Archive for July, 2006

Dulce et Decorum

I am NOT going to go off for the weekend without putting something down about Guy Kawasaki’s blog Signum sine tinnitu.  Especially read the top 10 blog posts (like The Art of Schmoozing, one of my personal favorites).  Some extremely good stuff there.

Most of you know that I began an exercise program – consisting almost entirely of running – last year in June.  The goal was to lose 40 pounds, to drop from 222 to 182.  Yesterday I cracked 190 for the first time.  Eat less, exercise more.  That about sums it up.

Scott and Catherine Carlson bought a house yesterday and their rate beat the government-subsidized Utah Housing rate by almost a full eighth.  Catherine is my sister, so don’t be expecting this to be a trend, but it was a real pleasure to do that for them and to have her call me and thank me.  That happens sometimes, when we do something really good, and it never stops feeling wonderful.

We’ve got a new member of the Group, and I’ll be introducing her and announcing the full reorganization of the Chris Jones Group Experience on Monday.

No, no.  We’re not going anywhere but up.  Have a great weekend.

Seven is Enough

A while back I promised to write something on the way our seventh child, Nathaniel, has turned everything here upside down.  So here is a few minutes’ worth of that.

I was told again this morning by someone that has only one child that after the third one, it really never gets any harder.  This is complete bunk.  I have never heard anyone that had more than 3 children say that, so that ought to have told me right there, but the fact is that at least for us, the 7th child has made things exponentially harder than they were with only six, or even six and a half while Jeanette was pregnant.  

It is impossible to describe to anyone that isn’t dealing with the situation, but essentially, Nathaniel nurses for roughly six hours a day.  No fooling.  He starts at 6:30am, goes for 45 minutes, then starts again at 9 and gets fed every 2 hours the rest of the day until 8, when he nurses for the last 2 or so hours of the day.  This operation, for the uninitiated, requires a certain degree of quiet, which in this house means Jeanette upstairs in our bedroom with the door closed.

And what happens during those six hours she’s out of commission?  Nothing.  Or, more precisely, the undoing of most of what J was doing during the other six hours.  With the exception of Nicholas (#2), none of the children will do chores without supervision.  Nicholas himself will, but only if his brothers are not around, which they nearly always are.  That means none of the vacuuming, mopping, picking up, or other order-creating activities are being engaged in by the older children when Mom is not there.  Meanwhile the younger three (not including Thanner, who is being nursed) are busy getting out their toys, pulling books off the shelves, drawing with lipstick on the walls, the carpet, and themselves, or what have you.  There is no one to stop them.

Result?  Mom and Dad stay up late cleaning (baby is down at 10, which gives us a good hour and a half), are exhausted the next day (and every day) and generally are less effective in doing even the minor amount of damage control that would ordinarily be possible.  The house, needless to say, is not benefiting from this.

Oh, but there’s more.  Thanner has pushed Ethan (#6) out of his accustomed role, to which thing he is still adjusting and he therefore remains quite needy.  That takes up more of Mom’s time.  Each of the children needs individual attention.  I can help with this to some degree, but for the most part, it’s Mom or nothing.  That carves out more of her time, although it’s not quite the same since she can at least be out where the kids can see her and remain motivated by her.

We have a fourteen-year-old, and that does make some things easier.  We rarely pay for babysitting anymore.  Alexander is very bad at chores, but he’s a quality babysitter.  He is good with the kids and very conscientious, and if the kids are eating junk while we’re gone at least all of them will be hale and whole when we return.  That’s not a small thing.  The kids also make a lot of the meals, but like most things, this is more to develop them for the future than to assist with the here and now, because the mess made by this exceeds all description, and did I mention they aren’t very good at cleaning up?

So we have daily tradeoffs.  Hourly tradeoffs.  Do we clean up the books or read them with the kids?  Crispin wants to vacuum the floor but there are Barbies all over it.  The girls are at the pool.  Do we have him clean up the room and vacuum it, and if we do, what do the girls do when they come home?  Remember, Mira’s only seven.  There are things she can’t do.  Are we vacuuming or practicing the piano?  Weeding the garden or dusting?  Do I take the boys fishing (their favorite activity) even if their room isn’t spotless?  Do I take one because he “cleaned up his part” and leave the others?  Is it more important for them to learn to work or learn that spending four hours in the same boat with Dad is actually a lot of fun?

All parents have to make these decisions.  Few parents these days have to make them times three.  Almost nobody has to make them raised to the 7th power.

Six was hard.  Seven is so far impossible.  Not that we regret it – Thanner is a beautiful, chubby, smiley boy and we’re grateful for him.  If we had to choose – and, in a way, I suppose we do – between having a neat house where Dad’s handcrafted, handpainted chess sets can be displayed, and having seven interesting and exasperating children growing and messing things up, we’d take the children.  We always take the children.

But nobody tell me that it’s the same now as it was when we had only Alexander through Crispin.  One on three we can play.  But one on six…

Don’t know how my mother did it.

Some (We) Like It Hot

How big is the housing market in Utah? Well, for the second quarter of 2006, median home prices on the Wasatch Front rose 14% over last year.  And how hot is Lehi, ancestral home of The Chris Jones Group?  Lehi prices are up 28% on more home sales than any zip code in Utah Valley.  Or any zip code in Salt Lake County.  Or Weber County.  If it weren’t for Clearfield, there would be no zip code in the STATE that sold more houses.  For straight appreciation, though, you have to go to American Fork (exactly 270 yards from here) to find the champs – a flat unbelievable 51.4% increase in price compared to this time last year.  And this isn’t on sales of 10 houses, either; almost 180 houses were sold there from April to June.

Wow.

Markets are flat.  Not much happening in the summer doldrums.  No economic news due out until Friday.

Gentle Ben

We have some clients building a house that were watching the markets rather closely this morning. We’re still out some undetermined time on their loan, could be 30 days, could be 45 days, so locking out this far still costs them money, and we’re right on the line for price and rate for what they have to have to qualify. The markets needed to move up for them today.

Early this morning, though, the bond markets were moving down based on yesterday’s huge overreaction to the Producer Price Index numbers. And then, just as I was about to call and tell them that we were headed up .125% on their rate, the markets reversed themselves. Why?

Because of Ben Bernanke.

No, really. I’ve not said anything nice about him in the six months that he’s been in charge of the world economy, so I though tit might be nice to do so today. Bernanke told the Senate that though he was still concerned about inflation, 17 consecutive rate hikes might just be enough.

Wonders never cease.

Fifteen Electric Cars on a Dead Man’s Chest

Monday, and we turn over a new leaf. Well, okay, a different leaf. No finance today, except just a little. At the end.

First off, Dead Man’s Chest is absolutely great, rollicking, good fun. It will not win any academy awards except, perhaps, for costuming. If that’s what you’re interested in, don’t go. If, however, you’re looking for 2.5 hours of solid good times, grab your pirate cutlass – you have one, don’t you? – and go see the movie. We saw it courtesy of Harry Rodas, the world’s greatest Realtor. No fooling.

Secondly, in one of the great feats of capitalism and the power of the internet, a fellow named Kyle MacDonald has succeeded in trading one red paperclip for a house in Canada. I am not making this up.

Thirdly, there’s a new movie out (apparently people have figured out that documentaries can make money, if they’re interesting) that purports to answer the question “Who Killed The Electric Car?” and provides no new answers to the question, which is rhetorical anyway, in my opinion. Of course it was “Big Oil”. Well, them with a healthy dose of “it’s your fault, Mr. and Mrs. Evil Consumer.” Apparently my father’s inability and unwillingness to pay tens of thousands of extra dollars for a car that seated only half my family and never had enough range to drive from, say, Lehi to Logan, much less Oxnard to San Diego (traffic) has led us to the current awful situation, where practically everyone in the country owns at least one car and can afford to drive it 400 miles on a single tank whenever they want. Without having to recharge it. For 8 hours. Every night. And replace the batteries every six months. For $20,000 more dollars.

Folks, it’s pretty simple. In this country, if there’s money to be made, someone is going to make it. Yes, Big Oil is a large business and I would expect it to go around protecting itself aggressively, and some of that aggressiveness I would expect to be immoral and land some people in Hell. Sad, but not all that surprising. But the US Government, which has resources Big Oil can only dream of, has been trying to stamp out the drug trade, tax evasion, even prostitution and polygamy for much, much longer without a great deal of success. If people wanted electric cars, if they were worth the money, someone would be making them and someone would be selling them. Period. Even hybrids, sad to say, folks, are not worth anything like the money they cost. Economics killed the electric car. And at some point, economics will bring it back, or something else even better.

Fourthly, had lunch today with Charity Title, or rather with Kathy and Greg Hawkins of Charity Title, and we’re going to be doing business with them soon. They really raise the bar on how this part of the transaction ought to be handled. Thanks, guys!

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