Billy Crystal is nowhere NEAR as much fun to mic up. I took one for the team on that one. Just sayin.


Morning Wood:

1. The new season of Battlestar Galactica started this last Sunday evening. One of the better shows on TV. The big question: who are the other five Cylons? I therefore humbly submit:

1. Orrin Hatch - who, as we already know, is one of the Three Nephites.
2. Don Johnson, in his Sonny Crockett incarnation. We already know he's had a run in or two with Edward James Olmos / Commander Adama.
3. Al Gore - He invented the system of tubes we now call the interwebs. He's a cylon for sure.
4. Rosie O'Donnell
5. Dom Delouise

Speaking of Battlestar,Tricia Helfer, otherwise known as The Hot Cylon, the one who torments Gaius Baltar, and 15 year old boys alike, is appearing in Playboy's February edition. Woot. Here is her Official Site. It's safe for work.

2. So, speaking of riveting TV, president Bush does battle with his arch-nemesis, the English language, on TV this evening. Stay tuned, all, to see whether his dangling participle really is all it is said to be.

And while we're on the subject, is it just me, or do you also cringe every time you hear Condie Rice open her mouth? It sounds like she is on the verge of screaming her face off, or crying, whichever comes first. I think she is there to make Dubya look like a master of the language. Which she doesn't quite pull off, really.


Good Design Finally Comes To... Utah County???

I'm an architecture nerd. That's news for any newer folks hanging around here...

Here - a random thought or two in general
Here - another random observation
Here - Frank Lloyd Wright worship
Here - An overview of American Architectural styles and periods
Here - How McMansions go horribly wrong
Here - Another thought or two on Frank Lloyd Wright
Here - Homogenization of 20th century society
Here - a discussion of Art Deco and Mid Century Modern styles

There are more, believe me... I'm just too lazy to go find them all....

So back to the original intent of this little installment:

This from the Salt Lake Tribune Money section this morning: World renowned architect Frank Gehry has been hired by a Utah County entrepreneur to design a multi-use development in the north part of Utah County. Brandt Anderson made news recently with the purchase of an NBA Development League team to play in Utah County, and simultaneously announced an affiliation with the Utah Jazz, all in one swell foop.

The kid is 29 years old.


Gehry, 76, holds the Pritzger Architecture Prize, the world's premiere architecture honor. His buildings include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. (both are pictured here...)

Many of his projects have become tourist attractions. He is now designing an addition to the Philadelphia Museum of Art that will be underground.

Hopefully, the thing in Utah County won't be a giant stucco monster like our lovely Gateway project. I hope I'm not the only one who thinks the Gateway looks as fake as everything represented on the Las Vegas Strip. Including balloon boobies.

Yeah, I know. I'm clever like that.

Why My Mailman Hates Me

Because I hate shopping in stores, I do it online. And after a while, when you start shopping at enough places, enough times, online, they start sending you catalogs. And they sell your name to other catalog companies as well. The result:

This is one day's mail. If you're keeping score at home, that's 11 catalogs.

That's why my mailman hates me. It's because he's a whiner.

We live in a culdesac, and we have very little actual curb at our house, besides the driveway. He gets all colicky whenever we have ANYTHING parked in front of our house, because then he has to GET OFF HIS LARD-ASS and actually STAND to put stuff in our mailbox. It's also a problem on garbage day too... on more than one occasion we've had the little "mailman hate mail" placed in our mailbox by him, stating that he can't deliver mail if there is something within 25 feet of the mailbox.

Whiner. It took longer to fill out the hate mail form than it would have taken to actually get off his ass and deliver the mail.

Just sayin.


The Thing About Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban seems to be a very polarizing personality. Everything he does, everything he says, seems to get blown up in the news.

But here's the thing.

Love him or hate him, he draws attention to the things he talks about and cares about. There's a little rule about marketing and sales that many people fail to understand:

DON'T BE AFRAID TO POLARIZE PEOPLE WITH YOUR PRODUCT. Trying to please everyone guarantees your mediocrity.

Think about TIVO, Scion XB from Toyota, think about Apple Computer, the list goes on and on... add some of your own to the list. You love them, or you hate them.

People think that if you use polarizing speech and marketing techniques, you're doing yourself a disservice. That's not true.

I think Cuban is a very smart person. Granted, he's been in the right place at the right time, a lot of times in his relatively young career. But is that all by accident? I think not. Some people have the ability to create The Perfect Storm around them, consistently.

He's done it at least three times, in a major way, starting when he was 21.

Marketing and sales departments would do well to find these types of people and hold onto them. Trouble is, these types aren't typically going to be satisfied with a corporate gig. That is, unless they see an opportunity to take over the entire company. Then they'll stick around.

Just a thought. A random one.

Joe Buck/Troy Aikman vs. Jim Nantz/Phil Simms

I'll take Buck/Aikman, every single time.

I'd take them even if they were announcing a hockey game. Phil Simms thinks that the louder he yells into his mike, the more important his point.

And Aikman is smart, and isn't afraid to talk in technical terms about a "deep cover 2" formation, and can actually diagram it with a telestrator. Simms, not so much. He misidentifies players, positions, plays, etc.

And Nantz puts me to sleep. Period. Stay with golf, Jim. And he's even a Utah boy, so I should have more loyalty. But I don't. And besides the point altogether, he just bought a MASSIVE house in the Park City area. Like 9 Mill...

While we're on the subject, I'm officially calling the Dallas Mavs to be the NBA champs this year. It's that simple - done deal.


A GREAT idea: Finders! Keepers?

I've mentioned that I subscribe to MANY blogs via a news aggregator. One of those is a "blog of the day" service, that collects nominations and publishes two or three Blogs of the Day each day.

I look at the message and see what is nominated each day, but I RARELY visit them unless they are VERY compelling - something needs to speak to an interest I have, or something like that.

One from this morning did indeed compel me to look. Its description was simply this:

There you are, going about your business and you see something on a shelf - or on a subway seat - or in a stack of books - that looks the picture. What should you do?

So I went to take a look. And I must say, this is a GREAT project. An artist in Colorado is painting original oil works, and packaging them up and leaving them in public spaces for people to find and either pass on, or keep for themselves to appreciate.

As someone who enjoys art of many types, I must say, this is a great idea. The artist leaves some information in the package (basically, a zip-lock baggie) asking the finder to log onto the site and leave the location, impression, and the intentions regarding what the finder is going to do with the painting.

I've seen this done with dollar bills and such, and you have too probably, but this is a whole other story, when you are talking about making the world a little bit better place for random people.

If there were more people out there like this, this place wouldn't be half so bad.

I'm just sayin.

What can 1000 people do?

I'm just sayin.


Breaking News: David Beckham to LA Galaxy

Beckham to LA Galaxy...

LONDON (AP) - David Beckham, the former England soccer captain known as much for his style as his play, has agreed to leave Real Madrid and join the Los Angeles Galaxy in a deal Major League Soccer hopes will boost the sport in the United States in a manner similar to Pele's arrival with the Cosmos in 1975.

League Commissioner can only be described as "giddy as a school girl..."

The Sticking Point

Stock traders spend their lives trying to find the next company that will "stick".

The question is, how do you find that? If it was easy, you'd be rich and so would I.

Guy Kawasaki had a career supporting/"evangelisting" the Apple Computer brand. He has since moved into investing in startups and other small companies. He's also looking for the next Sticky Company. He recently gave a speech on how one should make a presentation to investors, in order to "show stickiness". His speech is represented in a 100% graphical expression (linked below), done in real time by a person attending the speech.

See what you think:

10 steps

Apple does it some more - or - I wish my name was Steve

I have a post that I've been meaning to get to for a couple of days now, but first I feel compelled to make a small mention of the MacWorld announcements a couple of days ago. I didn't get a chance to watch the entire presentation, but it's available over at the apple web site. It is ALWAYS entertaining - I've watched many of them.

I've been an Apple Evangelist for a VERY long time, and there hasn't been much time in the last 2 decades that I haven't either owned an Apple computer, or worked on one in my work. When I was in school, I had an Electronic Music course that was augmented by an apple computer - this was in 1988. Since that time, I have either personally owned or worked on several Apple Centris machines, Quadras, PowerPC machines, and I even owned one of their (short-lived) clones. I have an iMac at home that serves up a ton of music, which I hope to upgrade in the next year or so.

Six months ago, I spoke about the iTV announcement at the last MacWorld. It is now ready to go, and seems to be the Next Thing. Which Apple is certainly used to. And we're used to from Apple as well.

The Next Next Thing this time is the iPhone. Rumors were leaked a week or two early to build anticipation, and I listened to an interview on NPR's Marketplace program a little while ago, when they spoke to somebody at Motorola, just after they DOWNGRADED their financial expectations for the next quarter. Seems the RAZR phone, which was THE ONLY PHONE TO HAVE about a year ago, spent very little time on the top of the heap, and now it's in the discount bin. (I got mine a while ago, on a 2fer $99 deal.) This was unexpected to them, and now Motorola is having heartburn, becuase their product development cycle isn't moving as fast as the decline in product lifespan. That's a bad problem to have. Anyway, the interviewer on that show asked the dude what the rest of the industry was thinking about the impending announcement from Apple about moving into the phone market. He said it would be a campaign of Shock and Awe and that Apple would likely change all sorts of metrics in that field.

I agree - for the most part. ThatOneWife mentioned a couple of days before the announcement that the trademark for the name "iPhone" was actually owned by Cisco, not Apple. And no sooner had Steve Jobs left the stage at MacWorld, Cisco had filed a suit in San Fransisco claiming trademark infringement. Apple calls the suit "silly". I guess we'll see. This isn't Apple's first trip around the block, not even their first trip around the phone block. Same with Cisco.

But back to the good stuff. Reviewers and critics alike say the product, whatever it gets named, is unique, and will change the way phone manufacturers will do business in the future.

If you've made it this far, you deserve some pictures. Here is a whole gallery:

Knock yourself out.


The Land of Aston Martins & Bentleys

So, I promised a few pictures from our little trip away just before Christmas. Here they are:

First, where we stayed.

The view from our hotel room:

I had heard news, as we all have, I guess, about the state of the real estate market in California. I've seen headlines like, "It's all over except the crying in California", or "All The Forces Are Now Ganged Up In California", or "Free-Market Gravity Takes Hold In California", so we decided to take a little drive up in the hills a bit, above Laguna Niguel. Lots of For Sale signs. I didn't make any inquiries, but if you are familiar with the area, you probably know that this is a 7-figure area.

So, I must say I was a little surprised to see the vast number of Bentleys driving around. They are as common there as the Audi A6 is here. A quick perusal of the Bentley web site shows the retail price of the base unit at a whopping $229,000. Damn. And still so many. There were not a few Aston Martins there as well. Same kind of price range. They were stacked up in the Valet area every single day. These pictures are from there.

So anyway, one of the days we decided to drive down the PCH to the San Diego area, and then up north a ways as well. We had lunch at a fresh fish harbor and ate some really yummy fish. That's a true statement for EVERYWHERE we ate there. The first night there we went to a little hole in the wall restaurant, and I had a whole lobster - it was heavenly, if you like that sort of thing...

On another day, we took a trip to the Long Beach area, and went to see the Queen Mary. Stupidly, I walked around with the little camera swinging from my hand, AND NEVER TOOK A SINGLE DAMN PICTURE. And here's why that was soooo stupid: The Queen Mary is an interesting little trip. There are two facets to the tour. First, there is the nautical stuff, the Captain's quarters, etc. But then there's the design of the public spaces. This space is a gorgeously preserved example of the Art Deco design period. Everywhere you turn there are beautiful round chrome bits, wonderful finished wood paneling, excellent lighting fixtures. I was in awe. And took no pictures. Because I am a moron.

But we had a nice time anyway.


This happened here this week

Talk about a heart-rending story... Little dude dropped off at a local church, with this note pinned to him:

Can't imagine the things in this little girl's mind. Rough stuff.

Happy New Year:

So, new year here, I've been hammered at work, so haven't been able to throw stuff up here as much as I might have liked.

However, looking back, I am at almost 365 posts, and I am at almost the magical one year anniversary here at the old blogger thing. So that's about one per day. Granted, it's been thinner here recently than in the past, and for that, I apologize to the loyal readers. Both of you. You know who you are.

Anyway, it's been a long holiday season for me. I tend to lose some faith in humanity around this time of year. I hate the traffic, I hate the commercialization, I hate the mentality of "to get is way more funner than to give." I hate the guilt trip, I hate the feeling of being some body's ATM machine. I don't like the house clutter, and I don't dig the longer hours it takes to get ANYTHING done. Even the mundane takes an insane amount of time.

I'm a grinch, scrooge, I guess, deep down. Oh, I know, in my heart, I feel the true meaning of the season, and the best part of it for me is to spend time with family and friends. But beyond that, I'm not a lover of the season. I guess part of it has to do with the fact that when you're self employed, time is money, people are money, and when those two things are shorter in supply, you suffer a bit because of it. That frustrates me.

Oh well.

A random:
It's great fun to watch what's going on in the economy right now. I wrote about that a bit earlier over on my other blog. Where nobody goes. The thing about the housing market is that its downturn/slowdown/pop affects lots of other things too. I read about a company the other day that runs daylaborers out to work sites. They've laid off a bunch of people, and they have stopped going to residential sites and are now taking a smaller work force to commercial sites now. The owner notes that if they had not had the foresight to change, they'd be out of business by now.

Another random:
The Agent-In-Charge of the Ogden Immigration and Customs office, who happens to be a friend of mine was telling me the other day about how sucky his life has been since the Swift plant raids to gather up the criminals who also happen to be illegal aliens. He notes that he can deal with the families of the individuals who were gathered up in the raid. He politely explains that they were breaking the law, are criminals who used other people's identities to secure employment, and they will be punished under the law. He tells them that since they want to be part of the country so bad, that they will also have to learn that they need to obey the laws of the country they so badly want to be a part of...

But those aren't the phone calls he hates. The ones he hates are the ones from the hispanic advocates who call and spew all sorts of garbage about how unfair and discriminatory it is to have focused on these people (who broke the law and stole regular law-abiding citizens' identities). Then he mentions to the advocate person how nobody is talking too much about the illegal mexican who was driving with no license or insurance, who was driving drunk and hit that family on Christmas Eve, killing three members of the family. Then they hang up and don't call back.

A third random:
Allen Iverson hasn't even played with Carmelo Anthony yet, and shows that he can't even stay in the game that way - he got ejected after two technicals the other day, playing against his old team. Anthony is serving a suspension for his own childish antics earlier. Whatever.

A fourth random:
An American car requires about $2000 of the sales price to pay for healthcare. At Toyota, the cost is about $300 per vehicle. You tell me why the "Big Three" are struggling. Besides making garbage, I mean. Toyota is about to overtake GM as the world's number one car manufacturer this year. Toyota is run by engineers, the American car makers are run by MBA's.

And a fifth:
Home Depot's CEO has now stepped down, receiving a golden parachute consisting of $210 MILLION as a compensation package. He said that he was stepping down because he had become a lightning rod for consumer groups who claim that there are too many publicly traded companies whose top leadership earnings are out of touch with reality and are against the best interests of share holders. Ya think?

There are more - you'll have to wait for a day or two. And sorry, no pix this time... I'll have pictures from our recent getaway to Laguna Niguel next time. Promise.

That is all.