Do-Not-Hire list at BYU

NPR is reporting this morning that the petition signed by approximately 1000 graduating seniors at BYU in opposition of Dick Cheney's appearance at the commencement ceremony is now being circulated among businesses in Provo, where the campus is located, as a Do-Not-Hire list.

Which is why I'm no longer a member of that church.

Your hypocrisy is unbecoming, people, and it goes against the things you have been taught ever since you were sitting on those cold metal chairs.

Oh, but that's SUNDAY learnin', not Monday learnin'.

If I had that list passed across my desk, it would be my Hire-First list.

When we sent ThatOnePrincessDaughter away to school last August, our advice to her was to find something beyond herself, beyond her little circle to care about, to make a difference, to find out why things are the way they are, and to find a way to make a difference beyond the "does my ass look okay in these jeans" mentality.

Sounds like others could use that advice too.


Reggie, Reggie, Reggie.....

I was watching the basketball games last night, and former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller was doing the color commentary for TNT.

At one point early in the game, he started talking about a particular young player for Golden State.

And he had this to say, and I QUOTE, "He's the most improved player in the league this year, for sure. He should GARNISH that award, no doubt."

Yes, um, okay.... Just which garnishment goes with the Most Improved Player Award? Is it a twist of lemon with salt clinging to the top of the award? Or maybe it's a little radish flower? Parsley?

I just don't know.

I'm made of cashmere...

So I have a sweater I wore a little while ago..(not a scarf, like the picture). It's made of part cashmere, and it's really soft. Cashmere is basically goat down hairs, and to qualify as cashmere, the fibers/hairs must meet certain criteria in terms of length (3 cm, I believe...) and breadth.

The sweater is light brown, and has the cashmere fibers from very light to a medium brown. Anyway, I was looking down at my chest, and saw all these fibers poking out of the sweater. Oddly, I thought, that looks a lot like my chest WITHOUT a shirt on... Just not that soft.

Just sayin'.


Why the curators don't want you to touch stuff....

Just sayin'.


I actually used that term (properly) in a dream last night.

You know, I started this blog a little more than a year ago as an outlet for me to practice a more casual writing style, and to express some of my thoughts and ideas about life and things in the process. About 445 posts later, here we are.

I have worked as a technical writer before, and while many writer-types believe that is the harder of the two types of writing (casual vs technical), I find it much easier to write in a very technical, proper manner. Here in the US, the style guide usually adhered to is the AP Style Guide ("Punctuation in skilled hands is a remarkably subtle system of signals, signs, symbols and winks that keep readers on the smoothest road..."). I wasn't trained in that style though, and from time to time, I've found it a bit cumbersome. I was trained with the APA Style Guide - The American Psychological Association. It's a more technical, "proper" guide to writing and publishing. For me, the most noticeable differences between these two guides are in the use of commas, and quotation marks.

I've written user manuals, web help files, etc, for both complicated software and hardware applications, and it's easy for me. I could do it in my sleep. Perhaps it's because I have done more of it.

Which is why I am here, just trying to find a casual voice, have a couple of chuckles, and if you're entertained along the way, well, that's a bonus for you and me both.


On My Hard Drive: Bobby McFerrin

Before you start with me, stop right there.

You all remember Bobby McFerrin from his 1988 release of "Don't Worry Be Happy."

That record pushed him into the limelight, garnering Grammy's that year for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Somethin' like that anyway. He also had a project called Voistra, although I can't find a web link for it anywhere at the moment.

However, he is, and has been for a long time, a musician with considerable chops. And the voice thing has only served to separate him in the "very unique" category.

I wrote about McFerrin Some time ago in connection with Chick Corea, and I'm going to again. In that original post, I wrote about the TV series Corea does on HDNet... but McFerrin and Corea have been collaborators for a long time, performing at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 2001, (watch that video) and many other venues as well over the years. He has also performed with other musicians as well, notables here are Yo Yo Ma. Their 1999 album, Hush, is worth a listen, if not a buy. Its most notable cut is the one entitled Grace, a lovely winding study on the intricacies of the human voice, the subtleties of the cello, both stretched across the canvas of the pentatonic scale we usually think of in terms of "oriental" music. You can check that track out right here in its entirety.

The album I wanted to note today though is called "Play" and is also a collaboration with Chick Corea. The track worthy of mention there is the first one, Spain.

Watch Part One
Watch Part Two

This is from the HDNet series I mentioned earlier. Bella Fleck (who plays in Salt Lake this summer) is a master banjo player (I KNOW!), and has made a name as one who takes the banjo out of the box - I guess, figuratively AND literally speaking... I digress. He appears in this video, but not on the album.

"Play" is a live performance album and features McFerrin and Corea without Fleck.

If you like teh jazzzz, you should check out any one of these three musicians. All three are known for unique performance styles, and together they offer something quite out of the box ordinary, and very enjoyable.

A little housekeeping

So, since it's been a while since I've done anything about the look and feel thing around here... I've taken it upon myself to update the blog links at the side of the page. There are now about 45 blogs there. It's not every one I read regularly, but it's a pretty fair cross section. If you're not there and you think you should be, send me a note or leave a comment. If you're there, and you don't want to be, well, what's WRONG with you anyway???

Thanks for being there - you mean the world to me.

Sarcasm: Just one of my many valuable services.

I also changed the link area as well. I have a raft of my favorite web links, showing randomly 10 at a time. So check it out each time you come back to see what else might interest you there.


Abstinence Education = 176 million dollars worth of USELESS

From the AP:

Students who participated in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex a few years later as those who did not, according to a long-awaited study mandated by Congress.

Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes, and they first had sex at about the same age as their control group counterparts — 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education. Critics have repeatedly said they don’t believe the programs are working, and the study will give them reinforcement. news story here
another good article here

And while we're on the subject of useless money thrown at perceived problems, let me just say here that school vouchers spell the end of decent public school education. Ohio, the other state, besides Utah, that charged headlong into this program, is showing that the great preponderance of voucher seekers are taking their kids and putting them in religious schools. (Go figure - Ohio, the recently in focus hotbed of hyper-Christianity - I wonder how they feel about the story above...)

The new Governor there is trying to roll back the program as fast as possible. Taking money away from schools that aren't performing is the wrong approach. The failing school should be focused on and improved, through whatever means possible. Yanking money and kids only sounds the death-knell for the school, the system, and decent education for all students. Some parents are also cheating the system: their children have NEVER been enrolled in a public school, but now that there are vouchers available, many are taking their kids to public school for the first five days of the school year, getting the voucher, then re-enrolling in the private religious school the next week, now with a voucher. Nice.

That's a GREAT lesson to be teaching your children. (and I'll reserve a spot right here for my prediction of how delightfully the Utah program will be abused, in order to get the little darlings into the "private religious school".)

One proponent of vouchers did an interview on the radio this morning, and said that she needs to keep her kids in the private religious school, because they are away from things like teenage sex. (Yes, she said that very thing. Out loud.)

Blank stare from me.


See above story, lady. Then why don't you take the responsibility for your own children's education, rather than relying on some stupid program (which apparently makes absolutely NO difference whatsoever.)

The Market needs to regulate itself; and the consumer needs to be accountable

This isn't going to go well if the government feels the need to meddle.

From Bankrate.com. “On April 17, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing called, ‘Possible responses to rising mortgage foreclosures.’ Of a dozen witnesses, none were mortgage servicers, the people whose companies collect mortgage payments, deal with delinquent debtors and initiate foreclosures. The committee didn’t call any lenders, either.”

“David Berenbaum, executive VP of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, suggested a…mandated temporary halt in foreclosures.”

“A mortgage servicer might have responded by asking who would pay the accumulated interest payments during a moratorium. The servicer, the investors who own the loan, the borrower? If it’s the latter, is that fair? Or would the taxpayers pick up the tab?”

“George Miller, executive director of the American Securitization Forum, warned that ‘policies designed to further regulate subprime lending or provide relief to borrowers’ could cause investors ‘to shun the market altogether and cut off mortgage credit for worthy subprime borrowers.’”


Fannie/Freddie to rescue the "Lending Crisis" (?)

Yahoo News yesterday reported that FannieMae and FreddieMac are stepping up and proposing to make some changes to the subprime loans they are holding.

For those who need it, a little background:

Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are acronyms for large corporations that are generally sponsored by the federal government to provide stability in the mortgage lending marketplace. They were originally started in the early part of the 20th century as wholly owned government agencies designed to provide affordable home loans for returning servicemen, etc.

They've since been privatized but retain a government sponsorship, in order for the government to have a modicum of control over the nation's lending practices.

Both companies are MASSIVE secondary-market purchasers of already-originated mortgage loans, competing with the other typical Wall Street buyers in that marketplace. Fannie Mae has been beset with management problems and financial reporting errors in the recent past, but they remain a huge purchaser of loans that meet certain criteria.

(Fannie Mae, just this week has entered an agreement to be purchased by, you guessed it, a private equity firm who has garnered a coalition of groups, two of whom are CITI Bank, and Chase bank. The equity fund will retain majority control, while the two banks will have a minority interest. The group says it will continue to report publicly, and seeks to retain the government sponsorship, helping it retain its power and stability in the marketplace.)

Fannie Mae owns and services a large percentage of the subprime loans in the US right now. There is a morass of foreclosure looming on the not-too-distant horizon for the borrowers in this type of loan.

Typically they are called "2/28's" which means that the loan has an amortization of 30 years, and a fixed period of only two years on the front of the loan. The remainder of the loan is adjustable, according to the lenders program at the time of closing. The amount of adjustment depends upon the "caps" that were in place at the time of closing.

Most caps are typically expressed as a three-number combination that most people fail to understand, usually 6-2-6. The first number represents the amount of increased interest rate the lender is allowed to charge upon the first opportunity, the 25th month of the loan. If you have a loan at 7% on a 2/28, and your caps are 626, that means that in the 24th month your interest rate is 7%, and in the 25th month, your rate can be legally moved to 13% under this program. The second number in the combination, (2) represents the number of adjustments per year the lender is allowed to make to your loan - i.e. every six months. The third number (6) is the lifetime cap on interest rate rise for the life of the loan. This is the "safety net". Under this program, the interest rate may NEVER go above the 7% (original rate) plus 6% (the cap number), in this case 13%.

You can imagine how distressing this type of loan would be to a person who borrowed 100% of their home's value in order to get the purchase done. They have NO equity. When the loan gets ready to adjust that first painful time, they have no ability to get a refinance done, especially if home prices are in a general state of decline - which they are right now, nationally. They are poor-credit borrowers in the first place, and have no savings, no extra income, and negative home equity from which to borrow.

The borrower becomes stuck in a loan they can't get out of, with the possibility of it adjusting WILDLY at the 25th month.

Sucks to be them. Anecdotally, 900 Californians PER WEEK are losing their homes to foreclosure right now, due to this very problem. Per week.

So, as you can imagine, this situation has the industry on its ear, and everybody in a regulatory position is seeking ways to mitigate the massive losses. You've heard about lenders like New Century, Novastar, etc... the list is LONG, of lenders in trouble for having originated these types of loans, and now the Wall Street buyers are asking the lenders to buy them back, because they aren't performing. This is how lenders go out of business.

Congress is hurrying to weigh in the situation, and the Banking Committees of both houses are holding hearings to see if there is something they can do. (I hope they stay out of it, and wait for the industry to self-regulate, because they don't even understand what an "exotic hybrid mortgage" is... they will make a mess, mark my words...)

So before lawmakers can wade into the fray, the industry's biggest players are taking steps to make things better. Fannie is proposing to make adjustments to these loans for deserving borrowers. They are offering to fix the caps issue related to that first nasty adjustment, and they are also going to move the amortization out to 40 years, instead of 30 years. This will have the effect of lowering the borrower's PAYMENT by up to five percent per month. Not the interest rate, but the payment.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me, and just in time, before lawmakers can make a lovely mess of things. It's always best to let a free market regulate and correct itself - after all, they still need to lend money, and the money still needs to perform, or the owner of the money goes out of business - that's the best motivator for change there is. Lawmaker posturing and puffing is useless, and will only have a detrimental effect on the situation.

Probably the most unique fireplace I have seen:

click on it to get some more detail... interesting, no?

Here are 2 others of worthy note as well:


And while we're on the subject of Famous People's houses:

This set of pics gets circulated about once or twice per year, noting that it is Tiger Woods' house in Florida. I have my doubts, but it is beautiful, if you like that style.

For the record, Woods recently bought a place (lot) up in Jackson Hole Wyoming, and most recently bought a place near Arnold Palmer in Florida - in the most expensive zip code in the US. The house on the property there will be torn down, and rebuilt, while Tiger, his wife, and soon-to-arrive child live in one of the two guest houses that will remain on the property.

Oh, and he has a foundation to run, and golf to play.

Anyway, here are the pictures, small, so click on them if you want to see them full size:

A thumbing of the nose to modern architecture:

I'm pretty sure this is the most interesting thing I've seen squirt across my computer screen in some time:

You all remember who Pierre Cardin is - perhaps the first fashion designer to sell his name into the mainstream consumer marketplace. This was in the late 70's and into the 80's. You probably had a tie or shoes or even a suit designed by Pierre Cardin, and you probably bought it at JC Penney's or whatever...

Anyway, he saw the vision for himself, got the exposure, and sold an astronomical amount of merchandise. What to do with so much money? He bought a place in southern France for 50 Million French Francs in 1989.

Would you like to see it?

First, here is the money quote teaser from the design firm:
The Lovag habitation wants to ignore aesthetics towards passers-by as it is exclusively conceived for the use of the inhabitant and his guests.
Maybe that gives you the clue that this is something out of the ordinary. And you would be right.

Le Palais Bulles - "the Palace of Bubbles"

Here are some pictures: (there are more at the link above...)


The Annual Ritual

So, I went to the eye doctor yesterday. He told me everything is great, and set me up with a new prescription.

This is significant.

When I can have a dude addressed as "Dr." look into my eyes and tell me I'm healthy, why would I go somewhere else to have a dude addressed as "Dr." stuff his hand up my exhaust pipe, just to tell me the same thing?

So I can cross the "yearly checkup" off my list...

It's much nicer when someone can just look in your eyes and accomplish the same thing. And there is then no need for slugging the offending doctor so hard that all his relatives die.

I'm just sayin'.


Since we're on the Chrysler subject:

Remember Lee Iacocca? He's the dude that kept Chrysler from going down the chute when it was swirling the bowl in the 80's. He was Time's Man of the Year in 1983, so now you have something in common with him. (Because YOU are Time's "Person of the Year" this time around. (no pun intended... and I digress....))

He has now written a lovely essay, called where have all the leaders gone?, which is a preface to his book of the same name.

Here is an excerpt:

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

It's about time some more people started making more noise. I think it was also Joe Biden yesterday who called for a Million Man March on the Mall with reference to the stem cell research stuff going on right now in DC...

More people need to say more.

Over the weekend, Mayor Rocky (SLC Mayor) was asked if he was using his position of power as a megaphone for his own personal views. He answered that yes, of course he was, and he was going to use every venue he had access to, including the mayor's office, to speak out on his viewpoints. Not sure I'm all about the mayor spending his pulpit time chasing his own agenda... but at least he's sayin' something.


How to fly under the radar

In my little family, a lot of communication happens through cell phone text messages, and some through instant messenger-type applications.

As a public service, and since we all know that the government is monitoring such traffic, here are the

"Perfectly Harmless Instant Messenger Statements That Will Get You in Trouble If the Government Is Spying on You"

i thought my jokes about congress would kill, but they totally bombed

my dad’s gonna blow up at me when he finds out i helped toilet paper that white house down the street

she kept hijacking the conversation during the whole plane trip! it drove me crazy! i wanted to kill myself and everyone onboard!

my science teacher, mr. alkayda, has farts that are like chemical weapons

i am going to murder president george w bush

Real Estate (Finance) information clearing house of information

I've been meaning to post a bit about what is going on in the real estate finance world these days, but really, things are moving so fast that anything I would post here would be outdated in a matter of only a few days...

1. However, one of the places I DO look for information would be good for you too. Although you should view it with a grain of salt - it's pretty doom and gloom. The Housing Bubble Blog is a macro engine for gathering nation-wide news reports on all things real estate. It's been around for a while, and therefore you can search on a city name, like PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA and get a listing of local news reports that are all compiled in one place. They don't post any positive news though. For example, everyone around here knows that our local real estate market has been moving ahead with fervor, for all the right reasons, but that's not stuff they are listing. It's all about the bubble phenomenon...

2. I noticed over at the Blue Roof (as opposed to the Red Door) that CNNMoney has come out with a couple of interesting lists:

First is a listing of the top ten houses in the USA... four of them are Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

Next is a listing of the top 150 architectural landmarks in the USA. Salt Lake makes the list at #69, but not for what you'd think...

And by the way, if you have an interest in real estate at all, whether an ongoing general interest, or an immediate interest because of a personal transaction you are involved in, you should be reading this blog, and using the Blue Roof site. Greg knows his stuff, and if you're looking for a good real estate experience, he'll take care of you.

3. A general article about Real Estate Agents that I found particularly interesting, and another from MarketWatch that was posted today, about the subprime lending crisis, also very interesting... It makes me realize I'm glad that I pretty much throw all the cards on the table and tell people how I get paid, and by whom, when I do a loan for them...

Just sayin'.


Honey, I put the Chrysler (Corporation) up for sale this afternoon...

I have spoken from time to time, most recently here, about how struggling publicly traded companies are becoming easy targets for large hedge fund operators, who buy them up, take them PRIVATE, strip the value by (usually) selling all the valued assets, and leaving the carcass of the old company by the side of the road.

Hedge funds are MASSIVE new-power money in the corporate game. They are privately held, and therefore have no reporting or regulation on activities, etc. These are the New Entrepreneurs. They usually seek to return at least 20% interest on their activities, depending on their fund, and the investors in the fund, which can be corporate retirement fund managers, insurance companies, etc. Big Money.

Struggling public corporations are some of their favorite targets, especially those who are bogged down with union labor troubles.

And it seems that the Chrysler division of Daimler-Chrysler is set to be the next victim.

Mr. Mustache has apparently decided that the Daimler-Benz purchase of Chrysler, only a few short years ago, was a bad idea. Duh.

So now they want out. Chrysler is up for sale and there are three bidders. The first two are hedge funds, and the third is an auto parts maker from Canada.

Here's how this will work:

One of the two hedge funds will will the bidding war, and Dieter will get his money back on a bad decision. The United Auto Worker's Union will come unglued, because they wanted the auto parts manufacturer to win the bid, they won't have enough money. The new ownership will be private, not public, and trading in the stock will cease, and any further public financial reporting will cease.

Then, the new owner will look at the assets, and begin to parcel them up for sale.

First on the block will be JEEP. The new owner will separate JEEP from the Chrysler flock like a well trained sheep dog separates a weak lamb from its mommy. It will be packaged up all pretty and sold to the highest bidder. Other bits will be sold off as well. The fund will realize its return, the major players in the transaction will get massive paydays, and Chrysler will cease to exist as it is presently constituted...

And then it's on to the next payday.