Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 248

Well there were a couple highlights last week. For starters I visited my grandparents, uncles and an aunt in Minnesota over Good Friday and Easter. I go visited only a few times and year and I had not been over since last fall. Family is the kind of thing you only get one of so make the best of it. It's funny too, because I'm kind of the outsider, at least this past weekend I was, I feel like my family wanted to confide in me more than usual. Maybe it's just that I am finally getting old enough for the adult conversations. 

We only worked four days because we get off for Good Friday, which is awesome! I will tell you what, a day of paid holiday a few times a year is really nice. I started my first project for Coffeyville this past week. It involved spreadsheets and data! I got to use numbers! But seriously, you would be amazed how little math is used in engineering.

I ran 90 miles this past week including the longest training run of my life, 32 miles, at 6:57 pace no less! It's really nice to get back to the kind of volume that I feel I really thrive on. You just can't be a top long distance runner on 40 miles per week. You can do really well, I know a guy that ran a 2:21 marathon off of basically swimming pool training, but not your best. 

Mount Everest approaches. I need to pack this week, and finish tying up some loose ends.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Crying for My Good Health

Today I went to a presentation for juvenile, type 1, diabetes. My mom has this type of diabetes and my grandpa who died 22 years before I was born dies of this type of diabetes. I had a great long run yesterday, and last weekend, and I'm about to attempt something only 193 people have accomplished. I have excellent health, and I don't know why. What I mean is, I could have some terminal disease, or permanent condition, like diabetes, and many of the things I do might not be possible. I can't imaging trying to do a 24 hour race as a type one diabetic! If you went too low on an 8000 meter summit push, you might sit there on that ridge the rest of your life. 

I left the presentation, and I didn't cry, but I was awfully close as I walked back to my desk. Why am I climbing Mt. Everest? One more reason today was that I have to, so that I can tell people about it, people who really cannot climb this mountain. 

Often I look people in the eyes when describing my activities and their face says, 'who are you?' or 'You are crazy!' and my favorite, whether they articulate it or not, 'you're just a person, like me, sitting here, yet you did that unimaginable thing.' I want people to know: what is possible is greater than any of us know or even dream.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Good Friday

Two years ago on Good Friday, a serac collapsed in the Khumbu icefall on Mt. Everest, while I drank coffee and hot chocolate at basecamp. 16 people died. Fortunately this year when we celebrate Jesus dying, to the best of my knowledge, there are or were no mass casualty incidents today. That makes today a good Friday.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I Fear Different Thing

Back in the 1990s "NO FEAR!" was a thing. I don't know that anyone exists that really has no fear. Dean Potter had fear, and honestly it helped keep him alive for quite a long time. He's the best example I can think of for a person that embodies no fear, yet you can watch videos where you can see him obviously afraid. As I prepare for Everest again the risk side of 8000 meter mountaineering takes up more of my thoughts. 

I have plenty of fears, they are just different than most people. I once had a roommate, and his girlfriend was visiting. A thunderstorm struck and it was a pretty intense one, but we were inside a building with no threat of flooding, just a lot of nearby lightning. Having been through similar storms on the side of a mountain above tree line, or watching the puddle under my tent grow, I was calm. They were bouncing around the apartment. It was a bizarre experience for me. I've seen fear on a rock climb or remote mountain location, but in an urban apartment because of a thunderstorm was new for me. The point is, we all fear different things.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Grocery Shopping for Mt. Everest

Before I went to Broad Peak in 2009, I had to buy half of my equipment. Another down sleeping bag, good to -20F, a down jacket, insulated pants, overboots, an alpine harness, balaclava, duffel bags, carabiners, goggles, my soft-shell bib, a camera, gaiters, and probably some stuff I can't remember. For Everest in 2014 I upgraded to a down suit, and a new pair of boots. This time around it's as simple as basically replacing some dry bags and stuff sacks which have worn out. I'm still thinking about getting some foot warmers, electric foot warmers. I've never used them before, but I like my toes.

The only other thing is grocery shopping. You see, it takes a lot of food to go on an expedition. Now, the expedition company takes care of everything between basecamp and Kathmandu, but on the mountain, it's up to each person to have food. I have also learned that having nice food, like some cheeses, at basecamp go a long way.

Saturday I went grocery shopping at REI, bought a couple dry bags too, but it was pretty anticlimactic. I still have to get some batteries, because my expensive lithium ion ones are actually nearing the end of the their life, seven years later. It's funny standing in the checkout line, with less stuff than half the people in line, yet I'm going to Mt. Everest!

I hope that I can help motivate people to actually go after big dreams. God has blessed my life with more that I know what to do with. I have my health, my wealth, and happiness. It just seems logical to me, that I should try and do what I can to be the best I can. Pushing the limits of human capability, possibly being one of the first 200 to climb Mt. Everest without bottled oxygen, it's a metaphor for trying something difficult. And when I'm in line at the Madison, Wisconsin REI with my groceries that I might very well be eating at the South Col in six weeks, making a trip to the top of the world seem almost mundane it's so that you can see that I'm just a person, just like you with faults, problems, baggage, and goals. I don't know what your Mount Everest is, but it is possible.

Monday, March 21, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 247

Why can't we just "be"? Why can't we have below average days? I had a good week this week, but that doesn't make it all good. 

Work was fun, going up to Grand Rapids and trouble shooting a new issue, better than expected. I am always afraid when I go to the field that we will not find any issue, and those are the difficult conversations. "Well, this is how we designed it, this is how it is supposed to work." So when we plug in our computers and see something we have never seen before, it's a sign that yes, something is wrong.

Certainly, it would be best if none ever fail, but that is not the world we live in. I can only imagine in automotive a few months after production starts the warranty claims start coming in, and the shear volume must be overwhelming. 

The point is, the space shuttle and everything in space really has redundancy built in. That is, if something fails there is a parallel system to do the job. However, making two systems where only one is needed doubles the cost, and on the shuttle they used seven computers for some functions. In my business we have very little redundancy. It's a cost thing, how many people have two hot water heaters or two dishwashers, just in case one fails?

I ran 69.8 miles, which might as well be 70, but I like to imagine I don't exaggerate my accomplishments. That included a long run and two workouts, one being a 2x12 minute hill climb. You run uphill for 12 minutes hard, it's not easy, or pretty.

Everest preparations continue. Saturday I had lunch with my parents in Madison and then spent $200 on food for my expedition, because it is important to not go hungry on a two month expedition.

Friday, March 18, 2016

I am Moving Back to Kansas!

I know right?! This probably comes as a bit of a shock to some people. My high school friends are probably thinking, ‘the kid that left to go to school in Massachusetts?’ My Dubuque friends are probably thinking, ‘Great, he’s leaving too.’ My Colorado friends are probably thinking, ‘Seriously, Kansas? Why doesn’t he move out here already?’ My Massachusetts friends are probably thinking, ‘Kansas, Iowa, what’s the difference?’

The short of it is I will be staying with my current company which has a factory just outside of Coffeyville, Kansas where they design and build transmissions and axles for heavy off road equipment. I will be moving there after I get back from Mt. Everest. The full story is a bit longer, and while I have told parts of it to a number of people, I haven’t told the whole thing, so here we go.
Coffeyville in relation to Wichita, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Fayetteville
Way back in time, 2008, 2009, I was working on my master’s thesis on finite element modeling of heat treating a ring gear for a transmission. I learned that I find gears and transmissions quite interesting. However, thanks to the Great Recession, no one was hiring engineers for that kind of work. What eventually got me started in industry was that I had finite element experience. So I started my engineering career doing structural finite element analysis, which is actually not what I did in graduate school.

About a year ago, when I started my current role, as what I call a Drivetrain Systems Design Engineer, I made my first trip to Coffeyville. We visited during the L series production launch after I had spent the better part of three months working overtime in the factory trying to get the machines to meet our quality specifications. It was a very stressful time for me. I was fixing numerous issues, but you fix nine, and miss one, and you still have a big problem. So the three days we took to drive down, review the testing, and then drive back were almost like a vacation. Very relaxing to get away from the grind and stress of the production launch. 

Later in the summer of 2015 we were working through some issues and I started asking some detailed questions from the engineers in Coffeyville. At that point B.W., a notorious recruiter, tried to get me to apply to a job. Since I was so new to my current role I didn’t even really consider it. 

Then in the fall of 2015 I was traveling quite a lot, and much of that was last minute travel. It felt like I was going from one problem to the next, and I did not actually have the capability to fix any of it. I was, or have become, something of a middle man, organizing meetings and getting people to talk to each other, but not really solving any problems myself, or dare I say, not even making the decisions about how to solve the problems. Or I was the middle man speaking for the company, doing work for the company, but providing a short term fix to more deeper issues, often as a result of a supplier’s error. It became frustrating. Certainly it was still fun overall and there is a lot of satisfaction helping the end user get back and up and running after a problem, but it’s a different perspective. For example, spending most of a week replacing a transmission that failed for the same reason a transmission failed last week, the view from the field is, ‘why haven’t we tried to fix this yet?!’ However, from the office, you don’t know if one or two failures is all that we will ever see, or the start of a much larger issue, so it’s not as big of a deal. That disconnect between the end user and the person who has the authority and ability to make a change is really frustrating when you see it from the view of the end user. I mean, it’s why Toyota and Honda are so successful in automotive in the USA, because there was a time in the past when their cars were simply more reliable.

In January I visited Coffeyville again, and my Dubuque co-worker made a joke about how I wanted to move there, and I didn’t refute him. So a week or two later B.E. from Coffeyville sends me another job opening and gives me a phone call. Once again I say I’m not particularly interested in that particular job. So he asks, "what it would take to get you interested enough to apply for a job?" I describe some of my current frustrations, and what I would be interested in (gear design, learning about the details of drivetrain, some travel, but not 60% of the time…) and he says that something along those lines will be available soon. 

The next week I head off to Germany, and travel with S.W. a drivetrain senior staff engineer who is working on a technical career path for his position. You see, there is a bit of a disconnect right now between the technical side of the business and the people side of the business in my company. If you stay on the technical side you will most likely only be promoted two or three times in your whole career, but on the people side you could conceivably be promoted something like nine times to make it to CEO. So there is a movement within the company to develop a number of technical career paths, drivetrain being one of them. Yes, the people side, the path to CEO is always going to have more steps, through VP and Senior VP, but the number of highly paid people on the people management side is huge compared to the technical management side. The problem is that after a couple years of working, when people in their late 20s, like myself, realize where the long term opportunity is, they flock to the people management side. It leaves us with a technical deficit as we don’t have the volume of people to understand the technical details we need to understand to innovate. As a specific example, coming from a materials science master’s degree it frustrates me to no end how limited our materials knowledge is as a corporation. To be specific on the structures side, we use basically two grades of steel on all of our internally welded parts. Two! It makes our machines heavier than they need to be.

Anyway, he showed me the technical career path for a drivetrain engineer, and the experience you can’t get in Dubuque, is the actual design of gears, seals, and bearings, which you do get exposed to at Coffeyville.

On top of that, several of the discussions we had in Germany in January no one sitting at the table was able to answer. We argued about two different oils for an hour, and at the end we still could not agree to use the new oil. I want to know that kind of stuff, what makes two different oils so different?

This whole time I’m getting closer to 30 years old, and realizing that I have been in Dubuque for nearly five years. The longest I have ever lived some place is six years in Kansas, followed by five and a half years in Massachusetts, followed by five years in Iowa. It’s hard to describe, but there is a bit of an itch to move after being here this long. I don’t know that I will ever live one place more than six years. Maybe I will, I am slowing down as I get older, or rather time is moving a little faster. There is just a feeling that I have “done” the area. I’ve been to the attractions, I’ve ate at the restaurants, I’ve had the deep discussions with my friends, I’ve run on the same roads hundreds of times, I’m just ready for something different. I think military brats understand this really well, but since I don’t come from a military background, I only have a couple friends that grew up with military parents and understand this.

So the job was posted, I talked to D.F., my future supervisor, about it for a half hour one day when she approached me to see if I was interested, and it seems like what I would like to try. I’ve never really been recruited like this before, by three different people, and it makes a big impression on me. The lesson to be learned is recruit others, because it’s flattering, and you can get the person you want easier if you ask him or her, rather than wait and hope for applicants. I applied on the last day the job was open, went down for an interview. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, something I have enjoyed about smaller towns. Tangent for a minute, something I have found in small towns is that people are often more accepting of trivial differences than in large cities because they cannot go get new friends or shop somewhere else, whereas in a big city, if you don't like someone you just quit associating with that person. I was fortunate enough to have the job offered to me, and I accepted it. It’s a little complicated with Mt. Everest 2.0 happening this spring, but my new supervisor was very accommodating and I will simply move down there when I get back. 

There are a couple other things that played into my decision. My running I think could benefit being down there. To quote John L. Parker, “Liquori said you need to be bored to train well, so that your workout becomes the most interesting part of your day.”  Coffeyville is not the most bustling place in the world, and I’m actually counting on less excitement in my life outside of work so that I can run more. Also, while I will be getting to travel a fair amount in this new role, which I like, it won’t be nearly as much as I have traveled the last year, which was too much to run well. Plus, the average high in January is 43F, which means far less running on snow and ice, which are not fun. I know that my running career, at it’s truly top level, only has a handful more years, maybe 10 years, but quite possibly only 3-5 years, whereas my engineering career (or other career if I were to change…) has 30-40 years.

Dubuque is about 12.5 hours from Denver, not counting stops, and there are a lot of stops on a drive that long. Coffeyville is about 9.5 hours from Denver, not counting stops, and those three hours make a big difference. 9-10 hours of driving is a long afternoon and evening, 12-14 hours is a whole day. Plus, when it comes to mountains, I’ve never been to the Ozarks, and I would like to explore those. 

My sister recently moved to Memphis from Milwaukee, so I will be closer to her now from Coffeyville than in Dubuque. 

Talking about my career, in the broadest sense, there are benefits to taking this new opportunity. It shows that I am willing to relocate, and to be honest, quite a few people are not willing to relocate because of family, or the hassle of starting over making friends and getting into a routine. In fact, at work one person even called me “brave” to move there! Also, basically anything I do in traditional engineering in the future will benefit by the experience I am about to gain. Whether I go into people management, or dare I say, even work for another company, long term this experience of the details of drivetrain design will only benefit me. (For the record, in the four years that I have been with my current company I have only applied for one job outside of my company, and that was in January, with NASA to be an astronaut candidate, along with 18,300 others for 8-12 open spots.)

I don’t know what the future holds. After all, there is a chance I die on Mt. Everest next month and this is all irrelevant, although I like my chances of survival there. I don’t know how long I will stay in Coffeyville, but I am house shopping and not planning on renting like I have in Dubuque. I suppose one more thing to say about how long I might live there, Coffeyville is actually where my company develops hybrid and electric vehicle drive systems… and I bought a Honda Insight with a dying hybrid battery, in large part because I wanted to get more familiar with hybrid vehicle systems.

Just to give a preview of what you might expect from me the second half of this year, I expect I will visit Mexico and Brazil on work trips, two countries I have not visited yet. Of course, don’t expect me to divulge any of the technical stuff. Changing subjects, anyone want to run the Ozark Trail over Thanksgiving?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Returning to Everest Conversations

I think the returning to Everest conversations are more strange than when I was going the first time. The first time it was like, "WHAT!!" This time it's like, "good to hear you're going back, four weeks long is the trip?"

I like it because the people that have known me for some time, that don't do adventures like this, have come to see it as normal, at least for me. Explaining it to people who don't know me is still a struggle, because it's so far outside the realm of normal vacations that I think people have a hard time believing that the guy sitting in front of them is actually going to do this thing they see in the movies.

Point being, I hope to help motivate people, and I can see that those that have gotten to know me have in some way changed their view of what is possible. I love that question, "what is possible?" It is so comprehensive and the answer is so limitless.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


I would not guess that I am good at organizing, you should see my apartment. It is not clean. Yet when it comes to organizing work projects I seem to do rather well. Strange how that works. In one aspect of organizing, I'm not so good, in another I seem to do well. Of course being my own judge I am biased.

I wonder where else in my life there is a dichotomy like that?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Great Sidewalks

Grand Rapids, Minnesota has great sidewalks. I'm not joking. I should take a picture. This big town of 10,000 people has a number of sidewalks, probably 20+ miles of sidewalks, and they are nearly impeccable. They are even enough you could ride a road bicycle on them, barely any potholes, just nice a smooth. Plus, with freeze thaw cycles it is typically harder to have good sidewalks in the north that's part of the reason I am so surprised. My runs up here the last couple days have just been pleasant, free of the difficultly of stumbling over uneven broken pavement that so often accompanies my travels. In fact, there is even a bicycle path through town which reminds me of the bike paths in Germany.

So thank you Grand Rapids, for your sidewalks, they are great for my running!

Monday, March 14, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 246

Wow! What a week?!

Work was actually quite calm. I was in the office all week, at least every day this week. I have been working on this little project, a hydraulics project and I think that some good progress was made this week. Sure, I had some setbacks too, but that is part of the design process, and it's way better to realize my errors early rather than later in the development process.

Running was a mix. I ran 50 miles, but I took two days off and only ran 20 minutes on another day. It started on Sunday I ran 24 miles, and while I started out really well, around 7 minute pace the first hour, soon after that I began to slow down, mile 10 really was where the pain started. It was more of a just plain exhaustion feeling than nutrition or an injury.
Huge Positive Splits, Not Good
As you can see, that's not at all how you want to split a run. Monday I ran 20 minutes, Tuesday I came home and laid on the floor. Wednesday I came home and laid on the floor again, so my coach suggested upping the iron, through meat mostly. I took my iron pill and ate some steak and starting Thursday my runs have gone really well. It's strange how a little mineral, like iron, can make a huge difference if you are just 50 mg or maybe 100 mg short. Plus, rest is good too, and I struggle to rest unless I really feel bad, which I did.

So Friday I go into the office, bringing bagels, for a co-worker's birthday, doing my work, on the hydraulics problem, when at 10 AM a different co-worker announces, "I bought a car in St. Louis!" and now he was trying to figure out how to get there. He blanket asked, "Anyone want to go to St. Louis with me?" and I said "yes" just like that. I had three vacation days to use by this coming Friday, and no plans to use then, so I figured, nothing really needed me the rest of the day in the office, might as well go help a friend pick up his car.
Beginning a Road Trip
It was fun! We drove five hours down to St. Louis, I went for a run, bought a fast food dinner and drove his pick up truck back, getting a speeding warning as I got back into Dubuque. Yes, I am thankful I just received a warning, because the officer had every right to give me a ticket. So I got back to Dubuque around 11 PM, spent all of $13 on food and drinks, helped a friend out and used a vacation day.

What does this week hold?! We shall see... Some big news actually, not that Everest wasn't big enough last week.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Housing Market in Dubuque is Crazy!

This fall the house two door down from me went for sale for $144,000, on a Thursday. There was an open house on Sunday, and it was off the market Tuesday, selling for $153,000. I thought that was crazy for a house to be on the market for five days and sell for 6% over list price. That's San Francisco crazy!

This past week, two of my married friends are moving and they went to sell their house and sold it in less than 24 hours, without any inspections, because they had multiple offers! So they sold for something over list price, I am not going to ask the specific number.

In short, now would be a good time to build a house in Dubuque or sell a house in Dubuque.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 245

It was a nice week up in Timmins, Ontario, for the most part. I managed to "run" 60 miles, if you include the 10 I cross country skied on Thursday afternoon, because at least up there they still have snow. I also got in a workout on the treadmill and a 1 mile indoor track race, in 4:54.92 thank you very much!

Work is always hard to talk about, because it's not really my intellectual property. So why was I up in Timmins, aside from being there for work, which is mildly obvious. Although, they do have really nice cross country ski trails, and I hear the ice fishing is really good. Well, I was up there because we had a machine with an issue we had to trouble shoot. It's interesting as I spend more and more time in the field I learn about all sorts of corner conditions that in the grand scheme of things are small, but when you are there in person looking at it, oh my it becomes so much more than a corner condition.

You can't test something to infinity. At some point you say, 'we've tested enough, we're going to production!' However, there are very interesting things to learn after you go to production, things you didn't learn during testing. Things that I think you might never learn during testing. For example, on prototypes, someone watches every bolt being tightened, but in production there is a range of new tools and far less supervision, so each bolt gets less attention. How much attention does every bolt need? It's a good question, and not a simple answer because some bolts are more important than other bolts.

Other than the trip to Timmins, and the race Friday night, I had a pretty quiet week. I have spent much of the last few days just catching up on sleep. 5:30 AM flights... no thank you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

I am Returning to Mt. Everest in 2016!

Yes, in four and a half weeks I will be flying to Nepal to attempt Mt. Everest again! Pretty much the same situation as last time from my side, I'm trying without bottled oxygen, from the standard south side route, and going with Asian Trekking again. Of course this has been in the works for months, but it's not real until Asian Trekking confirms they have my money, which they did Monday.

Once again you are welcome to join me for the trek to basecamp. It would be roughly April 10th to April 23rd and cost around $4000 round trip from the USA. Let me know if you are interested and I will send you my flight details, once I book a flight.

Everest from Mera Peak
Yes I will be blogging again as I am able, and using my Delorme InReach to send tweets and GPS coordinates. Again I am doing this without sponsors, on purpose, so that there is less pressure on me to get the summit.
Everest from Everest Basecamp
To answer the question, 'why this year?' Well, two reasons, one, I saved up enough money to go again, and two, I see myself becoming less risk adverse as I grow older, so while yes I would like to try K2 and Trango Tower, and go to Patagonia, I felt that if I delayed going back to Everest for another year, I would be less likely to go on any adventure like this in the future. If not now, then when? I'm not getting younger, and you never know what sort of position I will be in in the future.
Down Suit and Oxygen Mask at Basecamp
Well, there is certainly more to come, stay tuned. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Big Short Book and Movie Review

This is going to be the worst movie review ever as I have only seen the first 79 minutes of the movie “The Big Short”. I watched the first 60% of the movie on the flight from Chicago to Toronto, then wandering around the airport I saw the book sitting prominently in a store display shelf. Five days later I finished the book. Wow, it’s good. 

It’s been eight, nine years, since the bottom of the “housing crisis” happened, we’ve all heard about mortgage backed securities (MBS), sub-prime mortgages, and even CDOs (collateralized debt obligations). I understood this stuff decently well, before seeing the movie and reading the book, but it clarified things related to the derivative market I just never really understood. For example, I get that in the derivative world you can buy fire insurance on homes in the mountains in remote California before fire season. I didn’t understand that there are people who wanted to sell you fire insurance on remote mountain homes in California before wild fire season. 

In other words, short sellers made the collapse even worse because they helped fuel credit default swaps. You see, to short the market, you have to sell high first, then some time later buy low, ideally buy at zero, bankruptcy. So when you short something there is a really big and important question, who is buying at this price? I sold my Tesla stock at about $80 in early 2013, because I thought it was overpriced. Since then it has gone up to $286 and already back down to $201. For a company with hardly any earnings, by classical valuations, it should not have a market cap of $26 billion. I’ve never shorted anything, but Tesla would be near the top of my list. And I’m saying that as a guy that wants to buy a Tesla. I think one day it will be worth more than $26 billion, but we are not yet at that day. Point being, there are people that believe in Tesla so much that at $201 a share they want to buy more stock. 

Back in 2005 through 2007 a handful of people, like ten, were buying credit default swaps, insurance, on CDOs and sub-prime MBS bonds, and you have to wonder, who in the world was selling them this stuff!? It was pensions and hedge funds and of course the big banks, and none of the bankers really cared, because they get paid on commission. Granted these guys shorted tens of billions of dollars. The book mentions John Paulson who has been vilified for his role in the whole collapse, but really he’s one of the few who realized how crazy it really was. The movie the Inside Job vilified him too, because he convinced the big banks to create these derivatives. The funny thing is though, when they first started shorting these various bonds there was no real mechanism to short, no credit default swap for much of this stuff. Later on, it became a hot commodity and the banks were happy to broker between the short sellers and the pensions and hedge funds. 

I really need to make a graphic to describe it because it makes a lot of sense in my head but I am struggling to explain it. (45 minutes later...)
Credit Default Swaps
Credit Score: 610
Length of History: 10 years
Income: $25,000
Mortgage: $385,000
Type of Mortgage: 2/28 

Credit Score: 685
Length of History: 4 months
Income: $14,000
Mortgage: $430,000
Type of Mortgage: No money down, interest deferred upon request, adjustable rate

So it's a little simplified, I neglect tranches totally. Every arrow represents where a banker has to do something, and gets a commission. That helps to explain why bankers were so willing to do these transactions, more volume = more commissions and higher pay. Now "The Big Short" doesn't go into detail on the investors that bought credit default swaps, but if I had to guess I would guess there were sold nearly the same as the underlying bonds and CDOs. The problem was when this machine got rolling there was more incentive for everyone in the sub-prime market to make the market bigger, and get more commissions because the people who ended up owning the risk were the investors who really had no idea what exactly they were buying, except that a huge chuck of this stuff was rated AAA, as good as debt gets, because the Wall Street guys manipulated the ratings agencies into giving out such good ratings. 

Fraud? What this all a bunch of fraud? Well, the more I think about it, I don't actually think so. Sure there are some examples here and there, but most people up and down the financial chain were blissfully unaware of what could happen. I mean, if housing prices didn't increase at 5%, it would all collapse. But in their ignorance everyone from the mortgage sales people on the ground to the "CDO managers" selling to investors did not think that prices could drop, or that when they did drop they would drop all across the country, and even world. 

Point being, if you have two hours, watch "The Big Short", and if you have ten hours, read "The Big Short".

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Who Determines Failure?

It's a good question. There are many answers, not just one. For starters I am my own worst critic. I fail in ways that others would still consider success. But I am certainly not my only critic. All of the people we develop relationships with, friends, spouses, relatives, coworkers, bosses, customers, we can fail each one of them.

Lest this be one of my depressing rants, those people can all determine success too. However, success seems to be a harder thing to own up to. I mean, it is easier to criticize than praise. I see this in myself. I don't write a review after a really good experience with a company, but after a bad experience. People don't call customer service to say how great something is.

Failure hurts. Failure is not fun. The worst part is, the more judges there are, the more people you are bound to fail. Just look at how many people hate Apple products. That's life I suppose, just get up and keep going.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 244

Location: Dubuque, Iowa
Hours: 40-45 or so
Stress level: Low
Project: Axle plumbing
Meetings: Below average number

Miles: 54
Workouts: two, tempo and fartlek

Friday: Out, Copper Kettle (Winter token party night)
Saturday: Bicycling in afternoon, in for evening