Saturday, December 29, 2007

Line of the Week

Tim Keown is one of my favorite sports writers. He wrote for the SF Chronicle as I was growing up and about 5 years ago moved to ESPN. I try to read his column every week because he has great one liners like these:

"There's always one guy in the book club who doesn't read the book and spends the whole meeting trying to fake it: Bud Selig."

Cabin Music

If you are going to wake up in a nice, cozy cabin in Donner in the middle of winter, these are the first three songs you should listen to...

Wilco - Either Way

Wilco - You Are My Face

Wilco - Impossible Germany

Friday, December 28, 2007

Scotch Scotch Scotch

Some people bash YouTube, I celebrate it. Here is why.

Best Book Ever

Continuing the "Best ___ Ever" series, I just finished The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Great book and an excellent present from my Nani. I blew through it in one day. It's really dark but the characters, especially their faith, are great.

There are some pretty deep themes going on here and I probably don't get all of them. I re-read the last page 4 times and still don't know what to make of it.

Still, a great book, some would say, the "Best Book Ever."

VC Info

If you are into venture capital, and I know some of you are, then check out this resource constructed by a guy named Mark Davis who works at a fund in NYC. It's exhaustive to say the least.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Right vs. Left Brain

Awesome news article. Basically, the way you see the thing turn shows whether you are a Right Brain or Left Brain person.

Came across it by way of Mike Walton on his Facebook RSS feed.


Just watched a Starbucks barista chase an elderly lady 50 yards across a parking lot to give her a receipt and something she forgot.

He skipped and smiled all the way back through the parking lot.

Happened at the Starbucks in Fremont about 2 miles off of the Thornton exit. Barista was 6'2'+ foot tall African American dude with corn rows.

Gosh, what a great company.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday Magic

While a group of us dined pre-Nutcracker tonight, the topic of conversation turned to Holiday traditions. A few pretty awesome weird ones amongst the group, including one family who sings the Twelve Days of Christmas every year. If you aren't nice to the older brother MC, you end up with one of the worst days.

That got me thinking to my favorite version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Definitely John Denver and the Muppets. Probably listened to it 1,000 times from the age of 4 to 8. Still holds up today. Check it out.

The Muppets - Twelve Days of Christmas


I have a friend, Phil, who is the biggest Hobbit nerd I've ever met. Today is a great day in his life because Peter Jackson is making two new Hobbit films. Can't you just hear Phil breaking out his Lord of the Rings action figures for one more battle between good and evil?

Also, let the record show that I'm a huge fan will be at these movies on opening night!

This came from Paul Kedrosky's blog.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Incentive Education

My friends Scotty and Kristen pointed out this Esquire article to me over the weekend. Great marketing campaign. A big step towards making education cool and incentivizing kids to do well.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sensitive Cool

Look, I'm a little sensitive. It's just how it is.

Here is an awesome post from the Best of Craigslist. Amazing. And Sensitive.

Scary TV Chart

Paul Kedrosky writes a great blog. I get a lot of financial and startup information from him. The dude must read everything, because he comes up with things like this as well:

Scary statistics if you are in the television or television advertising business.

Telling Stories

Longtime readers know I've been trying to find a better way of telling stories online. I spent 2 months this summer trying to make this happen, and unfortunately couldn't quite get there. However, in my research, I came across Inanimate Alice, which I consider a great model for what I was trying to do. Basically, interactive storytelling. I covered Alice in a previous blog post here.

Well, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Katie Haegele wrote an interesting piece on Inanimate Alice recently. Great read and explains the concept pretty well.

I feel very strongly that this is a big opportunity. I don't even care if I'm the one who makes it happen, I just want to see it happen. If you're reading this and are interested, give me a shout.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Starbucks in NY Times

Really interesting article on Starbucks in NY Times by PJ O'rourke, spurred on by a new book out on the company. Lot's of great anecdotes in the story. I liked the way Charles Schultz phrased his challenge:

“People weren’t drinking coffee. ... So the question is, How could a company create retail stores where coffee was not previously sold, ... charge three times more for it than the local doughnut shop, put Italian names on it that no one can pronounce, and then have six million customers a week coming through the stores?”
Read on, dear reader.


Amazing article by Peter Hartlaub of the SF Chronicle on First Concerts. My favorite quote:

"Whenever I meet someone who is super awesome, inevitably their first concert was something cool like Miles Davis at the Blackhawk in San Francisco, or Prince while he was touring for his "Sign O' the Times" album. And if you run across someone who is kind of annoying or wussy, nine times out of 10 their first concert will be Kenny Loggins on the "Danger Zone" tour."
First of all, I will defend Kenny Loggins' honor until the day I die. Danger Zone was probably the most important song to me (except for We Built This City by Starship) for a 5 year period of my life.

Second, there is a crazy funny quiz at the end to judge your coolness based on the experience.

What did you say dear reader? Oh, my first concert was Aerosmith at the Shoreline Amphiteater. I was actually more pysched to see Collective Soul, who opened for them, because that song Shine was huge. Call me crazy but I still like Collective Soul, especially the song November. Anyways, Aerosmith had recaptured their groove thanks to Alicia Silverstone and Cryin'. Those were the days.

My lasting memory: Lot's of old, old Aerosmith fans wearing leather and black t-shirts and looking at my crew of 16 year olds with disgust.


As my friend Matt Belloni pointed out, spend a little time on this website. I'm pretty pumped for American Gladiators. It was a staple of my early teens.

I think Crush (pictured here) or Siren are my favorites.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I was wrong. The California budget deficit isn't going to be $10B like I quoted a month ago. It looks like it will be $14B now, courtesy of the SF Chronicle.

Heg Shrugged

Heg informs us that he finished reading a book today.

It's one of my favorite books of all time. In fact, it got passed around my family and it ended up inspiring my stepbrother to move from being a teacher to an administrator because he felt he could do more good there. His daughter's middle name is Dagny.

I can't wait to see what Heg does with the full head of steam the book gave him.

Google & Dutch Evans

Dutch Evans with a great post on the Google Zeitgeist - the report that details the world's most popular searches. Dutch highlights a great chart that says all you need to know about humanity.

Well done Dutchy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Keeping up on Pregnancies

When you are already a bonafide godfather like me and and two of your best friends (and your brother) all have kids on the way, you keep up with things related to pregnancy. You never know when a pop quiz from one of the wives is around the corner. Let's just say I wouldn't be disappointed if I was awarded another godchild, hint hint.

Anywhoo, cool NY Times article on how and why women evolved to carry babies better. No wonder I can't hang in Yoga class.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rilo Kiley

I was driving around the South Bay today and had the pleasure of stumbling upon Rilo Kiley, through an NPR podcast. You can find some background on the band and the podcast-ed concert here.

The recording isn't great, but it has some great moments. Looking forward to downloading some clean tracks.

Jenny Lewis, the lead singer, is pretty awesome. I think the band sounds a little like Heart with the lead femal singer. Not as much guitaring, but I think her voice is pretty special.

By the way, if you were following my Twitter-stream (my username is "scottorn"), you would have heard about my Rilo Kiley discovery 6 hours ago.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wise Words

About 5 years ago, my good friend Evan Stone started his own mortgage company, Pacific Union Financial. He's had a ton of success and has always been an entrepreneur I admire. It's not just the success I admire though, it's the class and big heart exemplified by the letter below that I admire. He recently sent out to his employees, friends and family.

Thanks for letting me publish it Evan.

Friends, Family, Colleagues:

Happy Holidays from Pacific Union Financial! At this time of year, I typically reflect on the events that have transpired over the last 12 months and give thanks for all of our good fortune, both with family and with work. This year’s reflections have a bit of a different tone and tenor. Anyone who reads the front page of the newspaper or who listens to the nightly news has had their attention brought to the troubles facing our industry; anyone who works or did work in the mortgage industry knows these troubles firsthand. It would be really easy to send the annual greeting card out this year with negative bullet points regarding the struggle that anyone in mortgage banking is currently experiencing, but instead, I offer a different perspective. From our challenging business environment emerges several lessons that I have learned. These lessons can’t be taught or learned in a classroom. They can’t necessarily be understood by reading a book or even this email. They have to be learned first hand, and I am still learning them. Maybe these are lessons that the rest of the world already learned that I was slow comprehend. Regardless, by sharing these experiences, I hope these awfully expensive lessons for me may be less expensive for you.

1) When times are good, even optimal, remember that they may not always be that way. Many mortgage brokers/bankers were making more money than they ever thought possible. Now many are loosing more than they ever thought possible. Some are out of business. If we were a little more prudent when the times were good, the sting may not have been so severe during the downturn.

2) Exercise patience, understanding and non-judgment. Mortgage industry professionals have collectively been very humbled by our current market conditions. Many of us (me included) were impatient with others and judged others in ways that were foolish and insensitive. Right now, the overwhelming sense that mortgage professionals or others in related professions feel is that we just want to be given a break. Just remember, you can’t get what you’re not willing to give, so give everyone a break.

3) There is no substitution for hard work. I don’t care how good you are at what you do. Plain and simple. The only reason we’re still here is because we roll up our sleeves everyday and put our hard hats on. Okay, maybe they’re not hard hats, but you get the point.

4) You must believe in yourself and believe in a better day. For all the mortgage industry professionals or anyone in another industry suffering adverse business conditions on this email, it will get better. You must truly believe that. And, you must believe that in any situation you can succeed. This is not always easy when all you read about is what a mess the mortgage business is in. Stay focused on what you can do to improve yourself and turn a deaf ear to the pessimists.

5) If you can weather the storm, you come out on the other side stronger than before. We are armed with knowledge gained through these endeavors that make us more powerful and potent as a company. We are very proud to still be in the game. Don’t give up.

6) Gray hair (or as my wife calls them, your natural highlights) may be an inevitable part of an arduous and challenging process, but no matter what, don’t try to cover them up with Just for Men. I tried. I looked ridiculous. Wear your gray proudly so that others may be aware of your wisdom.

I speak for everyone in my family and company when I wish all of you a very festive and safe holiday and certainly a very prosperous 2008. We have enjoyed working with you, being your friend, and for some, being a part of your family. Thank you for all of your continued support.

All of Our Best,

Evan, David, Laura and Alex P. Stone

Fun with Banks

The SF Chronicle had a great article on the mortgage meltdown and the real reason that the Treasury Dept is interested in"freezing" or bailing out the loans. It turns out that US Banks are on the hook for buying the bonds back at their original (or near) price. The article, which I quote below says the Banks must buy them back if there was fraud in the origination process. Scary.

Even scarier is that I've read some accounts that say those bonds had Puts embedded in them as part of standard issue. Meaning the banks might have to buy them back even if there wasn't fraud. There is speculation, and it's speculation, that banks agreed to the buy back provision (a Put) as part of the accounting shenanigans that let them take those bonds off their balance sheet.

But unfortunately, the "freeze" is just another fraud - and like the other bailout proposals, it has nothing to do with U.S. house prices, with "working families," keeping people in their homes or any of that nonsense.

The sole goal of the freeze is to prevent owners of mortgage-backed securities, many of them foreigners, from suing U.S. banks and forcing them to buy back worthless mortgage securities at face value - right now almost 10 times their market worth.

The ticking time bomb in the U.S. banking system is not resetting subprime mortgage rates. The real problem is the contractual ability of investors in mortgage bonds to require banks to buy back the loans at face value if there was fraud in the origination process.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Best Song Ever - Radio King

I love this song, pure and simple.

Jeff Tweedy - Radio King - Live at the Vic 3.05.05

In fact, according to my iTunes count, I've listened to it 205 times since Nov 5, 2006.

This version is not the best. The best comes from Tweedy's Sunken Treasure DVD but this version will have to do because it's on the Internet, and I can share it with you.

Oh yeah...Radio King will be on the soon to be released Sunday Morning 11. Don't know what Sunday Morning is? Stay tuned, or ask around.


Twitter is a new mobile messaging service. Think of it as quick/mobile blogging. I added a Twitter Widget to the right so now when you check Kenny Kellogg, you can see what deep thought or random musing I've had lately.

The service works like this:
1) You go to and set up an account (takes 2 minutes),
2) You run an address book search and it tells you who you know already using Twitter,
3) You elect to "follow" those who you like or think are interesting. Whenever they text something into Twitter, it get's sent to you.
4) Let your friends know you are on the service now, then Text something to Twitter yourself and watch as your audience builds.

I've started playing around with Twitter a lot recently and I think it could be pretty powerful and is already super cool. Last night, I was "Twittering" from the Andrew Bird concert. If you had been following my Twitters, you would have known I was there and how epic it was, and could have run down to the concert in mid-show. Or maybe you would have just listened to a few Andrew Bird songs real-time. Or you could have introduced me to another friend who just happened to be at the concert.

Hopefully these scenarios paint a bit of a picture. It's a cool service and can be integrated into your Facebook Update that friends on that service see.

Check it out. To follow me, my username is "scottorn."

Heg's Blog

My friend David Hegarty has a pretty cool blogging thing going right now. The service he uses is Tumblr and it makes taking photos and writing quick snippets about the pics or anything else really easy.

He just moved to Seattle and has been exploring it. Through his blog, we've been with him every step of the way.

It's called "314 in 206." Check it out and maybe he'll explain the title.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Straw Poll

Today, my stepdad asked me about this big mortgage bailout thing. He thought it was crazy. That makes two of us.

Where do you stand? Vote in the Poll right below my smiling face to the right.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nice Guy, Nice Pants

Ladies and Gentleman, let me introduce you to Alex Bain's Blog. Alex is a friend from SF who I originally met through Schweifler and his crew. He's a great dude and goes to HBS right now. He's already tried to start a company - give us an update Alex - and I'm sure there will be many more in the future.

His blog is informative and sometimes makes me wish I was still in b-school. Plus the guy has great taste in pants. These things sound really great for a man with my figure.

Fun with Banks

Is the world going crazy? First the U.S. is going to do a massive mortgage loan reset, and then the UK talks about nationalizing banks? Wow.

Let me say it again, Wow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Interesting post by Matt Belloni on piracy via Hollywood Reporter Blog. Video piracy came up a lot at a lunch I had today with a friend.

Article here.

Note: It's on the pornography industry in case any of you are a little squeamish on that topic.


Amazing. Courtesy of Fake Steve Jobs.

Andrew Bird Saturday Night?

Taylor and I have tickets to see Andrew Bird at the Warfield on Saturday night. We have a couple extra tickets if anyone is interested. Let me know.

Here is an NPR review and Podcast concert on Andrew Bird. Great music.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Not a Fan

I'm not a fan of the big mortgage bailout that is being cooked up by the White House's Hank Paulson. I feel terrible for the people who overextended themselves. Debt is a dangerous animal and I saw the negative effects a few times at my last job, making loans to startups. But the vast majority of these people knew what they were doing. They were stretching to get into a house they wanted. Again, I feel bad for those folks but sometimes you lose those bets and have to do the best you can after.

I think freezing loan payments and interest rates, like Paulson and Hilary Clinton want to do, is very anti-capitalistic and will do a lot of harm to the banking systems. At the very least, we are creating a monumental moral hazard and the expectation that people should be bailed out of mistakes.

Also, freezing all of these instruments is going to crush the value of the bonds that these mortgages feed into. Yes, people who hold the bonds will lose a lot of money (as the cash flows get pushed out the net present value of the payments is reduced) but it also keeps the market from clearing. Earlier in the week, Citadel, a very powerful hedge fund, bought the mortgage portfolio of e-Trade for about 25 cents on the dollar. Therefore, the rest of the financial system could work off an approximate asset value for other mortgage bonds. Now that the picture is getting cloudy again, uncertainty will return and the capital markets will be tied up trying to figure out what will happen. That just slows down the healing process.

It's a really sad state that we are in, but we should try to protect against future moral hazards so this doesn't happen again and think more creatively about how to help the people who overreached...

Best Podcast Ever

Resuming my "Best ___ Ever" endorsement series is this podcast from Ed Burns, one of the creators of the Wire. The Season 4 DVD comes out in a week and I'm excited. Hopefully after hearing about his 20 years as a police officer and another 10 teaching in inner city schools, you'll want to see how those experiences are reflected in the TV show.

...For the Rest of Us

Holiday season is so fun.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

In Rainbows

Let's just say that I'm a big fan of Radiohead's In Rainbows. I absolutely love songs #4 (Weird Fishes), #5 (All I Need) and #7 (Reckoner). You can find them below.

Most people know they used a really innovative system for selling the album. They made it available through their website and you could pay anything you wanted for it. Pretty neat. I believe the average price came out to about $4. I paid $6.

Bryan Kenna had some pretty interesting thoughts on the ramifications of this model, but he doesn't write a blog. BK - we need your thoughts...Until then, enjoy my favorites from In Rainbows.

Radiohead - All I Need

BOTM vol 2 at The World Forgot

Radiohead - In Rainbows at Song, by Toad

Weak Dollar

Dutch Evans up with another interesting post on monetary policy today. Essentially he says the weak dollar is no big deal and links to a respected economist who shares the same opinion.

Well, I'm certainly not a respected economist, and I have a high % of my personal money in precious metals (which are a bet that the dollar will continue to weaken) so I'm completely biased in this discussion.

However, I think a weak dollar is a big problem. A weak dollar is a symptom of inflationary monetary policies. We're creating more dollars than there are demand for, so the value goes down. Someone has to own every dollar created, more or less, so the price of a dollar (in terms of other currencies and metals) changes accordingly.

A weak dollar is fine while things are honky dory, because people (foreigners mostly) step up and buy them and it's not so painful. However, a weak dollar is really an abdication of monetary and financial discipline. We're essentially letting the market police us, rather than policing ourselves. That's the problem, not the absolute level of prices or the dollar.

Until you've been shut out of the capital markets you have no idea how rough Mrs. Market can be in her policing ways. Ask mortgage brokers right now how it feels. For the longest time any loan could be sold off. Then one day the banks cut mortgage brokers' credit lines and the market stopped buying the loans. Tough times started immediately. Because the whole loan and credit evaluation process was taken out of the local bank branch office and a formula based system (credit score) was instituted, credit became a lot easier to access (a good thing) but there were few breaks on the system (a bad thing). We relied on Mrs. Market which on balance is good, but some responsibility would have limited the bust.

Ask biotech startups and newly public companies what it felt like in 00'. Or Technology startups in 2001-2002. I was there (in investment banking) for both of those and it was not fun. Lot's of good ideas and nice people were hurt.

The moral of the story is policing oneself is the smart thing to do. Letting the market police yourself, works most of the time, but it can end very badly.

(Sorry to sound like such a whiner and doomsdayer. I don't think the world will end but I don't think we're being very responsible right now).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Love This Pic

Found at File Magazine. The Altamont Pass has been home to hundreds of windmills for as long as I can remember. Before Alernative Energy was cool.

Great Post

Great post by Dutch Evans on the contradiction between two brands: Dove & Axe.

Check it out here.