Archive for May, 2006

Pandora

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

You must check this out now!

If you like Internet radio stations, I think you may want to replace all of those links with one to Pandora. This “stream of consciousness” programming concept is as if you had a psychic friend that magically picked out tracks they knew you loved ( or that you would love if you had ever heard them before ) and deliver them to you in a slick, simple interface.

The Music Genome Project

On January 6, 2000 a group of musicians and music-loving technologists came together with the idea of creating the most comprehensive analysis of music ever.

Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song – everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records – it’s about what each individual song sounds like.

Over the past 5 years, we’ve carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists – ranging from popular to obscure – and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. This work continues each and every day as we endeavor to include all the great new stuff coming out of studios, clubs and garages around the world.

It has been quite an adventure, you could say a little crazy – but now that we’ve created this extraordinary collection of music analysis, we think we can help be your guide as you explore your favorite parts of the music universe.

We hope you enjoy the journey.

Tim Westergren
Founder
The Music Genome Project

Now THAT’s the job I want!

Thanks For The Hype

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Ok. The release of the movie “The Da Vinci Code” is creating turmoil and anxiety all over the world. So, I decided to read the book once again, before Sherry and I go to see the flick. While it usually may take me a week or two to slog through a 450 page novel, I felt unusually inspired and started and finished the book at one sitting last Saturday. Once again, I thought it was a great read. Went and checked out some of the trailers, and what I saw Ron Howard put together was very much what my mind’s eye had imagined.

The King is Dead

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

From a story in today’s LA Times:

Ameriquest closes 229 offices, lays off 3,800

The parent company of Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and Town
and Country Credit retail mortgage subsidiaries said Tuesday it will launch
a new business model that will result in the closing of 229 retail branch
offices and the layoffs of about 3,800 workers, effective immediately.

This week’s announcement comes on the heels of a $325 million nationwide
settlement in January, in which ACC Capital Holding Corp. and its subsidiaries
agreed to pay $295 million to consumers and make sweeping reforms of practices that states alleged amounted to predatory lending. Ameriquest also agreed to pay $30 million to 49 states and the District of Columbia for costs of the investigation or consumer education and enforcement.

Ironically enough, borrowed from the Ameriquest.com “best practices” website today:

Ameriquest was one of two lenders invited to participate in Freddie Mac’s Don’t Borrow Trouble consumer-awareness program. We continue to participate in events sponsored by this program across the country to help educate the public about the mortgage process and steps they can take to protect themselves from predatory lending.

We partner with various organizations to offer rescue programs to victims of predatory lending. Ameriquest is also working on programs supporting first-time home buyers in achieving the American dream.

Or should that read American Nightmare?

Thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle, we can see that Ameriquest put its money to good use:

California law prevents lobbyists from spending more than $10 per month on gifts and public officials from accepting more than $360 per year from any source. But here, too, some companies spent lavishly.

Ameriquest Capital Corp., whose lending practices are a frequent target of regulators, spent nearly $30,000 to entertain lawmakers and staffers at Rolling Stones concerts in November. Ameriquest reported hosting 38 legislative staffers, including 14 who work for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez of Los Angeles, at the Stones concert in San Francisco Nov. 13. With catered food and drinks and related expenses, the evening cost more than $10,000.

Two nights later, 19 members of the governor’s staff had their turn at a combined cost of more than $6,000. When the band played in San Diego earlier that week, the company hosted Assemblyman George Plescia, his wife and 10 members of his staff at a reported cost of almost $4,000.

But because the law allows staffs to file separately, neither the governor nor the speaker were required to disclose the gifts made to their office.

Billionaire Roland Arnall, who built Ameriquest into the largest mortgage lender for poor credit risks, is shutting down most of his company to focus on being the new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.

The embattled firm yesterday said it’s closing 229 branch offices, firing 3,800 mortgage staffers, and consolidating into just five call centers.

Arnall’s firm was hit earlier this year with charges by 49 state attorneys general that his company used bait-and-switch schemes to cheat customers into taking out more costly loans.

Congress held up his long-sought appointment as ambassador until he cleaned up the mess. Arnall recently paid $325 million in penalties and launched sweeping reforms the branch offices – which now are being closed permanently.

And in an article from the New York Post’s Online Edition:

Ameriquest’s Ambassador of Doom

Arnall’s firm (Ameriquest) was hit earlier this year with charges by 49 state attorneys general that his company used bait-and-switch schemes to cheat customers into taking out more costly loans.

Congress held up his long-sought appointment as ambassador (to the Netherlands) until he cleaned up the mess. Arnall recently paid $325 million in penalties and launched sweeping reforms the branch offices – which now are being closed permanently.

Sources said Arnall was preparing to sell the stripped down firm to HSBC, which has been on an acquisition spree and owns Beneficial Finance for consumers with bad credit. HSBC declined to comment.

Arnall, 67, earned his $3 billion fortune lending money at high rates to the 50 million Americans with poor credit. He was one of the top 10 donors to President Bush.

God help the Netherlands.

In case you are interested: Ameriquest Job Openings