Thursday, September 24, 2009


Steve Coleman is a saxophonist/composer who is one of the more innovative composers in jazz. Here is an incredibly detailed analysis of Charlie Parker's work by Coleman.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Socially Responsible Investing for regular folks

My first encounter with socially responsible investing was with the Calvert, Domini, and Neuberger Berman socially responsive funds that I found in my employer's 401k plan. Contributing to a better world appealed to me, so I added them to my 401k portfolio.

As the recession deepened, I saw rates for saving accounts and CDs drop to pitiful levels. As of September 23,2009, the average CD rate was 1.751%. Of course, saving account rates are lower than that. Then I found MicroPlace. MicroPlace is an online broker-dealer that allows regular folks to make investments in the microfinance industry. I found MicroPlace while checking out the Oikocredit website, which mentions MicroPlace as a way for investors to invest in Oikocredit. I can choose an investment with only $20 minimum. For example, one investment I selected was "Advance social change in Nicaragua", which will be repaid in 2013, at a rate of 6% a year. As of September 23,2009, the average rate for a 4-year CD was 2.5%, according to Granted, I invested only $30, but the difference in rate is pretty dramatic, as you can see. Today, I noticed there is now a "special liquidity" investment offered at MicroPlace by Oikocredit - unlike all the others, this one is practically a savings account - you can take your money out anytime. My monthly budget for savings/investment is pretty small, so MicroPlace is a great fit for me - the investments available through it pay better than savings accounts and CDs, and the investments benefit poor folks who need it.

More socially responsible investment options I've found for low budget investors:

FTSE KLD 400 Social Index Fund and FTSE KLD Select Social Index Fund at These are ETFs (Exchange Traded Fund) rather than mutual funds. The iShares site has a good little tutorial explaining the differences between their ETFs and regular mutual funds. Unlike the mutual funds I've found, these two ETFs do not have a minimum investment requirement. If I read their prospectuses correctly, I could theoretically start investing in them for just a few bucks, plus whatever the broker charges for a transaction if I'm using a broker (TradeKing for example charges $4.95 per trade.

Pax World Mutual Funds. Just about every mutual fund of theirs has a $250 minimum investment, with $50 minimum for subsequent investments. Many mutual funds have a minimum investment of $2000 or more, with a minimum of as much as $250 per additional investment. Every single Pax World mutual fund that I found has socially responsible goals. I saw on Google that Pax World filed to open up its own socially responsible ETF offerings too, but I guess that's still in the works.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Artillery 2 Effects software

Interesting approach to the use of effects as an instrument, by Sugar Bytes:

The Artillery concept is as simple as effective: Effects are assigned to keyzones and can be triggered with MIDI notes in an intuitive and extremely flexible way. This way you are able to perform hair-raising sequences, and playfully put the effects you want in the places you want, whenever you want.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jazz Anatomy by Mimi Fox (free jazz guitar lessons)

Pretty nice set of free lessons on jazz guitar by Mimi Fox. She introduces the viewer to jazz guitar via the blues, which I think works for guitarists coming out of rock.

Jazz Anatomy

Geoffrey Keezer's Jazz Piano video clips

Just found this cool collection of jazz piano licks in short video format.

Evening Star Cafe

Just starting to catalog Washington DC area jazz lounges as I find them....

Evening Star Cafe

Friday, September 11, 2009

Two informative articles on credit scores

For most people, a good credit score can save tons of money on home and car loans - like several hundreds of dollars a month off your mortgage payment. Here are a couple of good articles that you may find useful in your quest for a good credit score:

Credit Scores: What You Need to Know Now (Wall Street Journal)

Myths of credit (Andy Jolls)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Trogotronic Noise Synths, Effects, and Controllers

Trogotronic makes synths and processors for noise in both tabletop and pedal formats, which is unusual for a builder.

They also make interesting controllers for audio and control voltage (CV), also in tabletop and footpedal formats. The audio signal routing controllers range from familiar A/B switchers to a joystick-controlled audio mixer/router. The CV controllers should be of interest to anyone who has CV compatible gear such as Moogerfooger pedals.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Harmony Central thread on Japanese Music

There's a huge thread on Harmony Central about Japanese music artists - mostly rock/pop, some noise, chock full of embedded Youtube clips. Some I'm familiar with - such as Green Milk From Planet Orange and Ruins.

Check it here.