Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jon Makes Time

One of the fun classes that Jon took in his last semester at BYU-I was a woodworking class. His final project was making a pendulum clock. I had to put these pictures up. This is an heirloom quality piece that will be handed down to family members over time.

This is not a kit. Every piece of this clock was handcrafted from raw hickory lumber. I examined this clock up close and was impressed with the level of quality, attention to detail and the finish.
The detail is pretty impressive. Tools used to craft this piece included routers, a lathe, planers, joint making tools, sanders, etc. This was Jon's first attempt at a major woodworking project. He has decided that he likes making wood furnishings and looks forward to having the space and tools to try his hand at making solid wood furniture.

Not all of the students finished the project. Jon estimates that the project took him 30-40 hours to complete. With the greatly condensed semester system, completing the project was challenging for most of the class. Great work Jon.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fresh Squeezed

One of our favorite holiday activities is to go down the street to a local orange grove and pick a few boxes of oranges and make fresh squeezed juice. There is almost nothing better than fresh orange juice on ice...liquid AZ sunshine!

We tried to fit this activity in before Lauren and Erik left for Utah but the weather did not cooperate. This week has been beautiful...nearly perfect for picking.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Graduates

An academic chapter has closed for our son Jon, and his wife Stephanie, and our daughter Lauren. All three graduated in December from their respective universities. Jon and Stephanie attended BYU Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho and Lauren attended Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

Jon earned his BA degree in accounting. He will work for RSM McGladrey in Las Vegas while Stephanie completes her student teaching in the Greenvalley School system.

Stephanie will graduate with a degree in education once she completes the student teaching requirement. She was able to participate in graduation ceremonies with Jon.

Lauren on her snowy walk to the Spectrum at Utah State with other graduates for commencement ceremonies. She graduated with a BA in education with an emphasis in history.

A beaming Lauren with a hard earned dipolma in hand. Her supportive husband, Erik, graduated from Utah State earlier in the year. The new focus in their lives will be working together as Erik completes medical school at the University of Utah.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 2008

Our 2008 Christmas celebration and festivities were wonderful! All of our children were present including Jon and his wife, Stephanie and Lauren and her husband, Erik. We were fortunate for both couples to be on the Arizona Christmas rotation this year. The only person missing this year was Ben who is serving his mission in Ogden, Utah.

On Christmas eve we played a Christmas gift exchange game, a tradition that started a few years ago. Each person takes a gift with the option of keeping it or taking another gift from someone else.

The hot item this year seemed to be the tootsie roll bank full of loose coins collected over the year. In past years, the pay out has been significant so there was a lot of interest and gamesmanship for the item. Others in the group were more motivated by food so the restaurant gift certificates were also hotly contested.

We followed the gift exchange with singing Christmas carols around the piano. Lauren provided the music. Lindsay was on deck in case Lauren could not perform her duties.

Christmas morning produced one happy camper. Becky has just received some domestic tools from Lauren.

Lindsay looks enchanted with one of her gifts. Another video to watch sometime before the new year.

Jon is ready for some action and adventure courtesy of some Christmas funds from Stephanie's family.

Sandy will continue to be the seasoning in our lives for weeks to come with this gift.

Stephanie rips into one of two gifts from Jon. It turns out to be music to her ears (a Christmas piano music).

Lauren carefully unwraps one of her gifts. Erik is really getting into the spirit of the day. His hat is turned backwards in a gesture of seriousness to matters at hand.

Dad kneels in gratefulness for his gift of a year's subscription to Bicycling Magazine courtesy of Erik.

Perhaps the most profound gift came from Ben. The miniature missionary "outfit" was created one-handed by a young man, paralyzed on one side of his body. The young man made income by creating and selling these "outfits."

What a wonderful day for all of us to share gifts, review the biblical story of the birth of our Saviour and strengthen our family bonds. Hopefully, this will be a lasting memory for all.

A family picture on the staircase before Lauren and Erik left for Utah. Top row: Rebecca, Stephanie, and Jon. Middle row: Dave and Sandy. Bottom row: Lindsay, Lauren and Erik.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Verdict

The verdict on the hand is in. It is quite simple, really. The hand surgeon told me that I have torn ligaments. Specifically, the rupture of the Radial Collateral Ligament of the Index Metacarpophalangeal Joint (how's that for medical lingo?).

That is the fiberous connecting ligament between the middle and index fingers at the joint where the fingers meet the hand.

The treatment for now is to keep the index and middle fingers from spreading apart and keeping the ligament from healing. I am using buddy tape to keep the fingers together. If after a few weeks the ligament does not heal, then the surgeon will make a small incision between the knuckle of the two fingers and sew the ligament back together.

I am not restricted from cycling. I just need to keep the fingers taped together.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The 2008 tour of Tucson appears to have been a great success. Close to 7,000 riders competed in different elements of the 109 mile circuit. I rode the 67 mile course. Other distances included 80 miles and 30 miles. This is the largest perimeter (around the perimeter of a city) cycling event in the country.

As some of you know, I injured my hand a few weeks ago during a training ride. The results of the initial x-ray showed no broken bones but the MRI results I received last Friday indicated bone contusions on the second and third fingers of the right hand and torn ligaments on the third finger of the same hand. My family doctor gave me the name and number for a hand surgeon! Yikes! I have an appointment tomorrow. But I digress..

Given the uncertainty about my hand, I chose to ride a lessor distance. I wasn't certain that the hand would hold up for the 109 mile event. I actually enjoyed the 67 mile event. It was long enough to be a test of will but short enough to go for more speed.

The results are not official but I did place pretty well. I finished in about 100th place out of 1209 riders with a time somewhere around 3 hours 35 minutes, well within my goal. I started closer to the back of the group and the police caused us to stop at about 6 stop lights so I lost about 8-10 minutes of rolling time. Better luck next year.

I found this 2007 picture on the web by Leslie Hawes ( that is a good depiction of the race. She has others pictures of the event as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Birthday Lauren

We have a Star Birthday today.
23 on the 23rd

Happy Birthday Lauren!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Relief is Spelled E-N-R-I-C-H-M-E-N-T

Sandy led a very successful Stake Humanitarian and Enrichment event at the end of September for the Boulder Creek Stake. The event, with luncheon, preceded the Relief Society Broadcast. Ernie Briggs, the husband of the Stake Relief Society President, and I attended. We were man servants in the kitchen. I was quite impressed with overall event and quite proud of Sandy's leadership and coordination efforts. She, of course, was assisted by a capable Relief Society Presidency and humanitarian leaders but I have to say that she not only fulfilled her assignment but magnified her calling.

I took a few pictures of the event so her children and other blog visitors can see the fruits of her labor.

A Syncronized Message About Lindsay

Lindsay recently competed in a synchronized swimming event for individual skills. Several teams from around AZ competed. Lindsay earned a second place finish for her age group. In addition to the competition, she also became a "big sister" to two younger swimmers on the Desert Dolphins team. She is shown above with one of the "little sisters."

In the picture to the left, Lindsay is in front of the judges and ready to execute one of her individual maneuvers or figures. At this event there are a total of three judges per station. The high and low score are dropped. The total score after 4 stations is computed and awards are based on overall highest scores by age group.

A panel of judges awards points from 0 to 10 based on the accuracy of the performance and the timing, height, stability, and control of the figures. In the technical routine, the swimmers must perform a set list of elements, or combinations of figures and swimming strokes. Technical merit encompasses the execution, synchronization, and difficulty of the elements.

Lindsay's is beginning a walkover, above.

To the right, Lindsay is at the mid-point of the walkover.

This is the full split element of the walk over. The figure is competed by bringing both legs together vertically and out of the water then sinking below the water.

Dad Goes Down

If you are into cycling, sooner or later you will crash. I did just that yesterday during a 97 mile training ride with some friends. We are all training for the Tour of Tucson so getting a century or two in before the big ride is essential. We were about 20 miles from the end of the ride when we approached a roadway construction zone.
The lanes were marked off with vertical safety panels, similar the picture to the left. I looked behind me for traffic and fellow riders before crossing into the traffic free lane. I had no sooner turned to face forward when one of the safety panels jumped in front of me. I never saw it coming! Wham! I dropped to the pavement like a rock. I landed hard on my left shoulder. My helmet hit the edge of the reflector pressing my sunglasses into the flesh around my left eye. The lens sliced a neat slit just below my eye.

I didn't take anyone else down with me, thank goodness. I got up an dusted myself off, and started to check my bike over. No major damage of scuffing. The front wheel was a little out of true. I opened my front brake calipers to allow for the wobble. My riding companions checked me over. No major damage that would keep me from riding just a little wounded pride. I hadn't crashed in over 20 years so I guess I was due. Back on the bike and on we rode on.
When I got home, I started to feel the effects of the crash. I had a nice raspberry on top of my left shoulder. Stiffness was setting in but I don't think I broke anything.

Today, my right hand is swollen around the knuckle. I find it hard to bend my hand. My fingers are now bent like I am about to grasp an object. Again, I don't think I broke any fingers but I must have jammed the knuckle.

If I am not noticing a recovery by tomorrow I will head for the doc. I need to heal up quick so I can get back on the bike.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two-Wheeled Jones

As I have mentioned in other blogs, I cycle with a group on Saturday mornings and when I can on Monday mornings. Riding with a group is motivating. There is always someone in the group who is stronger and faster or who is having a better day. This fosters more competition which increases conditioning and adds to the fun factor. I can assure you that I am having fun.

The group that I ride with is organized by a local bike shop called Two-Wheeled Jones. The shop is owned by a husband and wife, Travis and Trish Jones. They are great people and a lot of fun. I recommend thier shop.

I am pictured here wearing a Two-Wheeled Jones club jersey. The colors and design are great. I love the fit and finish. It is pretty cool to ride as a group with the same identity.

There is a neat side panel that you can see from the side shot.

I should have photo-shopped the collar tag. Oh well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Confidence Crisis

Through my membership in the Economic Club of Phoenix, I have access to a fabulous knowledge base aptly called Knowledge@W.P.Carey, sponsored by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. I always find pertinent articles related to issues that interest me. The faculty are world class and the research is respectable.

I came across an article entitled, Grappling with a Global Confidence Crisis. I think it is one of the best articles I have come across so far on how over-leveraged debt has contributed to the current financial crisis. The article explains why this crisis is global and why we are at risk of a general economic crisis. I have included a link.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How Did We Get Into This Mess?!

We are a the brink of a meltdown of the US economy unless the American public can be persuaded that tax payer dollars need to be infused into the system. The infusion will keep some level of liquidity in the market and will provide a measure of confidence for the remaining credit lenders to free up capital and allow businesses and consumers to borrow money. There are potentially other ways to fund our way out of the mess but it will take too long and increase the likelihood that panic will set in and then the economic slide will really begin. The fix is more about quickly regaining the confidence of the public and investment institutions, US and Global, so there is not panic.

I recently heard the bail out described this way. We are going to have a financial hurricane one way or the other. It is a matter of whether this financial hurricane will be a category 3 or a category 5. If the US government does not infuse capital into the market we will have a category 5 financial hurricane. The pain to individual families and businesses will be widespread and devastating. What the government is asking is this: could they borrow our money (up to half of our annual federal tax) to soften the blow. If we soften the blow, we might keep this financial hurricane to a category 3. If we can't get your permission, then all bets are off. The economic slide will be long and hard and many of you will be really worse off and may never recover.

How did we get into this mess anyway? It is not as complex as you might think. The events leading to this crisis are very similar to the events that led to the great depression. Prior to the great depression, investors speculated using the margin or gain on their stocks to buy more stock. This created an artificial increase in the price of stocks which created more margin buying until the air was let out of the frenzy. There was no real basis for the stock margins in the first place. It was artificially created through the frenzy of speculation. Stockholders were left with more debt than could be covered by the true asset value of the stock.

Essentially the same thing has happened today but the asset was real estate instead of stocks. Speculators and unqualified home buyers inflated the value of homes because they could borrow cheap money and buy up the supply of housing. This created an upward housing price spiral that generated paper equity that allowed further borrowing. When the air was let out of the speculative frenzy, the price of homes dropped and many borrowers owed more on their home than the sustainable market price. This caused borrows to default on their mortgage loans. This is econ 101. You would think people are smarter than that but buying a home is often emotional and not rational. Most speculators say, I will get out before the music stops. Some do and most don't. Most sub prime home buyers say, I will sell or refinance before I can't a afford the payments.

Who created the cheap money? Mortgage brokers and investment bankers supported by bond rating agencies. Here are some essential points to the transaction trail that I picked up from information at work:

  • Over the last 15 years, the government relaxed lending standards so more people at the lower socio-economic spectrum could buy home. Traditional lending practices were perceived as disciminatory. The less well off could never afford a home. So the thinking went...
  • Mortgage brokers were able to offer mortgages to buyers who had not saved enough money for a down payment whether for a primary residence or an investment property.
  • Many of these borrowers would normally not be able to afford the mortgage unless the interest rate was below the prime lending rate so sub-prime mortgages were used to help buyers to initially afford to buy a home.
  • Home owners who wanted to move up to a larger home could now buy more home than they had ever dreamed.
  • Brokers justified this lending practice because they assumed that the price of homes would always go up so a down payment was no longer necessary. The rapid appreciation of the properties due to high demand would erase that risk. Given the seemingly unending appreciation of property values, the need for proof of employment or income could be relaxed. As long as home prices continued rapidly appreciate, there was no risk.
  • Speculators took out sub prime mortgages to buy a second home or condo and then flip it to make a quick profit. More and more people got into the flipping game until the speculators had effectively bought up a substantial number of new homes or existing homes. Demand for homes drove up price even more.
  • Mortgage brokers reasoned that they were not really loaning the money anyway. The lending banks were supplying the actual funding. Mortgage brokers didn't really care if the mortgages were ever paid off. They were working on commission.
  • The lending banks in turn accumulated a lot of crappy, risky mortgage loans. The banks didn't want to hang on to these loans but instead sold them to the smart guys in New York - the investment banks.
  • The investment banks were interested because they thought they could find a way to repackage the loans and make money. They created a new breed of investment securities and use the crappy sub prime loans as collateral. The thinking was that by packaging the really risky loans with less risky loans, the real risk would be masked and no one would be worse off. The justification was not all the loans would go bad anyway and housing prices were going to continue to rise which would mitigate the risk of defaulting loans.
  • The investment banks packaged the securities to create different levels of investment risk. Good securities (safer mix of mortgage loans) , not-so-good securities (mix of safer and not so safe mortgage loans) and ugly securities (greater mix of loans likely to go into default).
  • Investors purchasing the good securities would not receive as high a return as those holding the not-so-good and the highest return, of course, would be for the ugly securities.
  • The investment banks bought bond insurance for the good securities. The rating agencies gave AAA - A ratings for the good securities, BBB - B ratings for the not-so-good securities and didn't bother to rate the bonds for the ugly securities.
  • So the investment bankers managed to create highly rated bonds to insure high risk securities by creatively packaging the mortgage loans.
  • The securities were sold to sophisticated institutional investors like municipalities, school boards, insurance companies - investors that were looking for safe, high quality investments. They were not sold to regular investors like you and me but if our investments were in institutional funds then we shared that risk probably without knowing.
  • The investment banks were smart enough to know that no one would buy the really ugly securities so they shifted these securities off-shore into special purpose vehicles OK'd by the accounting rule makers to get them off their balance sheets. They simply used these securities as collateral for the other securities. Junk backing up junk. They intended to pay themselves high interest returns on these securities.
  • The investment bank lobbyist had done their job in convincing the accounting rule makers that it was in the best interest of the market to not disclose these off-shore entities. Transparency would be a bad thing for the market.
  • OK, now the dirt hits the fan...the institutional investor notices that interest payments on these high quality, AAA rated securities are no longer being received. The investor calls the investment bank to find out what is happening. Here is a ficticious but informative dialogue between the investor and the investment banker I derived from a pdf presentation flowing around the e-mail waves. I would have attached but the language is pretty foul so I restated the dialogue with nicer language:

Investor: Why am I not receiving my payments?

Investment bank: The home buyers who took out the mortgages that back your investment securities are no longer able to make mortgage payments or to pay off the loan.

Investor: I thought that if I bought AAA rated securities that I would be paid off first if the investments didn't work out?

Investment bank: The AAA investment securities ended up being riskier than we thought. Very little cash is coming in.

Investor: I thought housing prices always go up and that mortgage borrowers could always refinance?

Investment bank: It was a bad assumption on our part. We screwed up.

Investor: What about the rating agencies? They rated my investment as AAA.

Investment bank: They screwed up.

Investor: But the investment was secured with bonds.

Investment bank: We didn't set aside nearly enough money to match the default rate on mortgages backing your investment.

Investor: What am I suppose to tell my institution?

Investment bank: You screwed up!

I hope this helped you understand what is driving the crisis. You and I are at risk because mortgage brokers, investment bankers, rating agencies and regulatory oversight agencies screwed up. The economic system upon which we depend can no longer lend money because of bad mortgage debt and fear. Lending institutions that do have capital are going to hoard it. They don't trust the markets and they don't want to lose more money. The only institution large enough to help now is the US government. Unless the treasury infuses capital into the market the capital markets will freeze up.

We can't say, let those suckers on Wall Street bear the brunt of their decisions, unless we are willing to suffer the economic shock wave that will occur. The failures are too massive for main street consumers to avoid the impact. Investment banks speculated with their capital and now it is reserved to cover bad mortgage loans and failed the insurance bonds. One of the key reasons the great depression was not avoided and that it lasted so long was government failed to rescue the banks and the banking system soon enough. I believe that our nation faces a similar choice today.

I also believe that if tax payer dollars are infused into the market, that there must be strict guidelines, oversight, etc. Nothing loose. There need to be controls in place, staged periods of capital infusion and strict periods of review to measure and assess impact before additional infusion is made.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pooling Your Resources - Final

Well the big day finally arrived. Time to fill the pool with 22,500 Gallons of agua through a garden hose! This should take about 20 hours.

The funny thing I noticed about filling our pool is that we need to check the water level about every 30 minutes. I don't know why. I don't mean just looking out the window. I mean putting on the flip flops and going to the edge of the pool and staring down at the growing reservoir. Maybe we want to assure ourselves that progress is being made.

We were also instructed that a permanent water line could form if for some reason the water stopped flowing before the pool filled to the tile line. Checking progress covered this possibility.

The hose does not look up to the task! It looks more like a piece of hair in a sink.

The pool now has some interesting reflective properties due to the darker surface material.

A view from the diving board.

The spa with a new dam wall.

I really like the tile work in and around the skimmer. The water look so blue and inviting.

The steps seem to be inviting you down into the tranquil waters.

The early morning sun highlights the deco tile interspersed on the riser. Such a different look that the blue 3" tiles.

The surface colors and the reflections are truly amazing at the time of morning. The pool seems to be saying dive in.

A new look to the Boizelle resort and health spa! We look forward to entertaining family and friends in the years to come.