Monday, December 22, 2008

"New Words"

Mikel and I were lucky enough to get to see this year's Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert.  There are few things that make Christmas feel as special.  This year's concert featured Brian Stokes Mitchell (Tony winner and Broadway star) and Edward K. Herrmann (actor a la Gilmore Girls).

The whole experience helps to ring in Christmas.  Getting to walk through the snow, window shopping through the Gateway and seeing the buzz of the city.  The lights at Temple Square are some of the best and most festive in the world and the conference center is always an amazing venue to be at--the beautiful concert hall, always a full house, being there with 21,000 people celebrating Christmas.

Mitchell was a fantastic performer--certainly a little quirky at times--but his singing was amazing.  The only song I knew him to have performed was "Through Heaven's Eyes" from the Prince of Egypt.

Though an amazing song my favorites that he performed were Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" where he did a lot of very high range vocal instrumentals and then my very favorite, a song I had never heard before, "New Words".

The song is written by Maury Yeston, and after hearing his original version of it think Mitchell's arrangement to be much better.  The song is a lullaby from father to a young son as he learns his new words.  I would think the song would be beautiful in mosts opinion but being a new father myself certainly brought a lot of sentiment to the song.

I have searched all over the web for a clip of the song to no avail, but I have included the original lyrics below (which Mitchell changed for his arrangement but still close).

Look up there high above us
In a sky of blackest silk
See how round, like a cookie
See how white, as white as milk
Call it the "moon" my son
Say "moon"
Sounds like your spoon, my son
Can you say it?
New word today
Say "moon"

Near the moon brightly turning
See the shining sparks of light
Each one new, each one burning
Through the darkness of the night
We call them "stars" my son
Say "stars"
That one is "Mars," my son
Can you say it?
New word today
Say "stars"

As they blink all around us
Playing starry-eyed games
Who would think it astounds us
Simply naming their names?

Turn your eyes from the skies now
Turn around and look at me
There's a light in my eyes now
And a word for what you see
We call it "love" my son
Say "love"
So hard to say my son
It gets harder
New words today
We'll learn to say
Learn "moon,"
Learn "stars,"
Learn "love."  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where I Beat the Market by 51.94% (since March)

Before the markets got too fishy I decided to commit a sum of money to a market I had long been paying attention to--P2P lending

I researched the prominent sites--Prosper, LendingClub, and Zopa.  Back in March  there were fewer sites than now. 

I decided that I would commit equal sums to both Prosper and LendingClub to try the experience and see what I liked, disliked, and where I got the better return. 

Here is how I have done since March. Prosper: 22.68% APY with 0 defaults. LendingClub 12.78% APY with 4 loans late on their payments. If all 4 loans default, my eventual APY will be something to the tune of -8%. 

LendingClub has two things going for it: 
  1. Currently they are the only SEC approved P2P site 
  2. The minimum loan denomination is only $25 making it easier to diversify your portfolio with a smaller sum of money (the min amount is $50 with Prosper).  

However, these benefits don't outweigh what Prosper has going for it: 
  1. Transparency with the community.  On Prosper, it is easy to sort by lenders that already have personal friends, or borrower groups, invested in that person. This means that a network of personal and close associates have incentives to keep the lender from defaulting on the loan. This helps keep ROI up and defaults low.
  2. Prosper has an auction system rather than pre-determined rates-of-return like lendingclub.  This allows you to find "deals" or expected rates-of-return above the market rate due to inefficiencies with the market.  

I am now very interested in learning about YadYap, the first P2P payday loan site, and, a P2P site for startup financing.

Not Always What it Seems

Check out this cool post by Web Urbanist of architectural optical illusions.

A teaser:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes to Prop 8

A quote for the LDS press release following the passing of Prop 8:

"The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians.  Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches. "

I think this was well said. The LDS church does not object to equal rights but has an intrinsic belief that marriage, by divine definition, is between a man and a woman. I feel that both sides of this issue have gotten mixed up in a battle over the mincing of words and what needs to be drawn into focus is the rights of both groups.  I believe that there is a mutually agreeable solution to this conflict. The LDS church should be allowed to maintain its right to believe and support a strict definition of marriage, that it is between a man and a woman, and reserve the right to only marry men and women and only place adopted children to families with both a husband and a wife. Gays should have equal access to medical, housing, insurance, employment, and probate rights.  

If a legal status can be created that allows both groups those options, call it whatever you would like, let them own the definition of "marriage" if you allow us to preserve our beliefs of a "traditional marriage" or "heterosexual union".By fighting over this singular definition it seem that we have made this battle mutually exclusive when it needn't be. Why can we not issue all those rights to Gays without stripping religious groups of their rights to define and support marriage by their definition. Must they be mutually exclusive. Is it offensive to the Gay community if we support you in your rights but choose not to participate in the practice?

This mustn't be an all or nothing for either group.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Change, just don't think too hard about it.

So I have been reading Atlas Shrugged (voted the most influential book in America next to the Bible in a Library of Congress poll).  

I read a passage today, that in light of the election, I thought captured the American mood.

"People don't want to think. And the deeper they get into trouble, the less they want to think. But by some sort of instinct, they feel that they ought to and it makes them feel guilty. So they'll bless and follow anyone who gives them justification for not thinking. Anyone who makes a virtue--a highly intellectual virtue--out of what they know to be their sin, their weakness and their guilt... that is the road to popularity."

In this election year I have felt that neither leading candidate has proposed a solid strategy for America? Can any of us answer what America's 10 year plan is? What we hope to achieve? Can any of us answer what Obama or McCain would say to that question?

I do feel that Obama, more than McCain, is administering the justification for not thinking. Change. Change. Change. That message has lulled the voters to peace in a time of uncertainty and pain. But what will we change and how?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's your brand?

Says adweek:

Obama = BMW McCain = Ford

Fair enough. By the way... who founded BMW? Internet hi5 to whoever gets that one. What's that say of Obama? What do the brand associations say in general?

While we are on the topic of brand associations: brand tagging--check it.  What is the first word that comes to mind when people think about your company? This tool tells you exactly that...

How about your personal brand? At Oliver Wyman they are always huge on the mantra "build your own brand."  OW's staffing policy can be very informal which means that you can live or die by your brand.  If you build a brand that says dependable, smart, fast, and fun you find yourself working the top cases with top partners. If your brand says unproffesional, young, or slow... you can sit.

FastCompany concurs: The Brand Called You.

I am with them. But at OW this largely means building a reputation for yourself.  I would extend that building a brand for yourself can go so much further in today's webby world.

What is the difference between a reputation and a brand?

Brands are made up of concrete symbols, images, slogans, taglines, that convey the message of a company. Reputation is the opinion that the public holds of you and your brand.  

The most effective personal brands today have three components:
  1. Name recognition. The Trumps, Clintons, and Feys of the world are the Starbucks, Apples, and Googles of the personal brands. A good reputation without name recognition is worth little.  Build your name. 
  2. Social media.  This is the address, local, logo, and environment to your personal brand.  This is your distribution channel and design architecture.  Work the social media.
  3. Own a network. Powerful brands can earn loyalty and can mobolize people to purchase or to act.  Powerful people do the same. Grow the network. 
And just for fun... what brands do you associate with me?? Get'r in the comments.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thinking Inside the Box

Remember the picture in the MTC of the guy getting baptized in the dumpster. Ode:


Friday, January 4, 2008

Huckabee shmuckabee Iowa suffers from evangelical incontinencee

I must say I was disappointed with the Iowa results that came in last night. I personally find it distasteful that Huckabee airs his Christian ads in Iowa but conveniently airs his tax ads in NH. He is the nations "Christian Leader" when it is convenient to the base. I don't know which is worse, a Christian of convenience, or a leader of convenience.
To quote Mitt, "Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world." Lets hope NH agrees with Mitt.
Go Mitt.