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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Generation *&*^%**'ed

So, my ranting continues. I got an email the other day from a friend of mine in Montreal, bemoaning the fact that houses in Ottawa, where they were thinking of moving, were vastly overpriced and out of their league. And then, she mentioned something I'd been thinking for some time: "Our generation has been screwed all the way round, non?"

Mais oui, mon amie. We are the cusp generation, wedged between the megalith generation of the Baby Boomers and the angst-ridden Gen X'ers. Sometimes I feel like a Late Boomer; other times like an Early X'er. But I don't feel I belong to either one. Apparently we even have a name of our own - Generation Jones ( or Baby Busters. I prefer Generation Screwed.

Why do I feel screwed? Well, mainly economically. When I was growing up, jobs were always scarce. Why? Because the damn Boomers had them all. So minimum wage it was. Eight years at a major pharmacy chain that shall remain nameless. So I decided I had better outwit them by getting the very best education available to me. PhD at Cambridge, it was. By rights, there should have been a huge bleeding of the bulge of academics hired in the 1960's who should be nearing retirement. Still waiting. Had heard that the Boomers will be retiring early. Apparently not.

So I spent ten years renting with a plethora of people I knew, people I thought I knew, and people I didn't know from Adam. By 29, I'd had it and finally got my own place, which was heaven.

I sort of thought that by the ripe old age of 42 I'd own my own place. Nope. When places were affordable, I wasn't earning enough and now that I am, places aren't affordable. My parents bought their place for $53,000 and it's worth three+ times that now. If I buy now, at the height of a boom (maybe), I may end up with negative equity in an overpriced place if a bust comes (and I've lived through enough to know that yes, they do come).

So here I sit - with a $135/month rent increase just shoved ignominiously under my door after 11 1/2 loyal years in the same apartment. I want a carpet upgrade, and I want it now.

Boomers and X'ers be damned. The Jonesers/Busters are mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore. Now if we could just all get together and decide on a way forward, that would be good, eh? Anybody???

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Single Rant

I've been doing a bit of thinking about my single life recently. Two things precipitated this thinking: 1) the soaring real estate prices in Calgary and 2) doing my taxes.

I need to preface my remarks by saying I do love being single and I don't want to change my status. I am just venting.

For those of you outside of Calgary, the real estate market here is out of control. Houses have gone up 30% in value in the past few months, and people are scrambling to get into the market. I'm not in the market. Nor do I think I'll ever get into the market here. The average house price in Calgary is $363,370, which is $10,000 higher than Toronto. If I had a partner, I could get into the market, as I could afford a $150,000 mortgage ( x 2). But you can't get a cave-house in Calgary for $150,000. So, partnerless, I continue to rent.

Then I was doing my taxes and a thought struck me. I wonder if two income families pay the same tax as I do? So I went hunting for a tax calculator, found one, and discovered the worst. If I earn $60,000 (before tax), I pay $15,788 in taxes in Alberta. In a two income family, if one person earns $40,000 and one earns $20,000, they pay the following taxes: $9,310 on the $40k, and $$3,047 on the $20k. That's $12,357 total or $3,431 less than me. And that doesn't take into account the additional tax savings the $40,000 earner could realize by contributing to spousal RSPs in addition to her/his own.

Sigh. To add insult to injury I found out that the average after-tax family income in Alberta is $64,900. I'd have to earn about $91,500/year to realize that.

I guess that's the Alberta Advantage - but only for couples.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Conference Basics

As I mentioned, I spent most of last week at a conference, and I started thinking about why we get together at these things, and what we learn at them when we do.

As I pondered, I realized that any conference I had ever been at essentially left me with three messages:

1) Feel the love.
2) Be the change.
3) The moment is now.

That's it. The first one is admittedly kind of warm and fuzzy, but that's what happens when like-minds congregate. Hums of Kumbaya all round and accompanying swaying happening out in the hallways at breaks.

The second two are more inspirational messages, especially appealing to an only child (because it's all about me - refer to earlier post). I can be the change! I can change the world, or at least my tiny part of it. And I'd better do it right now, as I'm not getting any younger. Go forth and improve, innovate, and implement, my friends. Time is short; the end is nigh, la, la, la, la....

Where was I? Oh, yes. I really don't need to go to any other conferences, ever again, in my life. This is an epiphany. I just need my three-message mantra and I'll save gobs of money. Unless I get paid to work at them. Then they are incredibly important catalyst events that will create ongoing networks and important new projects.

Just consultant-speak for saying "Feel the love," "Be the change," and, "The moment is now", really.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Three Degrees of Separation

Many of you know that I have an inner sci-fi geek. Not so much inner, really, as I pretty much light up at the mention of Star Trek, Babylon 5, Stargate, and of course, Battlestar Galactica (the new series, not the 70s version, although I liked that one too back in the day).

I also have a fairly overt obsession with William Shatner. I know, I know - I've heard all the Star Trek gossip about his arrogance and inflated ego. But really, he couldn't play Captain Kirk any other way. And I'm loving his Denny Crane character on Boston Legal now. I'm such a fan that I actually own a copy of his early cult classic (shot entirely in Esperanto), Incubus.

So imagine my surprise, astonishment and general gob-smackedness when my friend L. casually mentioned the other day that THE William Shatner is her father's first cousin. Arghhhhhhhh!!!!

After I had calmed down (which took about half an hour, I have to admit) I realized that this is only three degrees of separation. Only three!!! And then L. mentioned she'd invite me to the next family wedding, but not to expect an appearance from the man himself. No matter. I shall attend. If only in the faint hope that three degrees of separation will one day become none at all.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Buffalo Bast

Again, I've been really busy lately (like there's any other way of life for me ...) I've been working at a conference here in Calgary. Lots of early ups, which are NOT my forte. I've been out of the house for 18 hours straight two days in a row and still have another day to go.

I sure needed a break this afternoon. Luckily, the conference is at the RoundUp Centre on the Stampede grounds, and Aggie Days are on. Just next door to our conference was a wonderful collection of barnyard animals available for petting and general stress relief. Heaven.

After a quick visit to the llamas (because, really, who doesn't love llamas?) I rounded the corner to come across a mighty beasty. A buffalo. A real, live buffalo. And he was house-trained. Honest. His name is Bailey, and he's a bit of an Alberta celebrity. Had his third and fourth birthdays with Ralph Klein (no accounting for taste, on Bailey's part) and has had photo shoots in all the best magazines, including Maxim UK.

Don't believe me? Here's his website:

I was allowed into the pen with his owner to pet him. Let me tell you he is one big buffalo - but he's lovely with it.

And the best part is petting a buffalo was on my life list of things to do. Check.