Lost in Yonkers

So, we went to see Lost In Yonkers last night at the PTC. Can I just say here that it is really nice to have an "equity" house here in Utah? This is about the only one around here that draws actors from the east coast, and we end up with really great talent. We saw Othello a few weeks ago, and that was EXCELLENT as well.

Anyway, it was a great production and was well worth the time. However, the next time we do the season tickets, we need to ask for weekend nights, as opposed to during the week. When you go during the week, you sit among the folks from the local old folks' homes. They hit the local buffet at four in the afternoon, and get to the theater, adjusting hearing aids, etc. until the show starts. There's lots of talk around you while you wait for the curtain, and you would think it would stop when the lights go out. But it doesn't happen - the talking just goes on, as if they are sitting in their public lounge watching Jeopardy or something. For the first 20 minutes the old lady beside me was complaining in full voice to Bill that she couldn't "see a damn thing."

Elsewhere, you can hear lots of other folks say stuff like, "what did he say?"

No "soft-voice" either... full on buffet voice. Maybe the blue hair dye shorts out all ability to be considerate to others, I dunno.

And the old-man-farts. Puh-lease. Make. It. Stop.

On another note, after we got home, sent the dogs out to pee, etc... getting ready to call it a day, this was the conversation:

I walk into the room, and say, "hmmm, it smells like almonds in here..."

She says, "yeah, it's the lotion I rub on my scratchy cuticles at night."

I do a double-take, and say nothing.

She says, "What? I do that."

I say, "I THOUGHT you said you rub it on your scratchy nipples at night"

Blank stare, then she says, "You're a moron."

I say, "yes I am."

Then I say, "Well, you know how you read really fast and just read "word shapes?""

She says, "yes."

Then I say, "well, sometimes I just LISTEN to word shapes, and get some of them wrong."

She says, "You're still a moron."

I say, "I know."


On My Hard Drive: Tower of Power

Tower of Power started out in the 70's in the East Bay area of northern California. They were principally a horn-based funk band. Over time, they got so good that they were contracted to play backup on recordings by MANY of the music industry's iconic figures.

They've shuffled members through, including vocalists, but have maintained the super-tight horn section sound that has made them famous over the years. Here they appear live playing one of their signature songs: What Is Hip. I saw them about 10 years ago in a little bar in New York City, where it was shoulder to shoulder standing room only, and LOUDER THAN HELL. I was AMAZED at the horn section. I had never heard anything so polished in a live setting. A couple of years ago they came to the Salt Lake City Jazz Festival here, and they were equally good. We packed up all the kiddies and took them to see it. To varying degrees of enjoyment. I was very fun though. The name says it all - it's a towering wall of huge sound, live, or recorded.

Check them out here


Paradoxically Speaking - five things

1. I make the bed when I get up in the morning. Every morning. My desk looks like Jabba The Desk.

2. I'd like to have a wine and cheese party. Almost everybody on the invite list would wonder if they should bring cans or long-necks.

3. I wouldn't mind wearing a nice shirt/tie to work every day. I have disdain for the job descriptions that would require it of me.

4. I like to think of myself as technologically adept. But it's ThatOneWife who makes sure all the computers and stuff are running at our house.

5. If someone offered me a "no-shine guy's manicure" I'd take them up on it. I'm not gay.


Meme day

I'm not typically one of those guys that does a lot of these, although I do have a "100 things about me" post.. Others I have done can be counted on one or two fingers.

This one comes to us via Mr. Wm. Hung.

The idea is to go to Wikipedia and type in your birth month and day without the year. From there you post the following:

3 events from history on that day
2 births, 1 death from that day
1 holiday or observance

So, here are mine:
3 events:
- The first gasoline powered car debuts in Springfield, MA.
- The First Cannes Film Festival is held - Bonus event: Miss Saigon makes its world stage premier in London
- Lee Iaccoca is elected president of the Chrysler Corporation

2 births, 1 death:
- Born on this day: Sophia Loren, Guy Lafleur - Canadian Hockey Player
- Died on this day: Jim Croce, American Song Writer
bonus event: This is the date of the holocaust in Letychiv, Ukraine. In the course of two days, the German SS murders at least 3000 Jews.

A holiday or observance:
In ancient Greece, the seventh day of the Eleusinian Mysteries, when the secret rites in the Telesterion began.

I don't even know what that means, but "secret rites" always reminds me of the movie Eyes Wide Shut, so, there you are...


Priests to Purify Site After Bush Visit

From the AP
Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

"That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States (wtf?), with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture," Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, said Thursday.

I wonder if they can do something about Bill O'Reilly.

Come on, isn't it time for a Utah State Lottery?

I mean, REALLY, people.

Can you name the biggest source in Utah that subsidizes our schools' free and reduced-fee lunch programs? Can you? I'll give you a minute, because I bet you can't.



Your kids get free or reduced-fee lunches because I buy wine. You don't buy wine, but I do.

You should thank me.

It's odd to me that the predominant religion here has the worldwide reputation of producing offspring like rabbits, often in financial circumstances that don't allow for the best possible outcomes, and when the little darlings are sent off to school, their lunches are subsidized by those buying liquor, and who, therefore, by definition, are not members of the dominant religion, and who, therefore, likely have fewer children. That's a guess, but I doubt it could be proven incorrect.

I heard this quite some time ago, and I have just been sitting here, letting that little tidbit of information brew for a while. Until now. I've said for a long time that Utah could solve a lot of its woes by doing a state-sanctioned lottery. Everybody gets all up in arms about it, and there is obviously no way on earth our churchislature would pass such a forward thinking liberal idea.

Frankly, if there is ANY state that SHOULD have a lottery, it's Utah. Already our schools have the smallest student to tax base ratio because of the "full quiver" theory. So, we're already behind. How do other states manage the education of their children, among many other things? They have a state lottery.

And before you get all hoity toity on crime and other civil woes, a 1998 study conducted for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found no correlation between gambling problems and lotteries. "It does not appear that the availability of a lottery has an impact on (problem gambling) prevalence rates," it reports. the study also notes that those who are "gamblers" are also likely to purchase lottery tickets.

And here's something interesting - 53% of Utahns state that gambling is an acceptable form of entertainment. In a 2004 survey by Harrah's, a casino company, estimated that 402,000 Utahns visited casinos during 2003 — or 27 percent of the population over age 21. It said they made nearly 1.5 million trips out of state to casinos that year. That was high enough for the Salt Lake metro area to rank No. 44 among the nation's cities for generating casino trips.

Let's look at some neighboring states:
Idaho has nearly 1,200 stores that sell lottery tickets. The top six locations are all on the Utah border in tiny towns, according to computer-assisted analysis of data obtained through public documents laws. The top-selling location in all of Idaho is the Kwik Stop in Malad on I-15 just north of the border. It sold $2.54 million worth of tickets in fiscal 2004. That is 27 times more than the $92,000 average for all Idaho lottery sales locations.

"About 90 percent of our business is from Utahns," estimates Bobby Green, the assistant manager of the Kwik Stop. Polls show that 33 percent of Utahns surveyed say they have played the Idaho lottery sometime in their lives — including 12 percent who played it within the past year. Another 14 percent have played lotteries in other surrounding states, including 7 percent who did so within the past year.

The Idaho Lottery says it has provided more than $275 million to that state since it began in 1989. Half goes to its public schools, and half goes to the Permanent Building Fund. Based on last year's data about border sales, it appears Utahns contributed possibly 8.5 percent of that profit — or about $23 million. Only 22 percent of the total amount gambled ends up going to the state as profit — so Utahns may have spent more than $106 million on the Idaho lottery since it began in 1989.

Way to go Utah.

Colorado also offers a lottery, with sales sites just over the border. Colorado sold $409.9 million in lottery products in 2004, a 6 percent increase over 2003. The state says $101.6 million of that went to state schools, parks and building funds.

Arizona has a state lottery, with some sales locations not far over the Utah border — but all are far from Utah urban centers. Gamblers wagered $366.5 million on the Arizona lottery in 2004. The state received $107.8 million from that, which it divided among its general fund, health funds, mass transit, health funds and other programs.

The New Mexico lottery, with some sales locations near the Utah border, sold $148.7 million in tickets last year. Of that, $35.9 million went to state education programs and scholarships.

Wyoming tried to pass legislation for a state lottery, but the measure failed on a tie vote on the House of Representatives floor.

The thing is this: State lotteriess benefit local education in almost every instance. And Utahns have shown that they will travel to places that DO have lotteries, because they enjoy playing. Their money goes to educate other states' children.

Note that "gambling" activities in other states, other than lotteries, also collect massive amounts of money from Utahns. The City Manager of Wendover, NV, states that his city would not exist without money from Utahns. Wyoming Downs racetrack attracts 85% of its patrons from Utah. That also includes jockeys and horses.

If Utahns are so interested in going elsewhere to drop a few quarters or buy a lottery ticket, let's just do it here, leave the money in the state, and educate our children without charging me through the nose for an already paltry selection of wines - which is another gripe entirely.



To our dear neighbors in Utah's Beaver County


Out here in the real world, we have motors, wheels, electricity, and all sorts of neat stuff.

In the UTAH section of Sunday's Tribune, Beaver residents state that they are up in arms that a developer wants to develop an upscale resort area where the rich and famous can come to play, and leave their money behind when they leave.

Said one resident, "It's all Hollywood money, and we don't need them coming in here with their Hollywood drugs and their Hollywood pornography."

I'm thinking this person needs to move to Kanab, where she can raise her "full quiver" of a family, while grinding her wheat between two stones to make her bread.

And besides, is the Hollywood porn better than the stuff we have here?

This all reminds me of a Hunter S Thompson quote about Hollywood:
"It's a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. And there's also a negative side."

In Which I'm Forced Out Of Hiding:

Yeah, so, here it is... (sorry, no pictures this time.)

A LOT (or for those from Utah County: ALOT) of people have sent me email, usually attaching a web article, axing me if it's true. Before you think that I am some sort of Dear Abby for the innerwebs, these articles all have had something to do with the new press attention on the mortgage industry and what's going on in the economy as a result.

Invariably, my response is, yes, it's all true, and very bad right now.

Articles like these:
Downpayments will soon be the only way to buy a home.
Subprime housing game is OVER.

In the last week, articles like this have proliferated across the web, and in national and local newspapers.

To those who are IN this industry, this is no news at all... This train has been coming down the tracks for about a year now, maybe more. But for others, like people who blindly INVEST money in companies like NOVAstar Financial, New Century, and now Accredited Home Lenders, the news apparently is hitting them broadside.

About 6-8 weeks ago, Novastar just up and WENT AWAY, leaving investors in the company holding empty plastic Walmart bags, instead of bags full of money. Then about 2 weeks ago, New Century announced it had been asked to IMMEDIATELY buy back 900 million in bad loans for THIS QUARTER ALONE. At the same time, they also announced they were under federal investigation, and their stock plummeted more than 50% in one day, because they now need to RESTATE EARNINGS from several previous quarters. When companies say this, they really mean to say, "we lied earlier, and now we can't sleep, so we're going to go back to retell the story - right after all our top execs get done selling their shares." Trading in the stock has been halted, and they also face delisting procedures.

And these are only the publicly traded companies. They're the ones that are supposed to have sufficient market capitalization and the management resources to weather the storm. But in addition to these, I get emails EVERY SINGLE DAY notifying me that one of our lenders is now out of business. Recently those companies include Secured Funding, Fremont Investment and Loan, Ameritrust, Popular Financial, First Capital Mortgage, Irwin Mortgage, Silver State, OwnIt Mortgage, Mortgage Lenders Network, ResMae, Lenders Direct Capital,... these are only the most recent ones.

In a recent earnings conference call with investors, CountryWide's CEO noted that while numbers of lenders going out of business everyday is published to be between 5-20 (per day), the number really is MUCH higher. DR Horton, one of the nation's biggest home builders, says that "2007 is going to suck, every single month of it."

Pretty doom and gloom reporting, huh?

But remember one thing - the currency that market news trades in is always FEAR. These are the stories that are garnering attention, and so editors are asking their writers, why haven't YOU written about this yet, are you asleep at the wheel?" And so that next story gets written. The one that reports that more subprime mortgages are in default now than last quarter, etc.

Is it all bad though? Interesting to note that Warren Buffet recently quadrupled his stake in US Bank, a lending institution, as well as Wells Fargo. Warren Buffet is seen by many as Jesus Christ Himself in financial circles. Also interesting to note that many ratings services like Fitch have upgraded Countrywide's stock for the near term, calling for a $50 share price in the next two years. That stock is currently at $34 and change. There are also rumors that Bank of America has a woody for Countywide, and would like nothing more than to jump its bones with Luther (Loofa) Vandross playing softly in the background.

So this is enough for now... I'll write more on this in the near future, because I think it bears discussion, or at least it's something I find interesting.

And I'll call it here first - I'll bet the FED LOWERS its interest rate tomorrow for the first time in a very long time... and it will send ripples through the economy as a result.

Just sayin'.


Newspaper Agency Corporation's Weekend Real Estate Section

The two main Salt Lake newspapers are marketed by the same company, Newspaper Agency Corporation. In general, the same classified ads appear in both, and both papers are printed and marketed by this company.

They also produce other marketing pieces that accompany both papers. One of them, Saturday's publication, called Utah Real Estate, has gone downhill at breakneck speed over the last few months. That feature's front page, for as long as I can remember has a section, above the fold, called "On The Market", and has been a feature spot for a local home that is currently on the market.

Up until a few months ago, this feature spot was written by one of three or four individuals who researched the local MLS, and chose a house for feature that was for sale that week. The writing was typical for these marketing bits, where hopeful writers honed their skills, and took care to reveal a property that was unique in some way. Sometimes, it was a home of local notoriety or historical significance, or one designed and built by a local architect, or one that shows some other unique feature that one would not otherwise see.

Now, the section has become nothing more than a shill piece for the large local real estate firms. The bits now come with the byline, "contributed by Prudential", or some other equally banal thing. The featured home is some Stucco 'n' Stone POS, no different than the 3000 other homes listed on the MLS, and sometimes they're not even built yet. The writing is mind-numbingly bad, often using every trite real estate marketing term available before getting down to the actual home in question, leaving the description of the home to the last two or three paragraphs, buried deep within the realtor ads that lie within its inane pages.

Every Saturday I grab my fuzzy slippers, waddle out to the driveway to retrieve my paper, get set up with a hot cup of coffee, and prepare for disappointment. And I'm right every time.

Bummer. I should be writing that section. I would go through the listings, and find something fresh and new every week. Did you know that the house in Olympus Cove (for you non-residents, that's a tony "old-money" area of the Salt Lake Valley) labeled with the prestigious Plat#1, Lot #1 was for sale? Wouldn't you like to see that house's interior? Did you know that a local house designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West apprentices has been for sale for about a year? I think it VERY recently sold. Another original Wright house, the only one in Utah, was recently for sale as well.

Why are they featuring homes that are a dime-a-dozen when there are others that are exciting, unique, full of character, beautiful, and rich with heritage? I can hit a hooking 5-iron and hit three of everything the are featuring these days. (I do this regularly.)

I don't get it. Opportunity lost.

Can anyone deny?

Is there any doubt at all that Burger King needs a new marketing campaign?

The dude in the mask shows up everywhere, imposing himself.

Soon we'll see him hiding in the girls locker room, peeking in the showers. The commercial will close with him being led away in cuffs.


The Grammys - Case In Point

A while ago I complained that while ALL the artists nominated for Grammy awards greatly value the honor of being nominated, the actual awards show broadcast now leaves much to be desired, because it is taken over by nominees in categories that the producers think we want to see.

Like this:

Geez, honey, your mother must be proud. She's probably sitting at home right now, with a little tear in her eye between swigs of PBR, as she whisks the Cheetos dust from in between her boobs.

My dear, are you offering your ample booty as a shelf for others' grammy awards while they make a trip to the potty, or maybe you're offering yourself up for others to use that gramophone end of the award statue as a speculum?

And yes, dear reader, you SHOULD feel a little uneasy that I might know the proper use of that term.

Just sayin.


Role Swapping

When you're a kid and you don't want to be caught having sex by your parents, your best bet is the back seat of the car.

When you're a parent, and you're old enough that your kids have later curfews, or they come home from college for the weekend or whatever, and you don't want THEM to catch YOU having sex, your best bet is the back of the family minivan.

What goes around, comes around, I guess.

I'm just sayin'.

Search words: Amor Vincit Omnia, Tattoo....

Spent a few minutes today looking at my blog traffic and how it gets to me... revealing. I like to think I might have something to say on a semi-regular basis that *some* people might care about.

But no. It seems I might just as well sit here and .. blink.

In any given month, about 30% of my traffic is new, first-time viewers. If you're one of them, I hope you check back again some time. I promise to do better. (whatever.)

Of those first time viewers, about 40% of them got here by searching the terms in the title of this post. Most of the rest of you who searched using the "other" terms are just plain SICK.

I wrote that post on Feb 20 2006, 13 months ago. There are now over 400 other posts here, and that is my most visited page. Go figure. It's the story of one of the two tattoos I have. I gave a complete history of the symbol, its meaning, links to other places to see other interpretations of it, etc. I believe that post is now one of the most exhaustive resources for that particular symbol on the innernets. I even had one person email me and ask for an actual picture of the finished tattoo, because he was considering getting one just like what I had described.

Here's that picture:

I had searched for some time for something that would express, for me, the sentiment I have about the thought "Amor Vincit Omnia". It means "love conquers all", in case you didn't get that.

I spent a lot of time looking for design ideas, and ways to do what I wanted. I spent some time with a pad and pencil as well. Everything I came up with on my own sucked. Having spent some time as a graphic designer, this was disheartening. There are days that I feel about as creative as a CPA convention.

Oh well.

But then I found the symbol, and I knew it said everything I wanted it to, in a graphical representation, which was what I was after anyway.


Wolves, with 100% pure sheepskin seat covers

Something popping up on my radar recently:

The disturbing trend of massive hedge funds and private equity firms using their massive amounts of free cash and buying up struggling large public companies for pennies on the dollar, taking them private, and "refinancing" the debt structure (without any public oversight - because they're now privately owned), and taking GOBS of money out of the business to pay for hefty bonuses and salaries for the managers, or securing more money for other acquisitions, and then summarily managing the business into the toilet.

This has been a trend for more than a year now, and nobody's really talking about it at all yet.

But they will.

Look for me to say more in the future here, with links and examples.

This will be the next "insider-trading" or "stock market" or "whatever" scandal to be outed publicly. It's extremely damaging to the companies, their employees, and to the economy in general, and I'll provide some interesting information on it in the near future.


Utah home prices are on fire

From this morning's Salt Lake Tribune:

Utah's home price appreciation, the worst in the country just three years ago, is now the best nationwide.

Home prices statewide rose 17.6 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005 to the same quarter of 2006, according to a report released Tuesday by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, a government agency that tracks housing values.

Nationally, home prices rose only 5.9 percent during that time period, reflecting the downturn seen in cities that have experienced a rapid run-up in prices in recent years. Meanwhile, housing prices in all of Utah's major metropolitan areas posted major gains in the past year.

The Provo-Orem metropolitan area had the third-highest
appreciation among 282 cities in the survey, with a 19.9 percent increase in home values. Salt Lake City was No. 4, with a 19.8 percent increase. Ogden-Clearfield was No. 14, with a 15.3 percent increase. St. George was No. 28, with appreciation of 12.3 percent, with Logan a distant No. 94, with an increase of 7.3 percent.

The increases over the past year alone have made it increasingly difficult to find homes - or condominiums - in the Salt Lake Valley that sell for less than $200,000.

In Salt Lake County, median selling prices are $225,000, according to 2006 data from the Salt Lake Board of Realtors. Utah County's median is $212,900, followed by Davis County ($197,500.)

The most affordable areas are Weber County, where the median selling price is $144,975, and Tooele County ($161,000.)

Strong home value gains in Utah undoubtedly have made it more difficult for some families, especially those with low and moderate incomes, to buy their first home now. But many other families have benefited from the home-price increases - especially those who purchased their properties several years ago.

Carine Henderson, of Salt Lake City, is one who plans to profit from her good timing. She and her husband purchased a three-bedroom, two-bath condominium in downtown Salt Lake City for $117,000 three years ago. "A neighbor of mine just sold a unit like ours for $220,000," said Henderson.

The condo is just blocks away from Howa Capital's planned mixed-use development along 300 West between 500 North and 600 North that will include an 80-unit condo and town-home development with prices in the $300,000s to high $600,000s. And Henderson expects the relatively high prices in that development to boost hers.

The Wasatch Front housing market last peaked in the early to mid-1990s, when home sales, buoyed by the state's strong economy and job growth, rose dramatically and values increased by a larger margin than any other state. By the late-1990s, though, the market had slowed considerably, and in the years that followed, housing values in many areas of the state barely budged or increased only slightly.

By 2005, home prices began to climb once again as Utah's economy began to boom. Much of Utah's current real estate boom has to do with the state's strong job market, said Andrew Leventis, economist with Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Job growth in the state, among the highest nationally, is expected to continue strong through this year and next.

"Employment and house prices are closely linked," Leventis said.

Another factor in Utah's favor is affordability.

Utahns struggling to afford a home may think otherwise, but Utah still has "fairly affordable housing," Leventis said.

Since When?

Since when is it okay for an employer to tell an employee that it's not okay to blog in your spare time at home. Sarah, over at Tales Of Wit And Charm, has been told by her employer that she needs to stop blogging.

She has never disclosed where she works, or what industry she is in, but that hasn't stopped the new owner of the company. I guess some employers think they control every aspect of a person's life, inside and outside of work.

Go here and throw in your support for Sarah.


Lonely man in latex with donkey in hotel room arrested

Check into a hotel wearing latex and handcuffs with a donkey in Ireland, get arrested.
A man who was found dressed in latex and handcuffs brought a donkey to his room in a Galway city centre hotel, because he was advised “to get out and meet people,” the local court heard last week.

Thomas Aloysius McCarney with an address in south Galway was charged with cruelty to animals, lewd and obscene behaviour, and with being a danger to himself when he appeared before the court on Friday. He was also charged with damage to a mini-bar in the room, but this charge was later dropped when the defendant said that it was the donkey who caused that damage.
I guess the donkey just really badly needed a shot of Jaeger after what he'd just been through. Jackass.

My new defense for EVERYTHING: It was the donkey.

Today, I'm happy to be an Edmontonian

I cried. Oh, yes I did.

This morning I watched the jersey retirement ceremony of Mark Messier that took place in Edmonton last night before the game against the Phoenix Coyotes (who are partly owned and wholly coached by former Oiler teammate, and all-time Great One, Wayne Gretzky).

Sometimes you measure a man by the contents of his heart.

Messier was born and raised in Edmonton and he grew up playing all his minor league hockey there. I can remember talk about him when he was playing for the minor league teams, right before he was drafted by the Oilers in '79 to play for the new Edmonton Oilers as they were to make their debut in the National Hockey League. I have a particular memory of this, sitting in the cafeteria at school, talking to friends, between food fights.

Anyway, at 18, he was drafted along with Gretzky to play for the Oilers. They made their league debut at home against the Perennial Kings of the league, the Montreal Canadiens. Gretzky and Messier beat them almost single-handedly, and the league was abuzz with what was about to happen in Edmonton.

The rest is history, as Gretz and Mess lead the team to 5 Stanley Cup championships, amassing an astonishing pile of league records and awards, still standing to this day.

Messier had an intensity unparalleled even to this day. So many times, when the team came out from the second intermission, you could tell something bad happened in the locker room, and now the game BELONGED to Messier. He had this steel look, and he gave it to everyone sitting on the bench, as if to say, this game is now mine - get on my back, we're about to win. Now.

And when the opposing team got a look at the "Look", they pretty much knew it was Game Over. He never stepped away from dropping his gloves, tossing a well-placed elbow, skating through anyone in the way. There was an intensity there that has never been matched.

Many call him the greatest leader any team sport has ever produced. For good reason.

In addition to retiring his jersey, the city also named a major thoroughfare after him, honoring the little suburb where he lived with his family, and where his parents still live today.

If you're interested, you can look at the city ceremony here. And you can watch the 9-part video of the retirement ceremony here. There is also a photo slide-show of the ceremony here.