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Friday, January 30, 2009

We Should All Thank Lilly Ledbetter

Forty years ago this month I entered the real work force. A real job with Wells Fargo Bank. I was all of 19, recently married and had dropped out of the University of San Francisco. This real job had the same grade and pay of a teller, but the Human Resource Officer who interviewed me thought I might be better suited to a desk job with limited "face to face" contact with the public! I was paid $370 per month. (Let me save you some time, that computes to $2.13 per hour.) I was assigned to the Monthly Payment Loan Center as a Payoff Clerk and my desk was located on the 3rd floor of the Wells Fargo Bank World Headquarter's building at 44 Montgomery, San Francisco, Ca. The building was new, completed in 1966 and it was the tallest building in San Francisco between 1966 and 1968. While my blog today is somewhat personal regarding my resume, I want to dedicate it to Lilly Ledbetter. We should all thank Lilly Ledbetter for her relentless pursuit of justice which resulted in the eventual passing and signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. It has been a long 40 years!

If you are not familiar with Lilly's case against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, then I invite you to read about it. After the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed most Americans probably felt protected by the law, but for women in the work place there has been an undercurrent sometimes barely noticeable, nevertheless palpable. Let me explain how this phenomena works. When you are hired by a large company, a well established company (Wells Fargo was founded in 1852), there is a presumption of trust. After all this is a bank and we all know that the basis of banking is that of a fiduciary. So is a 19 year old woman suppose to see red flags when in the interview process she is asked what kind of birth control measures do you use? Should the 19 year woman question why as an employee of the company she has no maternity insurance coverage, but the wives of male employees do? Should the 19 year old woman question her manager (a man) when he reminds all employees that they will be subject to termination if they meet with union leaders?

By 1972 I did start to ask questions, but I didn't have the time or money to fight for the cause...so I resigned from Wells Fargo and returned to college full time. By 1974 I received my B.A. in Social Work and went back into the work force, only to find myself once again in the banking industry. In 1978 I was hired by Crocker National Bank and by early 1979 (at the age of 29) I was an Assistant Vice President of Consumer Loan Administration. I worked in the Crocker Bank Tower located at 611 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. By this time, no one questioned my birth control measures (except my immediate Vice-President when he promoted me to AVP and then said with a chuckle: "Now, don't get pregnant!"), women employees now had maternity coverage, and unions just never came up in conversations.



In late 1980, I gave birth to my first son, Aaron. I resigned from Crocker Bank in the Spring of 1981 and it was purchased by Wells Fargo in 1986. I did not return to the banking industry until October 1985. By then I was 36 years old and we had just relocated to Conway, New Hampshire, with our two young children. Dennis and I met with a Commercial Loan Officer of Indian Head Bank North to discuss purchasing a country inn. After reviewing our business plan and resume, the gentleman looked at me and said: "Can we set this loan application aside and talk about hiring you?" He had me! After all, we were new in this community and if one of the most prestigious banks in the state was willing to offer me a job as a loan officer, two blocks from our home with medical benefits for the whole family then why not accept it?

I worked for Indian Head Bank North, was promoted to Vice President, and continued there even after we purchased Cranmore Mountain Lodge in 1986. But in 1988 Indian Head Bank was purchased by Fleet Bank and by 1989 most of the senior officers had been offered a severance package. I resigned my position in November 1989. Fleet Bank was purchased by Bank of America in 2003.

What you need to understand is that I always suspected that I did not receive equal pay for equal work in the banking industry. And now you are probably wondering why didn't I pursue it. The answer is complex: First, most companies use what are referred to as pay grades. According to Wikipedia a "Pay grade is a unit in systems of monetary compensation for employment. It is commonly used in public service, both civil and military, but also for companies of the private sector. Pay grades facilitate the employment process by providing a fixed framework of salary ranges, as opposed to a free negotiation. Typically, pay grades encompass two dimensions: a "vertical" range where each level corresponds to the responsibility of, and requirements needed for a certain position; and a "horizontal" range within this scale to allow for monetary incentives rewarding the employee's quality of performance or length of service."; Secondly, in most large companies you are subject to termination if you discuss your compensation level with other employees. So there you have it in a nut shell, put the woman in a pay grade that is the same as the men performing the same job, but start her in the bottom of the pay range and then make it clear that if she discusses her compensation she will be fired; Third, if you really want to keep her in tow, then give her a title, like Vice-President. It is all about TRUST!

Tonight I had the opportunity to read about Lilly Ledbetter's suit. As I read through the history of the case, I finally came to the Supreme Court's ruling against Lilly. Again, according to Wikipedia: "Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the court. The Court held that according to Title VII, discriminatory intent must occur during the 180-day charging period. Ledbetter did not claim that Goodyear acted with discriminatory intent in the charging period by issuing the checks, nor by denying her a raise in 1998. She argued that the discriminatory behavior occurred long before but still affected her during the 180-day charging period. Prior case law, the Court held, established that the actual intentional discrimination must occur within the charging period. The Court also stated that according to those prior cases, Ledbetter’s claim that each check is an act of discrimination is inconsistent with the statute, because there was no evidence of discriminatory intent in the issuing of the checks." So basically, they ruled against Lilly because she did not file her complaint within the 180-day charging period.

As I read this decision I immediately thought of the standard operating procedure for most companies, you are subject to termination if you discuss your compensation level with other employees. That being the case how could one ever hope to meet the requirement to file a complaint within the 180-day charging period?

It took the only woman on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to point out the idiocy of this ruling by presenting the dissenting argument. Quoting from Wikipedia: "Justice Ginsburg dissented from the opinion of the Court, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer. She argued against applying the 180-day limit to pay discrimination, because discrimination often occurs in small increments over large periods of time. Furthermore, the pay information of fellow workers is typically confidential and unavailable for comparison. Ginsburg argued that pay discrimination is inherently different from adverse actions, such as termination. Adverse actions are obvious, but small pay discrepancy is often difficult to recognize until more than 180 days of the pay change. Ginsburg argued that the broad remedial purpose of the statute was incompatible with the Court's "cramped" interpretation. Her dissent asserted that the employer had been, "Knowingly carrying past pay discrimination forward" during the 180-day charging period, and therefore could be held liable."

So here's to Lilly. She fought the fight and she won the battle (not necessarily the war). On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (With the revised statutory language, the majority opinion's interpretation referenced above is no longer valid, and the law now conforms to the interpretation advocated by Justice Ginsberg in her dissenting opinion). Lilly will never be financially compensated by Goodyear or any government agency. She led a fight for all of us and for that we should be thankful.

P.S. Today's image is a collage of some more of my business cards from over the years. What a hoot...great titles, with almost always unequal pay! And for the record, over the years I fought many battles with my employers over equal treatment. In 1989, I refused to sign my severance package under threat of non-payment. The reason? It contained a clause that I was not allowed to discuss the terms of the agreement with fellow employees. I wonder why? Could it be that the packages were not equal? I knew they were not, I didn't sign, but they paid me my severance. To think how the battles might have been waged differently with the Internet, YouTube, Facebook, Blogs, Twitter...dare to imagine!

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Get On Your Boots



This is the new single from Irish-rock band U2.  Off of the album to drop March 3rd, Get On Your Boots is the 1st single.  This highly anticipated record for 2009 was originally to come out in November of 08, before the band decided no songs from sessions with acclaimed producer Rick Rubin would make the cut.

Interestingly enough, this song was noted as being written lyrically about the need for women to take over power in the world, because men have completely messed things up as they stand now.

You can see this song performed at the Grammys on February 8th, or catch them live on a tour to be announced later this year.  Some have called u2 concerts a 'religious experience', and although I don't but into that, you are sure to see a great show.

To the music fans, what is your initial reaction to this 1st single- 'Get On Your Boots'?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wrong-way crash on the I-10 Freeway

deadly car accident on I-10 Santa Monica Freeway

If you have not heard yesterday's news then you should read this.

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 at 5 a.m. two vehicles on the eastbound lane on the I-10 (Santa Monica Freeway) just west of National Boulevard went into flames after a devastating collision. Two men were killed; one was driving on the wrong side of the freeway at more than 65 mph. One was a Culver City police officer and the other was a 21-year-old Van Nuys man. Not sure if the officer was on duty at the time of the accident or not.


The accident happened less than two blocks away from my house, I was sleeping at this time but had woken up because of the helicopters around the accident. Traffic was backed up till 1 p.m. for miles. My brother was on his way to school at 11 a.m. and said all the local roads were jam packed since the I-10 going eastbound was closed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Something that Will Be Fun to Watch

Dow Chemical is one of the most respected companies in America. A large chemical company they are known to all of us. Rohm and Haas is a smaller specialty chemical company. Much of the Rohm and Haas stock was owned by the Haas family, who wanted to sell out to diversify their holdings.

On July 9 of last year, Dow stock closed at $33.96 per share and their market capitalization was over $31 B. Rohm and Haas' stock price was $44.83 per share and the market capitalization was just under $8.8 B. So Dow was more than 3.5 times larger than Rohm and Haas.

On July 10th Dow's purchase of Rohm and Haas was announced. One way to do a deal would be what is called stock for stock, and Dow would have given Rohm and Haas shareholders Dow stock for their Rohm and Haas stock. Another is a cash price for the stock. I suspect that Rohm and Haas held out for cash, and Dow agreed to pay $78 per share or $15.3 B, a 74% premium over Dow's closing price of $44.83. So on July 9 Dow was 3.5 larger than Rohm and Haas based on market cap, and about twice as large based on the premium price Dow was willing to pay.

Many thought the premium was too high. Now look at what's happened since.

We all know that stock markets around the world have fallen dramatically. Dow's stock price has fallen to $13.19/share on January 27th. Dow's market cap is now about $12.2, so Dow is actually worth less than what they agreed to pay for Rohm and Haas. Rohm and Haas has not fallen nearly as much, probably because of the Dow deal. Rohm and Haas stock is $58.75/share, actually higher than the $44.83 on July 9th.

Dow says that they can not close the deal at this time. They are other factors involved as Dow is having trouble raising the capital.

My point is never to be too sure about anything when it comes to investing. Dow had to know Rohm and Haas inside and out. Dow probably had plans to cut costs and recover much of the premium. However by tying themselves to a price they subjected themselves to market risk, and the market has been very harsh.

If Dow had done a stock for stock deal, then it might have looked something like this. Dow would agree to give 2.3 shares of its stock for each share of Rohm and Haas stock. At $33.96/share the 2.3 times would be worth the same $78/share. However, at today's price of $13.19, then Dow would be paying $30.30 per share for Rohm and Haas or just under $6B for Rohm and Hass, which is a far piece from the $15.3 B then Dow agreed to pay.

The companies are headed for the courthouse. It will be fun to watch it play out.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bruce Springsteen Free Download for Guitar Hero World Tour

Working on a Dream, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's new album, will debut today with an exclusive Guitar Hero World Tour free download for a limited time. The two downloads that will be available are "My Lucky Day" from the new album and classic hit "Born to Run."

I have been a devoted Bruce Springsteen fan since my teenage years. My favorite albums are "Greetings from Asbury Park" and "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle."

Listening to gritty tales of the mean streets of the Jersey shore while living in the pastoral setting of rural Vermont it took a few years to understand some of his references.

Bruce has always been a writer for the people and a great story teller.
Take a listen to his new album here at NPR.

And now for your musical treat ... straight from 1976



And just for the record Darin has promised to take me to a Springsteen concert.

Monday, January 26, 2009

iPhone Geocaching Dana Point California

This Sunday Lisa and I met up with Jshults to do a little iPhone geocaching. The first cache we found was the San Onofre Breccia - Dana Point Earthcache (http://coord.info/GCP80W) to "complete" this cache we should have also gone to see the other half of the San Onofre Breccia that is exposed at Aliso Point (http://coord.info/GCP805) Just south of the San Onofre Nuclear power plant.




This is the Photosynth I took of the exposed cliffs of Dana Point a section of the San Onofre Breccia, a 15 to 20 million year old formation. A breccia is a sedimentary rock composed of angular fragments (clasts) embedded in a fine-grained matrix (the 'glue' that binds the clasts together). In the San Onofre Breccia, the clasts range in size from less than an inch to the size of small trucks and are a variety of rock types, mostly metamorphic. A formation is a rock that can be easily recognized over a large area.

Sea Cave - By Lisa A. McClure

From here we walked along the beach and tide pools (no dogs allowed) to the very tip of Dana Point and our primary target for the day the Sea Caves Geocache (http://coord.info/GC1KBVM) Photo by Lisa McClure, After searching where we thought the cache should be and thinking it may have been either washed out to sea, been muggled, or perhaps fallen too far down the rabbit hole for retrieval. We were pleased to be greeted by the owner of the cache "Masoe". "Yep thats where it was, Nope it is not there anymore." Jshults being the seasoned cacher that he is retrieved a pre camo'd altoids tin sealed the rabbit hole and replaced the new cache, (After giving us time to sign the log book! TNLNSL! TFTC!)

The people we have met while out and about on our caching adventures have been truly interesting, and give you a great reason to get out in the world. We also notice that geocaching gives us a unique spacial awareness of a place that we did not have before, given that in looking for a cache you are focused on a space the size of your living room. Once the cache is found that moment and that space are etched into your internal map of the place.

All who wander are not lost, Some of us are out iPhone Geocaching! Wanna go?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Myspace Social Networking Friends or Foes?

Myspace Social Networking Friends or Foes? I use Myspace quite frequently to stay in touch with old friends and from time to time I make some new friends. Recently I have been getting nothing but spam mail through Myspace. With Myspace social networking it can be hard to decide between friends or foes. I get email alerts all the time from people that I don't know nor want to get to know. I have contemplated shutting off the email alert so that I do not get notified of all the people spamming me.

However, Myspace has come in very handy this past week because it has allowed me to share correspondence with somebody in a band whose music I was trying to find. Without Myspace I would have never been able to get the info I needed. Myspace has the ability to make the world a little bit smaller. The spamming certainly is distracting, but it is worth putting up with a little of it.

There is a lot of music on Myspace that I can't get anywhere else. Snocap is a company that allows you to order music from Myspace Music. Without Snocap and Myspace I would have never been able to get back great music that I lost several years ago. I believe Myspace can be more of a tool than a problem.

Here is a YouTube video of the Kitchen Syncopators playing on a street in New Orleans. The band whose music I was able to find on MySpace.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Many Ways of Traversing Mount Washington

National Geographic Feb 2009

The February 2009 edition of National Geographic arrived this week. There on the cover were two magical words "Mount Washington". Mount Washington(6,288 ft), the highest peak in the northeastern United States, is located in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. What makes this article, Backyard Arctic, all the more interesting to me is that for 12 years I lived within 20 miles of this magical peak. Over those years each member of my immediate family had their own experience with the mountain. There are many ways of traversing Mount Washington and we lived to tell about it.

If you have never heard of Mount Washington you might be quick to ask: "What do you mean you lived to tell about it, Mount Washington only has an elevation of 6,288 ft?" I, too, was skeptical when I first arrived in New Hampshire in 1985. After all I had lived most of my life in Southern California where a 6,288 ft peak might be considered a foothill. As a young adult I had backpacked to the top of Mount San Gorgonia (11,499 ft) and San Jacinto Peak (10,834 ft). I had lived in Alaska and toured Denali National Park to witness Mount McKinley (20,320 ft), but after living in New Hampshire for a very short time I learned that Mount Washington is "Home to the World's Worst Weather", holding the all-time surface wind speed record of 231 mph (April 12, 1934). And sadly, Mount Washington is one of the 10 deadliest mountains in the world!

Perhaps what makes this jewel of the White Mountains so deadly is its accessibility and unfortunately not everyone who visits is prepared for the fact that the weather can turn quickly. You do not have to be a hiker, backpacker, proficient ice-climber, or skier to enjoy this mountain. Since 1861 people have been driving up the Mount Washington Auto Road, the oldest man made attraction in America. Not interested in driving up the mountain? Then you can ride to the top on the Cog Railway which has been carrying passengers since 1869. If you are really adventurous, then in the Spring you can hike up the mountain with your skis on your back and ski down the bowl, Tuckerman's Ravine.

And if all this is not enough to capture your imagination there are races to the top of Mount Washington. The Climb to the Clouds, an auto race, was held in 1904 and continues to this day. There is the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb, a tradition for the past 36 years; the Ride to the Sky for motorcyclists; for runners there is the Mount Washington Road Race, and most years there is the Nordic Ski to the Clouds Race (North America's Toughest 10K).

I started this post by saying each member of my family had been to the top of the mountain and lived to tell about it. Since they are a little reticent to share their feats with you, I will. Enjoy today's photos from the family scrapbook...
Dennis Helfand (right) hiking up Mt. Washington, Circa 1989
Around 1989 Dennis hiked up Mount Washington with a number of our guests from Cranmore Mountain Lodge. It was a Spring day and they were going to ski Tuckerman's Ravine. While Dennis opted out of the ski run, he did hike up and down the mountain that day.


Aaron Helfand Tuckerman's Ravine, Circa 1992



I believe it was 1992 when Dennis convinced Aaron(who was about 11 at the time)to hike up the mountain with another group of guests. Not only did Aaron hike up the mountain, but being a proficient downhill ski racer, he skied the bowl.


Daniel Helfand at the finish line 1996 Ski to the Clouds, Tom Thurston, his coach looking on
In 1996, Daniel, a ski racer from the age of four, was the youngest competitor in the inaugural nordic Ski to the Clouds Race. He was 12! Not only was he the youngest to compete, but he finished the race.


At this point you are probably wondering how I traversed Mount Washington. Take a guess? You are correct...in a Mt. Washington Auto Road Stage Line Van driven by a tour guide. I was taking no chances. I had to live to tell about it. Today the Mount Washington Auto Road also offers the SnowCoach, weather permitting.

There is so much to learn about Mount Washington and so many ways to do it. Until you have a chance to experience it for yourself, I invite you to visit the sites referenced here today. One of my favorites is The Mount Washington Observatory. The history and majesty of this mountain will intrigue you. But you will learn that while man's ingenuity continues to try to tame and groom this mountain, it remains a force of nature that we can and must respect.

I would like to thank Howie Wemyss, a trustee for the Observatory. This week I contacted Howie at Great Glen Trails to ask if the records still existed regarding the 1996 Ski to the Clouds Race. Howie was nice enough to write me back: "I remember the race very well and how impressed we all were with your son...but unfortunately all of the records were destroyed in a fire in 2001." At Howie's suggestion I contacted Tom Thurston, Daniel's fifth grade teacher and X-Country ski coach. Tom, too, has fond memories of this race: "I remember that day on the toll road when he (Dan) skied the Ski to the Clouds. He was so tired but loved the ski back down."

As I sign off today I would like you to know that the current conditions on Mount Washington (9:45 AM EST 01/24/2009) are:
Temperature -7.6 degrees F
Wind 71.7 mph
Direction 298 degrees (NW)
Gust 76.0 mph
Wind Chill -46.2 degress F

A great spot for Geocaching!
If you have been to Mount Washington, let me know about your experience.

Friday, January 23, 2009

NBA- The Half Way Point

The NBA Season is about half way through its 82 game calender - a great time to assess things before the All-Star break.

Pre-season favorites the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics were picked to return to the NBA finals by many analysts; a match up most people would be again intrigued by.  And at this mid-way point these to teams represent the best from each conference, while the Cleveland Cavaliers have built a strong supporting cast around LeBron James, the San Antonio Spurs have gotten healthy and continue to play well, and the Orlando Magic have matured into an upper tier squad.

Some up-and-comers include the Portland Trail Blazers, another team where health has been a major factor and the Clippers are hot- kidding.  Many basketball fans consider the New Orleans Hornets a top tier team, but their play this year has been very polarized.  Chris Paul is for sure the league's elite point guard.

Here's how I view the 'Power Rankings" for the true contenders:
1. Lakers (yes I'm a homer, but this is a solid pick)
2. Celtics
3. Cavaliers
4. Hornets
5. Magic
6. Spurs

Handicapping- I actually don't see a Celtics vs. Lakers rematch.  I think Lebron's Cavaliers will take the Celtics down to meet the Lakers in what would be a interesting bill- Kobe vs LeBron.  Can Kobe get his 1st without Shaq before LeBron can get any?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

CNN Photosynth of "The Moment"



"The Moment"

Photosynth is a software application from Microsoft Live Labs and the University of Washington that analyzes digital photographs and generates a three-dimensional model of the photos and a point cloud of a photographed object. Pattern recognition components compare portions of images to create points, which are then compared to convert the image into a model.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama & The Dilemma With The Banks



President Obama and his advisors face some tough decisions regarding the banks.

Paul Krugman writes for the New York Times, teaches economics at Princeton, and won a Nobel Prize. He may be too liberal for some but he lies out the problem pretty well in this Op Ed piece on the NY Times.

Lets say we have a bank with assets of $2 trillion and liabilities of $1.9 trillion. So its net worth is $100 billion. However suppose that $400 billion is overprices - mortgage backed securities and other junk They may be only worth $200 billion. So the bank has really gone bust. It may still be open and its stock may have some value, but the value is based on the hope or expectation of a government bail out.

The government needs to bail the bank out because of its importance to the national and global financial system. The government let Lehman collapse, financial markets froze, and the world financial system nearly collapsed. So the government wants to avoid a repeat.

The government could just give the bank money, say $200 billion. However that would be a giant gift and would probably encourage more irresponsible risk taking in the future.

Another idea would be to do now what was done in the 80s with the Savings and Loans. The government took over the S and Ls, moved the bad assets to the newly created Resolution Trust Corporation, made the S and Ls solvent, then sold them.

Doing this with the banks will look like the government is nationalizing the banks. So a third idea is a variation and it appears to be the most likely. The government will move the bad assets from the private banks to a new government bank. The government will pay "fair value" for the bad assets.

While this approach looks good, its not a gift because the government is getting something in return and it not nationalizing the banks. However, how do you price the bad assets. Probably at more than they are worth. The price must be high enough to keep the banks solvent for one thing. For another, if the price was not too high then the banks could probably sell the assets to someone else. So it is really a gift disguised as something else.

I expect this will play out pretty soon. Will be interesting and historical to watch.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration of Technology

Today as the 44th president of the United States is inaugurated we watch this historical moment from a myriad of technology. It does seem fitting and futuristic to see our new president embrace technology and social networks. It is surely an exciting sign of the times.



Ustream TV
iPhone Application

Just in time for the inauguration. Watch the 44th Inauguration live from your iPhone.
Download Ustream.TV, an application for the iPhone, to watch live and recorded video with a chat function. Use your phone to watch the inaugural events live and chat with others watching.

Inaugrual Photosynth
The very moment Obama takes the oath CNN is asking for viewer to email their photo (10 MB size limit) with their name in the message if they want a photo contributor's credit. For more information on "The Moment" click here Inauguration Moment.

Pictures will be downloaded into a new software and the melding of multiple vantage points will combine to create a navigable 3D image.

We are very excited to see the application of the photosynth technology to document this momentous occasion. At Webconsuls we have used this same technology to show the large beautiful views of Kilauea Lakeside Estate and to show the cutting edge medical technology from the Division of Interventional Neuroradiology.

Webconsuls Photosynths

Monday, January 19, 2009

"I have a dream" - Martin Luther King Jr.



I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" - Martin Luther King, Jr

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Internet Explorer crashes Send Error Report

Internet Explorer crashes Send Error Report! It seems like when I open IE, nine times out of ten it freezes upon opening; then I get a message asking if I would like to send an error report or not. I have installed and reinstalled IE several times, but to no avail. It makes me wonder what Microsoft does with all the error reports that I send them; it sure seems like those hundreds of error reports that I send to IE do very little.

How is it it that the browsers that are not as compatible as IE work so much better? If I could only use Google Chrome for all my Internet needs I would be very pleased. Unfortunately, I have to use Internet Explorer for particular tasks, even if it opens one time out of ten. Patience is truly a virtue when dealing with IE!

My hope is that as Google Chrome gets better, I will be able to use Internet Explorer less. With time I hope to eventually move away from IE for good. In many respects one can manage with using any of the available browsers; the question is how much frustration can be endured before you only want to use one browser? All I want, is that when I send off error reports to power houses like Microsoft, they could at least fix the problem.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Passing the torch on January 20, 2009

On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, I for one will break from work and watch as Barack Obama takes the oath as the 44th president of our United States. I expect it to be a hope-filled day, one that I will share with my husband and children. We as a family and nation will be passing the torch on January 20, 2009. As I write these words it occurs to me that there are very few inaugurations that I clearly remember. Some I was too young to remember (Eisenhower-1953), some I choose to forget (Nixon-1969, 1973; Bush-1989, Bush-2001, 2005), some I cannot forget (Johnson-1963; Ford-1974), and one that will always "light the corners" of my mind (Kennedy -1961).

Last evening I re-read John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address from January 20, 1961. Most of us know some of the memorable lines like "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans", but how many of us remember the rest of this passage? I am sure not many, so let me share them with you here:

"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans-born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage-and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world."

Videos of Kennedy's speech are remarkable to view.



President Kennedy's strong hopeful words are still applicable today, sans "born in this century", as now we are in the first decade of a new century. On Tuesday I will listen carefully to President Obama and I will hope that somewhere in his speech there will be inspiring words that my children will be able to remember and quote 48 years from now.

Yes, there is a lot of excitement about President-Elect Obama's inauguration. Newspapers, magazines, radio, network television, cable television, the Internet, YouTube, My Space, Facebook, Twitter are all participating in this magical event, cashing in on "hope." Yesterday I learned that Microsoft is partnering with CNN to "photosynth" the inauguration and they want your assistance. You can be part of history by submitting your captured photos.

The torch is passing to you, to our new President, to our future. Let's make the best of it!

Joseph R Eagen-Circa WWII
P. S. This post is dedicated to my father, Joseph Raymond Eagen. He was born January 17, 1918, eight months after John F. Kennedy(May 29, 1917). Like President Kennedy, my father was born to first generation Irish Catholic Democratic parents and he served as a Naval Officer in WWII. It occurred to me this morning that the very first time I posted for this blog I wrote about my father as being an original social marketer. Daddy, Happy Birthday!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Google AdWords- Local Business Ad

The Google AdWords 'local business ad' is one of the forms you may choose to create for your keyword listings. If your business is localized to any extent, this is probably very helpful. To take it a step further, if your business takes 'walk-in' traffic and/or has a brick and mortar presence, then this functionality is a must.

If you have ever done a Google keyword search where your query included a location, you may have seen this type of ad appear. Underneath the sponsored results but before the organic results, a google map will appear with points on the map representing local results for your query. An easy example would be local pizza restaurants- a business-person is traveling and doesn't know the area well. He or she is looking for a good pizza for dinner, but wants one in walking distant to the hotel. That person can look at the map to see the closest match and how to get there.

The ad itself as has a description for a tag line like normal PPC ads. The business web site, physical address and phone number can all be included, making this a very useful tool for businesses in a community.

Need help setting up and creating a local business ad for your Google AdWords account? Don't even have an AdWords account? Either way Webconsuls can help, its what we do.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

XDA Developers released Google Android for WM

Google Android running on Windows Mobile deviceGoogle launched their G1 phone last year with the Android OS. Now you can get the Android OS on you Windows Mobile device without having to switch phones. XDA Developers, an online community that promotes tweaks and upgrades for your Windows Mobile device.

This isn't a hack of any sort. Its simply a Linux image running on Windows allowing you to launch Android. Best part is, unlike a ROM update from XDA Forums which replaces your Windows Mobile OS, you do not need to flash your device to run Google Android. A simple soft reset of your device (re-boot) will launch the Linux application.

Have you tried running Android on you Windows Mobile yet?

Learn how you can run Android on your Kaiser (ATT Tilt/8925)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Madoff Lessons

If one has not invested with Bernard Maddoff that one can get a cheap education. If one has, then the education is possible but it is more expensive.

Fortunately I did not invest with Maddoff, never had the opportunity.

The first lesson is - "If its too good to be true, then it probably is not true." Madoff consistently made about positive returns and returns that were above market. So when the market was down he was up, and when it was up, he was up more. No one can do that year after year.

The second is - "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Granted some people have made fortunes without following this. However they knew exactly what they were doing. Maddoff investors really did not know what he was doing. Those that trusted him with all of the net worth are now in very bad shape.

These are not rocket science but they are worthy of your attention.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blog Posts, Search Engines and Puppies

One of the joys of having a child in the house is how they can be so easily impressed by simple adult skills and knowledge. I know this phase will pass, in our house this period of time is passing very quickly. The other day I realized that I had an analogy for why blogs are so helpful when placing in the search engine results as I was asked to locate a small misplaced toy. 

When I returned with the small bobble I was met with wide admiring eyes and a WOW, how do you always know where EVERYTHING is? (Trust me when I tell you that I am being sure to enjoy these moments of alleged omniscience as it will surely pass.)

Knowing my time is limited and that I had her undivided attention I decided to explain to the little one just why I usually have the answer to where everything is.

 

"I scan."

"Huh?"

"I am always scanning the house."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, as I walk through the house I am always scanning. I just automatically make sure things are in their place and I take note of what I see."

 

Replace scanning with spidering and house with World Wide Web and I am just like a search engine spidering links, exploring and noting where everything is so as to find it later!

Well, imagine you have just arrived home and the grocery shopping had just been done, or someone came home from a trip, or for some reason new items have been added to your home. What will you most likely need to do?

You will need to put your stuff away and you will want to know where it is so you can find it when you need it. Search engine spiders will not put your digital files or your groceries away. Deciding where items go and putting them there is still your job.

 

So why will the search engine be draw to your blog? How does a blog help me?

Blogs feed the purpose of search engines.

That search engine is going to investigate to see just what you added and where. It is the search engines' job to know what material is available on the World Wide Web. Whether it be Google, MSN, Yahoo, Dogpile, you name it,  the search engines must familiarize themselves with fresh timely material in order to return the most relevant search. Search engines must keep up on new additions in order to perform the job they were designed to do.

Using a blog to consistently add useful relevant content is a powerful method to draw the search engines to spider (or scan) your site and index the timely information you post.

For help on how to add a blog to your web site or blog training to make the most of your blog please contact us at Webconsuls, LLC.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Windows 7 Beta, Everything Windows Vista Should Have Been



Windows 7 Beta, Everything Windows Vista should have been.

On Friday Microsoft had intended to release its new OS Windows 7 as BETA to the 2.5 millions souls brave enough to try it out. Being that I am a "Beta Crash Test Dummy" I spent part of my day trying to get a key, trying to get the download started to no avail. Hey Microsoft can you say BIT TORRENT? Anyway, Saturday came and Big M decided to extend the beta download period to January 24 and removed the limit of 2.5 million copies they were planning on giving out.

Once I had my key in hand, downloaded the ISO and burned it to a DVD, We found that doing a clean install or an in place upgrade from Vista to be a breeze.

After we logged in, the "Beta" fish in the middle of our new desktop make both Lisa and myself laugh out loud. The ease of use, and clean feel of Windows 7 will be sure to make this new OS a hit, where Vista was a miss.

In a world of questionable betas, be sure to try out Windows 7.

This one is ready for prime time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Social Networking with Smule Zephyr

Social Networking permeates everyone's life in one way or another. It is fair to say that just about everyone is looking up old friends and classmates with Facebook and Myspace. Those two forms of social networking certainly come in handy for keeping in touch with people who are geographically undesirable.

The iPhone is where a lot of social media is taking place. People can now update their status, upload pictures, and chat with their phone. The host of applications available to communicate with around the world is amazing.

Smule released a new application last week that is pretty neat and worth taking a look at. Social Networking with Smule Zephyr has a beautiful interface for sharing messages around the world. Zephyr is not as precise for communication as some of the other social media applications; however, it is neat to get a message from China or some tiny island in the South Pacific. You can draw or write messages with wind and snow, every time you touch the screen it makes a beautiful sound. If you like the message then you have the choice to keep it traveling around the world.

Zephyr and other Smule products make Social Networking and Social Media fun and Interactive. They satisfy the human wonder of what people around the world are doing right now? And maybe, just maybe, we are doing the same thing at the same time.

smule
zephyr
world mode
japanese caterpillar

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blogs should tell a good story

Over the course of any week I receive a number of SEO/Webmaster newsletter emails. I try to read through them for hints, myths, SEO/SMO news in general. This past week one of these newsletters had a link to a video in which Sally Falkow was discussing Internet marketing. I don't know Sally Falkow but I found what she had to say very intriguing. She sited an old mantra "Tell, don't sell", which I believe applies to blogs, in that blogs should tell a good story.

Now you are probably wondering where I am going with this idea. After all it is Saturday morning and you no doubt, if you are reading this at all, are thinking to yourself with a sigh, "doesn't Judy always tell a story in her blog post?"

It is very easy for the Webconsuls' team to suggest to a client that the client should have a blog, but most clients go into panic mode because they don't trust themselves to be able to write. What our clients sometimes forget is that every business has a story to tell and all they have to do is relate the story for their guests, customers, or clients to read. Just tell a good story.

Finding your niche in storytelling can take some time. Let me give you an example. In June 2007 Webconsuls built a blog for Alice and Len Schiller, owners/innkeepers of The Inn at Stockbridge. Darin McClure coached Alice on how to do blog posts and she did a nice job. She frequently would write about events and attractions in the Berkshires. All very interesting, but might have served the local attractions more than the inn.

On December 29, 2008, Alice came up with a clever idea and she posted it: "The Inn at Stockbridge blog is going to put a new spin on things. Alice Schiller feels that she is fortunate enough to have owned and run the inn for over fourteen years. Over the years we have had a great variety of guests visit us and each one has a wonderful story to share. We are now going to share their stories. Guests who visit the Inn come from all walks of life, are a varied age group and have met in a myriad of ways and have wonderful tidbits to share with you the readers of this blog. We are fortunate enough to have them share their experiences at the Inn as well as their stories with you."

Wonderful...the stories have begun, complete with photos, so interesting to read and the best part is Alice and Len are involving their guests (read customers). As a former innkeeper I know that relating stories about your guests is a great marketing tool. People love to be part of something and future guests secretly hope that they will also be featured at some later date.


Inn-Ovations Cranmore Mountain Lodge Newsletter-Circa 1997


You may recall, on September 20, 2008, I wrote a blog post called "The benefit of being a 'blogger-in-chief'?" In that blog I talked about how I wrote a newsletter for our inn, Cranmore Mountain Lodge. This was the old fashion way of staying in touch with our customers. Just this past week I came across a copy of the last issue of Inn-Ovations that I wrote in the Fall of 1997. You might enjoy reading the front page. Click on the image and it will get bigger!




Today I hope you will check the Inn at Stockbridge's blog. Read the stories about their guests. Leave a comment. And if you want to preview the inn, here is a video that tells the Inn's story in another way.



I have a feeling Sally Falkow has not come up with something unique. Storytelling is as old as mankind ~ it is the fabric that keeps our cultures, our families, our nations moving through time.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Amazing B2 Stealth Bomber at the Rose Bowl 1/1/09

If you watched the Rose Bowl (NCAA football game) this year on New Year's Day, you may have seen the B-2 Stealth Bomber fly over during the playing of the national anthem.  It is an amazing sight just to see on TV is you were lucky enough to have been watching, again before the game even actually started.

I am lucky enough to live 20 minutes from Pasadena and was able to see the 1.15 billion dollar jet in person as it flew back to its home air force base.  If you ever get a chance to go to an air show or know about a flight like this you can simply watch, take it.

This amazing picture does not justice to the real life effect of watching it in flight.

If you have ever witnessed this, back me up on the awe-factor by replying with your comment.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Importance of Drinking Water

Do you drink enough water?
Do you drink enough water?

Drinking enough watever every day is a key in maintaining good health. Your body is made up of mostly water, it only makes sense to keep replenishing it instead of filling up on other forms of liquid such as soda or fruit juices which contain a lot of sugar.

Here are some facts about H20 and your body:

Blood is 83% water

Muscles are 75% water

The brain is 74% water

Bone is 22% water

With just 8 glasses of water per day, you can improve your energy, increase mental and physical performance, reduce headaches, remove toxins from your body, lose weight, and provides proper digestion just to name a few. It is recommended that men drink 13 glasses of water and women nine glasses. It has been said in the past to drink eight ounces of water eight times a day but no one really does.

Most people mistake thirst for hunger. Next time you feel that you're hungry, drink a few glasses of water, wait 20 minutes and see if you are still hungry. This is a great way to lose weight as well.

If you don't like the taste of water, adding lemon wedge can bring a hint of sweetness to the falvor.

How many glasses of water do you drink a day?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

To Diversify or Not To Diversfy

One school of thought is that investors should be well diversified. If one investment goes down, then another may go up and things balance out. One tenet of those that preach diversification is that no one can predict movements in individual stocks or sectors, so diversify and reduce your risk. Those that preach diversification also generally think that the at any one time the market is right and future changes are unpredictable. Another concept, which may be a little tough to grasp, is that throughout history a "valuation" of the world has gone up, except perhaps for the Middle Ages. With technological advances one expects the world to get more valuable.

However most who have made great fortunes did little diversification. Suppose Bill Gates had said to himself, when his Microsoft stock was first worth $100,000 had probably represented a large portion o f his net worth, "Gee its crazy to have so much of my net worth in one company, I should sell 99% of it and put the rest in a mutual fund." And did that repeatedly. You do not read about investors who made fortunes by diversifying, but rather because they made it "oil" or "real estate" or Microsoft. Even Warren Buffet keeps his holdings rather small.

Investors who do not diversify think that they with their brains and hard work can outperform the market over time. They think that the best you can hope for when you diversify well is to get "average" returns and so if they are smarter than average and work harder than average then they should exceed those returns.

The safety aspect of diversification can not be denied. We rarely read about those that had all of net worth in Enron and saw it vanish, or Lehman Brothers etc. Unfortunately there are people who were in that boat.

Diversification has a cost. You either need to pay someone to diversify for you, ie a mutual fund, or you need to pay the transaction costs of buying multiple assets. It took $100 to buy our Fortune Magazine group of 10 stocks but only $30 to buy 3 mutual funds. If you only had $100 then the commissions would have precluded buying the Fortune Magazine group. If you had $100,000 then the commissions would have been a much lower percentage of your assets.

If you think you are really good, then research the 10 companies on the Fortune list, pick 1 or 2, and see how you do against the portfolios.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How Much Does NOT Having a Website Cost

Let's look at some of the opportunity costs of NOT having a website.

How will people find you? Yellow Pages?
You may want to rethink. The other day as I walked up to our door I passed my neighbor's doorstep and noticed the Yellow Pages had arrived. There was a copy on our front doormat as well. Upstairs there was a third copy.

I set mine inside.

The next day I noticed the Yellow Pages were still out on everyone's doorstep. After about a week and some rain I took it upon myself to remove the Yellow Pages and put them in the recycle bin.

What has happened? The Yellow Pages was once the first place a search for a service or product began.

Blog comments to a post on the "LISNews Librarian And Information Science News" also reflect this change in consumer behavior.

By not having a website a good portion of consumers will not find you listed when they search for products and services.
  • You need customers to find your business. If they don't find you they will find your competition.
  • A website is flexible. Unlike print ads and other media websites can be altered and changed after they are "published" to the web.
  • A website can save you time by describing your services, answering common questions, and providing resources.
  • Websites are global. There is no geographical barrier to websites. With one website you have the opportunity to reach anyone in the world with an internet connection.
  • Prospective customers expect a business to have an online presence. By not having a website you risk appearing unprofessional and unestablished.
  • Websites can provide valuable data on prospective customers. Your website can provide your business with marketing information unavailable in other formats. Statistics regarding popularity of website content, information was most often viewed, where website visitors originate and exit, and if they converted. This important marketing information can be gathered and shown visually in a myriad of methods depending on the tools you choose to use. This information can be used to make immediate adjustments and improvements in your marketing efforts.
  • Websites give an opportunity for small businesses to compete with larger corporations. The internet has leveled the playing field. A small company can appear more established with a well designed website than a larger business or even a corporation.
Click here for a website and web marketing proposal.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Geocaching, Where YOU are the search engine.



What do we do for fun when not building websites? We like to go GEOCACHING! What is geocaching you might say? (You must be a muggle!) Geocaching is people just like you, using a billion dollar satellite system to find hidden tupperware! But seriously folks, geocaching is a huge world wide phenomenon, with equal measures of search and explore built right it. Maryland recently started a state wide geocaching trail to help drive tourism. The next day an NBC reporter contacted me thru Twitter to ask me about it. ( I have been tweeting my finds and caches ) and I gave him this info.

There are 708,619 active caches worldwide.
In the last 7 days, there have been 688,000 new logs written
by 77,717 account holders.


Geocaching is fun sport that can be enjoyed where ever you may find yourself. Go to Geocaching.com, sign up for a free account, and do a search for caches in your zip code.

Remember, All who wander are not lost, some are geocachers.

HAPPY HUNTING!

Let's Go iPhone Geocaching with the McClures

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Social Networking with Smule iPhone Applications

The past few weeks I have been playing with some new applications for my iPhone. There are thousands of applications available. Something to suit every-body's taste. There are apps for just about anything. Smule has four apps out now that I believe are not only fun to play with, but they are also a way of social networking. Social Networking with Smule iPhone Applications are still very new, but they have so much potential to bridge what you do in your free time with the rest of the world.

Smule's Ocarina, Sonic Lighter, and Sonic Boom all have a world mode which connects what you do with the particular application with the rest of the world. You can isolate which part of the globe you want to view or listen to. The Ocarina will record the different songs that you play and you can go online or listen to them right from your iPhone. You can watch and see who has the their Sonic Lighter burning or who is setting explosions with Sonic Boom.

No doubt in the near future we will be able to communicate directly through the application with various friends we make around the world. The Internet and the iPhone are all about connection, interaction, and Social Networking through various channels of social media. Smule's applications are on the ground floor when it comes to exciting new ways to network.




Saturday, January 3, 2009

Could Napoleon be the father of Geocaching?

What do you know about geocaching? I know very little, but have you ever thought about why we have odd and even house numbers? I have to admit I don't spend a lot of time thinking about this concept, but the other evening I happened to be watching the History Channel about Napoleon and the commentator mentioned that it was Napoleon that came up with the idea of odd numbers on one side of a street and even numbers on the opposite side of the street. No big deal, you might say. But think about how this simple idea impacts your daily life: mail delivery, GPS, visitors, emergency support...the list goes on. OMG, could Napoleon be the father of Geocaching?

I am not going to bore you with a whole history of street numbering, but it occurred to me that I have lived long enough to remember life before Zip Codes (pre 1963) and I have lived in enough different communities to know how challenging life can be when you don't have a numbering system. In today's world this is akin to not having order in the World Wide Web. Order is what makes the Internet work and allows all of us to stay in touch.

The first time I learned about life with mail delivery placed in a road side box was in Anchorage, AK. It was 1983 and we were transferred to Alaska. Our house address was 15040 Platinum Circle; however, our mailing address was SRA (Star Route Assignment)Box 460, Anchorage, AK 99507. Just when I had all of our friends trained to send mail to the SRA address, the USPS decided that we had to start using our actual street address for mail. Hmmmm...wouldn't you know that was the year that I was president of the home owners association and we had to build a whole new series of postal boxes which needed to be identical in every way, clearly marked with our street addresses (as opposed to the SRA addresses), and all 20 boxes had to be attached to a sturdy metal pole system. (Thank god a number of the neighbors were engineers that worked on the North Slope - read not Dennis).

In late 1985 we moved to Conway, New Hampshire. Now one would think that since New Hampshire was one of the 13 original colonies, street numbers would be old hat. WRONG! 90% of the homes and businesses did not have street numbers, for that matter, most roads were not clearly marked or had many different names for the same road. For example, Main Street in Conway Village was also known as RT16/RT113. I worked for Indian Head Bank North which was located on Main Street. Vendors would ask me for my business address and I would simply say "Indian Head Bank North, Main St, Conway, NH 03818". The vendor would repeatedly say what is the street number and I would simply say "we don't have street numbers!"

By late 1986 we purchased our country inn on Kearsarge Rd, Village of Kearsarge, Town of Conway, Carroll County, New Hampshire. We did not have a street number. Our mail went to P O Box 1194, North Conway, NH 03860 (only because for marketing purposes more people recognized North Conway, as opposed to Kearsarge Village, which had its own zip code, 03847). Are you confused yet? In late 1996 Conway Town Officials decided we all needed to put street numbers on our homes and businesses, because if we were to dial 911 the fire, rescue and police needed to know how to find us. You don't want to know how many properties burned to the ground in the old days when buildings had no addresses and we depended on volunteer fire departments. So in 1996, Cranmore Mountain Lodge received its street number: 859 Kearsarge Rd, Kearsarge, NH 03847. 175 years after Napoleon's death(1821)!

So today when you are searching for an address using the Internet, your GPS navigation system, your iPhone, or GeoCaching...thank Napoleon for being so practical. For fun here is a YouTube video called Geocaching Napoleon. I have no idea what it is about, because I don't speak French, but maybe it is fitting.

Friday, January 2, 2009

NFL Playoff Update

At the beginning of the NFL season, I made some personal picks of who would make the playoffs. These were the teams I thought would be strong and win their divisions. Well, my Superbowl pick was one ESPN analysts most disappointing team- the Jacksonville Jaguars. This was for good reason as the Jag's offensive line was injured the majority out the season. Therefore their ground game, which is the team's strength was never at full strength. I'll keep my day job.



The playoffs matches up like this:
NFC
Falcons @ Cardinals
Eagles @ Vikings
Byes- Giants and Panthers

AFC
Colts @ Chargers
Ravens @ Dolphins
Byes- Titans and Steelers

To my credit, 5 of my 8 picks from the beginning of the season did make it to the post-season. The short story in my opinion for each conference is this-- the AFC is defense heavy and should be decided with low scoring games, whereas the NFC will be more fun to watch with more explosive offenses.

Superbowl Prediction- Panthers over Steelers

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Testing Simple Investment Ideas in 2009

2008 was certainly a bad year for almost all investors. 2009 may be bad also, or not. However, if you sit out then you will miss the recovery, when and if it ever happens.

I thought it would be fun to track some investment ideas in 2009. Tools such as the portfolio at Google finance make this easy to do. For all of our portfolios we will hypothetically invest $10,000 and charge ourselves a discount brokers fee of $10 per transaction. We will also start with the closing prices as of December 31, 2008. Here are the initial set ups:

1. A portfolio of 10 stocks from the December 12 issue of Fortune Magazine. Fortune picked 10 stocks to own in 2009. We will buy $990 worth of each and use up our mythical $10,000 with the brokerage fee. Fortune did make these picks earlier in December and there has been some price movement since then.

Here is our starting value:
Name Symbol Last price Shares Mkt value
Altria Group, Inc. MO 15.06 65.74 990
Annaly Capital Management, Inc. NLY 15.87 62.38 990
Dell Inc. DELL 10.24 96.68 990
Devon Energy Corporation DVN 65.71 15.07 990
Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. DO 58.94 16.8 990
Fluor Corporation (NEW) FLR 44.87 22.06 990
Johnson & Johnson JNJ 59.83 16.55 990
Medco Health Solutions Inc. MHS 41.91 23.62 990
Pfizer Inc. PFE 17.71 55.9 990
Potash Corp./Saskatchewan (USA) POT 73.22 13.52 990
Valuation


9900


2. A "low risk" portfolio suggested by Daniel R. Solin in his book The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read. The portfolio consists of a total stock market index fund, a total international index fund, and an bond index fund, weighted 28%, 12% and 60%. We will use index funds from Charles Schwab.






Name Symbol Last price Shares Mkt value
Schwab Total Stock Market Index In SWTIX 15.37 181.52 2790
Schwab International Index
SWINX 13.16 90.43 1190
Schwab Total Bond Market SWLBX 8.93 670.77 5990
Valuation


9970


























3. A "medium risk" porfolio also suggested by Daniel R. Solin in his book The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read. This is similar to the low risk portfolio except it is weighted 42%, 18% and 40%. For fun, we will use Vanguard Funds rather than Schwab.




Name Symbol Last price Shares Mkt value
Vanguard Total Bond Market Index VBMFX 10.21 390.79 3990
Vanguard Total Intl Stock Index VGTSX 10.68 167.6 1790
Vanguard Total Stock Mkt Idx VTSMX 21.44 195.43 4190
Valuation


9970





























4. Rebalance. We will start with 50% cash and 50% an S and P 500 exchange traded fund. Each month we will rebalance to the 50-50 allocation, spending $10 to make the trade.
Name Symbol Last price Shares Mkt value
iShares S&P 500 Index (ETF) IVV 90.31 55.31 4995
Cash
4995
4995
Portfolio


9990



I plan to post on the first Wednesday of each month the standings of each portfolio. I may add one or more in January, but the idea is to track these ideas going forward.

Do you have any you want to add?

Let the games begin.