Thursday, August 08, 2013

UtiliGee Maximized

Greyson has arrived!
9 lbs. 13.4 oz
Healthy mom, healthy baby, very happy dad

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Final Spalsh...and Dash

Just like Michael Jordan and Brett Farve before him, this week Gavin Gee said "I'm going to be doing my last splash and dash...again." One year after his shocking return to the event Mr. Gee is calling it quits as he once again leaves BYU for a job in Texas. After silencing many of the naysayers in last years 3rd place finish, Mr. Gee was considered a favorite for the coveted 3rd place finish. However, when a former BYU Hawaii cross country runner showed up at the pool before the start of the race it appeared that Gavin's hopes were shot. With the extra competition and a lagging head cold the odds of a 9th 3rd place were distant at best. In the mile swim Gavin appeared sluggish and as he emerged from the pool it was clear he was exhausted. "Your in 4th place!" Mr. Gee's wife, Denny, called out to him as he slipped into his tennis shoes.
The first mile of the 10k didn't go well. Running in shoes for the first time since last years race gave Gavin a strange awkward gait and he seemed to be kicking his ankle with every stride. However, 2 miles into the race Mr. Gee seemed to find a groove as he passed last years champion, Eric Otto.
Although Gavin dropped over 3 minutes from his previous 10k time he stilled finished several minutes behind the other two leading contestants. "I was so excited to get another 3rd place award that I ate three oranges and three bananas to celebrate!" However, third place was not in the cards for Mr. Gee this year. It wasn't until several minutes later that Gavin was informed that the second place finisher had only swam half a mile making him disqualified and putting Mr. Gee in 2nd place. "It was hard after all these years to give up the third place title and hand it over to someone else. I just hope they can live up the heavy responsibilities of a third place finisher" commented Gee on the loss of his third place title.
The second place finish completed Mr. Gees collection of splash and dash victories - 1 1st place*, 1 2nd place, 8 3rd places.
When asked to comment on what his secret was to his 10 spectacular finishes he said, "hard work, healthy eating, and low participant rates...but, mostly the low participant rates"

*denotes a team victory that was more due to the help of Ryan Daniels than to anything Mr. Gee did

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Barefooted Lie?

It has been nearly ten years since I first started running barefoot around BYU's indoor track. Back then I ran with a very heavy foot, you could hear my shoes pounding against the ground all the way around the track. Running barefoot, as my friend Ryan Daniels suggested, would force me to change my running style and run a lighter on my feet. It worked fabulously, suddenly instead of hearing the loud THUD, THUD, THUD you would hear a soft pitter patter as I ran by.
Unfortunately, barefoot running is not as easy once you leave the indoor track. So for several years I went back to running in my old running sneakers, until Denny gave me a pair of Vibrams.
The journal of Science had just published an article showing the benefits of running barefoot and I was excited to start cashing in on those benefits. However, after running with my Vibrams I started having people come up and ask me "Have you read Born to Run?" Finally, I read the book and that is when the doubt started. The books arguments were so poorly articulated and lousy with lacunae that I started to wonder if there really was anything to the barefoot argument. Then one day while standing barefoot in my kitchen I noticed that my hip and joints were really aching. I decided to go put on some sandals, and the pain went away almost instantly. Over the next few weeks I noticed that if I am wearing shoes or sandals in the kitchen it takes over an hour of walking around while chopping, cooking, or cleaning before my joints start to get achy. However, when I am barefoot it only takes about 15 minutes. In interviews I have heard from Chris McDougall (the author of Born to Run) he "going barefoot" is always better, if you are running, walking, or just standing around. The argument is that your body knows how to adjust to avoid pain far better than whoever is making the shoe.
Obviously I don't really have much of a case against his point, but over the past two years while back at BYU running barefoot almost exclusively and I haven't felt it help my joints at all. In the past if I ran over 3 miles I would start to ache all over. Well, now when I run barefoot the same thing happens. I haven't been able to notice any health benefit from tossing my shoes. I really want to say that there are benefits because in a crazy way I feel that would add proof to Hayek and Taleb's arguements made in The Fatal Conceit and The Black Swan, by essentially showing that our bodies are so complicated that we can't understand the consequences of our own intervention and hence our "improvements" well only cause more damage. But, so far the only benefit I have seen has been that I haven't had to buy new running shoes for 4 years.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dad Vindicated

Several years ago Donald Boudreaux wrote an article in the Freeman titled "I will not vote." The article was based on studies done by economist and statisticians showing that an individual vote in an election never has any value. My dad wrote an article saying that although Mr. Boudreaux was correct about national elections his theory did not apply to local elections. Mr. Bourdreaux's rebuttal was that even in very small local communities a single vote had no statistical significance. My dad wrote his own rebuttal on his blog but it is unlikely that it would have swayed Mr. Bourdreaux's position.
Then on election day my sister, Rebecca, called me to ask if she could borrow my car for the afternoon so that she, Austen, and Andrew could drive up to South Salt Lake to vote against the new bond to be issued to the city. Mr. Bourdreaux's article instantly came to mind and I couldn't believe that my siblings were willing to waist over 2 hours just to go vote, something I thought was a completely pointless exercise.
Well you can imagine my surprise when the next morning on my way to the swimming pool I heard over the radio that "the bond in South Salt Lake failed by 3 votes."

Sunday, August 07, 2011

When the Fatal Conceit is Fatal

Last night I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes and although the movie is a little far off from what Hayek envisioned, I felt it followed the book nearly perfectly. A scientist seeks out to solve a problem. His solution addresses the immediate problem, but little is understood about what other ripples it might create until it is too late. The only difference between the book and the movie was that the book is directed toward economic policies. However, had they made the movie end in financial apocalypse it would have been a little boring. Not that financial policy is boring, but because it would be too much like watching the daily news.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Eating Chocolate and Getting...

Several years ago at a family reunion my uncle Gavin jokingly said he was working on a book called, Eating Chocolate and Getting Smarter: a summary of the startling research funded by the Hersey corporation. Sadly, the book has yet to be published, although I am convinced it would give the Twilight series a run for its money on the all time best selling list.
However, after the years of waiting it looks there may be enough research to write my own book, Eating Chocolate and Getting Stronger: a misinterpritation of research by someone eating a Hersey bar.
Finally, there is research being circulated in the scientific community worth getting excited about! Clearly, this research is inchoate, it may be a few more years before they realize the correct daily dose is not a sixth of an ounce, but rather a sixth of a pound. But one expects those types of mistakes at these early stages. This still represents giant leaps forward in the long fought battle of getting chocolate its proper place on the food pyramid. (For those neophytes who are new to this battle, the proper place is at the bottom as it is the base for all the other important food groups such as cookies, cakes, etc.)
So to all my fellow chocolatiers, I say raise your mug of hot coco high and solute those hard working scientist who may soon find the evidence to support my next book: Eating Chocolate and Getting Skinnier: the portentous report on how the Hersey corporation can save America from obesity!

Apparently someone is already doing research for my next book!

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Last summer Denny and I visited Marfa, Tx as part of a west Texas adventure with my cousin, Ryan. For those of you who haven't had the privilege of visiting Marfa, just imagine the town you are living in without the tall buildings, short buildings, apartment buildings, houses, parks, stores, factories, roads, trees, flowers, grass, and anything else that may be in your town. You are now imagining Marfa.
Since leaving Marfa I occasionally get this itch to go back. It could spurred on by the prospect of living in cities like Houston, New York, or San Francisco after graduation. Or it could just be that going back to school and reliving the "what am I going to be when I grow up" phase of life has brought with it some introspection. Or it could just be that I read about a guy, John Wells, who decided to do just that. Reading his story reminds me a little bit of a letter written by Chris McCandles (taken from Into the Wild).
So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism. All of which may appear to give one peace of mind but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventure spirit within a man than a secure feature. The very basic of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon. For each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose you're inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter sketer type of life. That will first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life, you will see it's full meaning and it's incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of sulton city and hit the road.
John is clearly not as care free (or possibly care-less) as Chris was. But, he definitely was able to throw the security blanket away and carve out his own adventure. However, before I follow John and head out to the middle of no where, I am going to try to see if I can ever find a way to live with just 100 items. But, of course if I wait for that, I can also put off my purchase of How to survive in the desert for a few more years...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bike Safety

At work we have morning safety meetings and we just had one on bike safety. The presenter shared 5 tips for staying safe on your bike.
  1. Never ride a bike without mirrors. You wouldn't drive a car without mirrors so why would you go on a bike that didn't have them?
I didn't catch any of the others. I was too busy remembering how I drove my car without mirrors for two weeks before finally reattaching them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Church Quotes - Pioneer day edition

After informing the congregation that her family were pioneers she invited us to think back to what life was like for them.
Think of what traveling was like back in 1900. Coming across the plains without A/C in your car and no iPhones or DVD players to keep you entertained...and then think about how much harder it would have been having Laman and Lemuel as brothers.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


This is the fourth time I have begun writing a counter argument to Mark Bittman's latest opinion piece, just to toss it aside thinking it wasn't worth the time or energy. Today I seem to have an excess of both.
For those unfamiliar with Mark Bittman, he is a New York Times food critic turned opinion writer. He focuses on national health issues, such as giving the poor better access to healthy food options, reducing obesity, and improving the overall health of the country.
Those are things everyone wants and, not surprisingly, most people love his articles. I, however, do not.
M wife, Denny, always thinks it is funny that we have such animosity towards each other yet in other ways are very similar. Mark is a bit of a health nut, he goes on short stints where he will be a Vegan. Most of his recipes focus on being simple combinations of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. So although our recipe books may look very similar we are bitter enemies.
Without boring you too much with our former disagreements (the list is long) I will just focus on his most recent article. This week, Mark, attempts to enlighten us with an idea that has been floating around for the past few years, a soda tax. I'll spare you the three page diatribe and summarize here. Mark believes a soda tax (he suggest 1 or 2 cents per ounce) would result in a 20% increase in soda prices, a 20% decrease in soda consumption, $13 Billion of federal revenue, 1.5 million fewer people with obesity, 400,000 cases of diabetes, and health care savings of over $30 Billion.
Sounds great, you can almost see Mark dancing in a field of sunflowers at the end of a rainbow while he explains his master plan. Sadly, it is time for me to dispel it.
First, let's look at what he wants to do with all that cash he wants to save the government. Initially, he mentions the cash "could be used to subsidize the purchase of staple foods like seasonal greens, vegetables, whole grains, dried legumes and fruit."
We could sell those staples cheap — let’s say for 50 cents a pound — and almost everywhere: drugstores, street corners, convenience stores, bodegas, supermarkets, liquor stores, even schools, libraries and other community centers.
Now, I stand to gain a lot from this plan. Let's just look at my grocery receipt from earlier today.
  1. Banana's ($.44/pound)
  2. 3 Mangoes ($0.88 each)
  3. 2 Onions ($0.79/pound)
  4. Strawberries ($1.99/pound)
  5. blueberries ($2.59/ 16 ounces)
  6. crushed peanuts ($2.19/pound)
  7. Soy milk ($1.50 - I had a coupon:-)
  8. Canned Beans ($0.66)
  9. Spinach ($1.59/pound)
  10. Dark Chocolate Chips ($2.79)
  11. Greek yogurt ($2.50)
With the exception of the Greek yogurt, the Chocolate Chips, and the Soy milk everything on my list would be subsidized, and heavily. Which brings me to my first point. How are we going to subsidize all of these things to be 50 cents a pound from charging 2 cents an ounce on soda? We would have to subsidize spinach (probably the healthiest thing I buy) with $1.09/pound! Difficult. Especially if we are going to implement all of the other things Mark has in mind.
Money could be returned to communities for local spending on gyms, pools, jogging and bike trails; and for other activities at food distribution centers; for Meals on Wheels in those towns with a large elderly population, or for Head Start for those with more children; for supermarkets and farmers’ markets where needed. And more.
Mark was doing the dancing when he got to this part of the article. I was shaking my head. Honestly, no one would appreciate putting in pools and bike trails more than myself. However, I don't think we should do it by robbing the poor, which is what this tax would do. Go to any grocery store, stand in the soda isle and take a look at the first 20 people who buy soda. Then stand in the produce isle look who is buying there. You will quickly see this is a nice way to take money from the poor and give it straight to the wealthy.
For the moment though, lets ignore that this is regressive tax and try to determine if it would really cut soda consumption. The claim is raising the price 20% will reduce consumption 20%. The proof against that argument is displayed daily at any restaurant in the US. It has boggled my mind for decades that people are willing to pay as much as a 300% premium for soda when they eat out. People like to have soda and they are more than willing to pay for it, a price increase will lead to falling consumption, but not nearly as much as he thinks.
Next, Mark's plan only taxes sugary drinks, it does not tax diet drinks (which are just as bad). If Coke suddenly cost $1.20 and Diet Coke is $1.00 people will not be moving to healthier alternatives, they will be reaching for the diet drinks. Also, as Mark mentions, soda companies will quickly find ways of altering their drinks slightly to avoid the tax (if it does have a substantial impact on sales). Ensuring poor people still have a plentiful supply of calorie rich nutrient deprived sugary drinks.
Penultimately, can depriving Americans their 44.7 gallons of soda they drink each year really actually reduce obesity and diabetes at such high rates? As with all things, I am not an expert on this, but first the obese people I know already drink diet soda so this tax would have very little effect on them. Second, there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to obesity in America, just as there are plenty of ways for people to become obese. My weight has fluctuated substantially the past few years as my activity level has decreased and my motabolism has slowed to a crawl. Although I haven't had soda in 5 years and gave up french fries over 2 years ago, I still occasionally slip up to the "over weight" side of the BMI scale. And I exercise far more than "the average American". My point, it will take a lot more than cutting back on soda to have a meaningful change in the obesity problem.
Finally, Mark shares impressive numbers for the amount of money we could save in health related expenses with this tax. A few years ago Greg Mankiw pointed out one reason why these numbers are flawed. A co-worker of mine made the same point after getting a health exam. "Good news and bad news. The good news is my health is still in great shape. The bad news is I need to keep contributing to my 401k." To avoid being too morbid, I will just say, dead people have very few expenses.
Mark does have very good goals, however his plan of attack is completely misguided. I am sure if he had his way he would skip the soda tax and just go straight to creating a modern version of the 18th amendment and become another victim of the "Fatal Conceit".

Sulfur or Greenbacks?

Yesterday, as I stepped out of the bus at the Baytown refinery, I was greeted by an unpleasant odor. When I asked what it was, the HR representative who was giving me a tour said, "it's the smell of money." That must also be why my wallet smells so bad...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

100 Items

If you could only have 100 of your possessions, what would you keep?
  1. Bike
  2. Pump
  3. Tevas
For the past few days I have been trying to decide what I can live without and getting down to 100 items is much harder than I thought. The idea to pair things down to 100 came to me after reading about a couple who did just that. I have always considered myself somewhat of a minimalist, however I am also a pack rat. So although I purchase very few things, I also throw
out far fewer. Keeping me well out of 100 mark.
55. Pizza Cutter
56. 11 t-shirts
67. 5 framed pictures
Well a year has past since I first read the article about the strobel's and their 100 possessions and I had all but forgotten about it until last week when a friend of mine brought it up and told me how much further he had moved from that goal after having a baby. Then I realized this short period of my life may be the only time I can live with just 100 items to my name.
134. Cell Phone
135. Car
136. Car sun shield
I started by counting up everything I owned, thinking I might already be down to close to 100. After all, the majority of my things are still in Utah. Before I knew it though, I was passing 200.
215. Dust Pan
216. bug spray
217. Alarm Clock
227 is what the total came to. Of the top of my head I thought of about 30 things I would never miss, but getting rid of over half of my stuff does seem to be a bit difficult. So although the Strobels found happiness with just 100 items, I still have a long way before I reach that kind of nirvana.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Splash and The Dash come back

For 5 years the masses have been asking, "Will Gavin Gee ever come out of retirement and return to regain his 3rd place crown at BYU's Splash and Dash?" After celebrating his 30th birthday most critics had written him off. "He's old and washed out, he couldn't compete in the 6th graders field day races, let alone the Splash and Dash" commented a reporter who has been covering the event for over 15 years. "He had a good run. I mean 7 third place finishes, that is quite a streak. If he came back it would just be a big disappointment to see him finish out of the medals."
However, despite the warnings of the critics he signed up, not for the standard event like some expected, but the Elite. A 1 mile swim and a 10K run would have been tough for Gavin in his prime, but the last 5 years had put him well beyond that.
It was clear after the first lap that this was not the Gavin we are used to seeing in the Richards building. After a mere 300 yards he was being passed by not one, not two, but three of the Otto brothers. In years past Gavin had relied heavily on his lead in the pool to give him an edge, clearly this year he would not have that luxury.
Surprisingly, Gavin was able to pick up his pace and keep the competition within reach. He got out of the pool just over 23 minutes into the race. "I knew it wasn't going to be an amazing swim, but I was just hoping to keep it under 30 minutes" Gavin told a reporter after the race. It ended up being a good thing he finished when he did just moments after he got out of the pool another competitor jumped out, narrowly putting him in 4th place. The first 5K was a bit ugly, but near the 2 mile mark Gavin seemed to get his second wind and was able to surpass one of the Otto's to move into 3rd place. After a strong 5K finish it looked feasible that Gavin would catch the competition, however his steam seemed to putter out at the 4.5 mile mark and Gavin had to watch the others add more distance to their lead. However, the little energy Gavin had left was enough to keep him going to reclaim his 3rd place title.
"It was the most amazing feat of athleticism I have ever seen--well the third most I guess" said Denny Gee, Gavin's wife and trusty lap counter.
When asked what he was going to do next Gavin replied, "I'm going to read a case about Disney Land!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Opportunity Cost

As you by now have noticed, there has been a steep decline in the quantity and quality of blogging here at UtiliGEE. Being greatly troubled by this, I took it upon myself to get to the bottom of what caused such a dearth in the blogosphere. After many interviews and much research this is my report.

In Q1 the cost of blogging rose 68% over the previous quarter (92% YOY). This was coming just as 401K accounts were plummeting to 10 year lows. Readers were optimistic the second quarter would bring a decline in blogging cost as home prices continued to slump. However, blogging cost skyrocketed in Q2, rising 763% in just three months, 938% from the previous year. Q3 also appeared to be promising as oil prices decreased back to their May levels. Sadly, this decline still hasn't effected the UtiliGEE blogging cost.
"Previously you could use the oil and housing markets as indicators of what the blogging market would do. That theory seems to be out the window."
Analyst have tried to pinpoint what event would have triggered such a drastic change in blogging market trends without success. All indicators predicted a drop in blogging cost after finals in December. Yet, just as investors were ready for blogging to reach an all time high we reached a 2 year low.
Tommy Tom, a well respected blogging analyst, is beginning to fear what kind of damage this will do to his profession. "We are going back and rewriting our entire cost-of-blog model. It has people questioning the entire industry."
Of all the people interviewed it seems there was only one economist who has an answer to what could have caused this spike. "It appears that even with the rest of the economy in a deep recession the value of time-spent-with-Denny continues to rise at unprecedented rates. Occasional we find occurrences of people thriving during a down turn. That is what happened with McDonald's and Microsoft. Time-spent-with-Denny is the only market that is seeing the same boom as blogging cost. I am beginning to think there is a correlation between these two markets. And if my predictions are correct it could be 2010 before we see another post from UtiliGEE."
When asked if he felt that time-spent-with-Denny would soon be valued higher than Microsoft he responded, "With the decreased demand for PC's, and the limited supply of time-spent-with-Denny, I would say the question is not if it will be valued higher, but when."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Two months ago Mark Perry posted this video on his blog. Originally, I thought it was clever thinking, "Yeah, we don't realize how nice we have it". However, that was before the video was emailed to me 4 times, shown in 2 meetings, posted on facebook, and finally played to me by my roommate. I am sick and tired of hearing this guy complain about the complainers. And so I feel it is time for me to complain about the people complaining about complainers.
Complainers always get a bad wrap. They are an easy target because, let's face it, everyone hates a complainer. That being the case, I would ask you to put aside your grudges and consider for just a moment everything we owe to the complainers. For instance, the reason we don't have those annoying rotary phones is because, someone said, "Hm, I really hate having to go all the way to a phone booth to make a call, wouldn't it be nice to call while I am in my car or as I walk through the park?" Now, there were probably nay sayers at the time who said "You spoiled brat, don't you realize how amazing the phone is!" The same person probably would have said "Why are you complaining that it takes 3 days to take a train across the country. It took the pioneers three months! You complainer." I would personally like to thank the guy on the plane complaining about not having wireless access. And the girl who had to wait a few seconds for her phone signal to reach space.
So to all of the other complainers out there...Keep on complaining!