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Saturday, November 21, 2009

A New Form of Library...

Yes, yes, I know - it's been awhile since my last post. There are some very good reasons for this, and perhaps one day, I will find the strength to blog about this time in my life. But not quite now.

But I have been doing some significant re-organization and re-integration of my life these days. Specifically, I have been recycling things, especially books. I am a bit of a packrat when it comes to books, which would be superb, except I rarely read the books I buy. Hence I do not feel I warrant the title of bibliophile.

So became quite excited when I discovered this new Internet project called LibriVox. This takes public domain literary works, and has volunteers read and record them. Thye are then posted in downloadable formats, like .mp3 or .zip files. Perfect - I can build my library, at least my classical library, online and squirrel it away on a hard rive. This should free up space in my life. And this should alleviate my guilt at not reading what I buy.

A quite elegant 21st century solution to my 20th century book affliction.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And So it Begins....

The decline of Alberta's fortunes is irrevocably tied to natural gas. And the future of natural gas is not pretty.

Sun setting on Alberta’s natural gas empire, TD warns

Look out, Chicken Little. The sky really is falling.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Can Someone Explain This to Me?

I may not be the sharpest tack in the box financially, but I am having a problem trying to reconcile these two figures.

It seems that Alberta's per capita gaming revenue is $871, the highest in the country. But when you look at the 2008 Annual Report of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, it states that the total gaming revenue in 2008 was $26 billion. So when you divide that number into the 3.3 million provincial inhabitants (not all of whom are old enough to gamble) that equates to $7,878 per person. Huh? What gives? This seems extremely odd.

Oh, and this fiscal year, 2009-2010, gaming revenue (net) will outpace oil and gas revenue (net) by some $500 million.

Sigh. We live in interesting times, in an interesting place. FUBAR.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cryyyiiiing Over Debt....(Apologies to Roy Orbison)

Mister Ed has gone and done it. A little over five years after King Ralph declared the Alberta debt to be history, Steady Eddy Stelmach has plunged the province back into debt.

Here's a portion of what Ralph said back in July of 2004:

"Never again will this government or the people of this province have to set aside another tax dollar on debt," Klein said. "Those days are over and they're over for good, as far as my government is concerned, and if need be we will put in place legislation to make sure that we never have a debt again," he added.

Lots of "never agains." Seems we're there again, and in a big way. Ed plans to issue $3.3 billion worth of provincial bonds to help fund infrastructure. That would be because Ralph let the infrastructure rot in his ego-driven frenzy to pay down the debt.

I sometimes wonder why I live in this province. SNAFU.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Truth Found

In the midst of lies from the MSM and just about every government in the world saying that the recession is over, I offer up a little piece from the UK's Mail.

As a sidenote, I was viewing some new duplexes in Cochrane this past weekend - a little over 1400 sq ft developed (but seemed much less - they must have counting the garage...) for the low, low price of $500,000+. When I actually had the nerve to talk to the gentleman about ARM resets in the US (which, granted, he did bring up) and the fact that we in Alberta are not "special" and have not decoupled from the US economy, he immediately thought I worked in the financial services industry. No, I am just a citizen who takes an interest - in articles such as this:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Say what? And where?

I may be fast on the road to becoming an old fogey, but just when did the basic rules of etiquette change so drastically regarding the "new technology"?

Case in point: I was minding my own business today in the mall and decided I should find a public loo to relieve myself. A woman about my age was following me (quite closely, actually) and talking animatedly on a cell phone. About a house renovation, if you must know (and apparently, the whole world must know.) I thought to myself as I opened the door to the washroom, "Surely she will excuse herself and hang up the phone now." But oh no. I entered into one stall, and she barrelled into the other, still talking to the poor person on the other end of the line. Surely, then, she will hang up now, I thought, as I unzipped and assumed the position. But, horror of horrors, this did not cross her mind. She proceeded to have her pee and continue gabbing. Sounds of toilet paper ripping and flushes ensued (and that was only me!). I then came out and did my hygiene duty - loud water sounds and paper towel-ripping sounds quite common to a washroom were made. I left without seeing her, much to my delight.

So my question to you, blog-dogs, is: was this a faux pas, or is this considered au courant (perhaps even cutting edge?) in the cell phone world now? Do people do this in the privacy of their own home with cordless phones too? Am a just an uber-prude? After all, if she were with another friend in person and went into a washroom, the conversation could still have continued, no? I think my discomfort came from the fact that the person on the other end of the phone had no choice in the matter - they were dragged along for the ride, no matter what. Could have been a man too. In which case she had no right to let him in on the secret workings of female bathrooms.

Sigh. The 21st century is wearing on me. I am truly tired of all the change. I need a kinder, simpler day, when people excused themselves to do private things with their privates.

Perhaps I shall sign up for that Franciscan retreat after all. No cell phones allowed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Old 80-20 Rule

In fundraising, it's well known that 80% of your donations come from only 20% of your donors. Focus your efforts on those 20%, and you'll do just fine.

Seems HarperLand has it's own version of this rule. The Building Canada Fund is a great example. This is the $8.8 Billion fund that provides infrastructure funding to Canadian communities. And when you look at the numbers, it's quite revealing. A full 80% (ok, 79.41% for you picky folks) of the funding has so far been allocated to Con ridings. That leaves only 20% for ridings of all other political persuasions. And to boot, only 6.4% of the funding announced ($1.6 Billion so far) has actually flowed out the door.

This makes AdScam look like a swipe at petty cash at a mere $250 million.

And yet no one in the MSM seems interested. At all. Blatant partisan politics at work in one of the biggest funding programs to hit Canada in decades, and nobody's watching, or even interested.

Par for the course, really.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Economic Stimulus - Idea #1

So I've been thinking about this whole stimulus thing from a policy perspective and I think I've come up with a winner that is guaranteed to inject billions into economies around the world. What is this sure-fire winning idea? Simple.

Airlines will no longer allow any checked baggage whatsoever for outbound passengers. You can, however, bring back as much as you like on your return trip home.

There you have it. Clean, simple and guaranteed to work.

I have no idea why I am not working as a key adviser for a world leader. Clearly, they need me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Best 42 Cents I've Spent in Awhile....

I have been following the public misery of Brian Mulroney and his increasingly comical attempts to defend his actions at the Oliphant enquiry with great glee. Now, I am no Mulroney fan - I met him when I was quite young, but took the measure of the man very quickly. Vain, arrogant, condescending, and sleezy were all words that came to my teenage mind then, and I haven't changed my opinion of the man over the following 30-odd years.

So I am thinking that this Oliphant enquiry, with its $14 million price tag, is very good value for money. Broken down per capita, that's 42 cents per Canadian, and I have to say for sheer enterntainment value alone, it's worth every cent. Hell, I'd even pay some of my fellow Canadians' share (and deliver it in a paper bag, at a hotel, over coffee.) Oh, how the mighty have so deliciously fallen! Again, my propensity towards schadenfrauden abounds here.

CPAC, methinks, miscalculated on this one. The Oliphant enquiry almost deserves to pay-per-view...oh, wait a minute - it already is...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Good Hunting

For those in the know, that is a BG (Battlestar Galactica) expression. Just after the CAG briefing each morning, it is the last thing said to the pilots as they disperse. But it could just as easily be a TSX expression these days, or a Dow Jones expression. The Dismal PM, Stephen Harper, was a bit, ahem, premature in his calling of a bottom for the stock market back in the fall. He issued advice for Canadians to buy stocks as he thought they were on sale then. Obama was closer to the truth - with indices falling to mid-1990 levels, one thing is for certain: stocks are now on sale. And I love a good sale.

But it does seem a bit too much like fiddling while Rome is burning. This is a disruptive recession, or it should be. GM will fail, along with many others (please, God, let it be Starbucks next!) and people will have to re-evaluate what it is to be successful. The old ways of doing business will give way to the new ways. And to be quite honest, these new ways have not yet emerged. So what to buy? Good question.

The goldbugs are clear in their message; and my own adviser is pretty old school when she says to buy oil and gas. I also could use a home, but reality has yet to set in in Calgary and real estate prices are still, well, stupid. So perhaps I just wait, trapped by my own inertia. But I have sneaking feeling I may be missing out on something big. Kind of like knowing there's a big lottery going on and not having a ticket - I am still sitting on the sidelines.

Good thing I don't equate my own happiness to my net worth. Then I really would be in trouble.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Throwing Good Money After Bad...

Well, here we go again. Looks like another mega-auto bail-out is on the way, as GM and Chrysler (owned by a private equity concern, BTW, so we can't even see their books to know they need the money) blow through another few billion a month, and the begging bowls come out yet again. When will it end? Will it end? Or will we keep propping up these companies, because they are TBTF (Too Big To Fail)?

Has anyone bothered doing the math on the first bailout? The feds and ON Gov't gave $3.29 billion. There are 150,000 people directly employed by the sector in Canada. Now, again this is crude math, but that's close to $22,000 per person! For only a few months!

I've got a better idea. Give the money (or at least some of it) to non-profits to help retrain these folks, or to help them start their own businesses. Or even hire them directly for that matter! If they can't put together cars for a living, can they use those skills to do something else? Anything else? There must be some transferable skills in there somewhere! Could they be, oh, I don't know, mechanics??? Or are we full up of mechanics in Canada?

Seems the Swedes have got the right thinking in place. When GM tried the same sly-dog trick on them and said that Saab would go under if there was no Swedish bail-out, the Minister stated clearly that their government was not in the business of propping up failing businesses. Unemployment insurance, daycare, healthcare, absolutely they will be there for their citizens, but not corporate welfare. Now that's keeping your eye on the ball and not letting mission creep direct your economy.

Although...I really have to wonder...if it was Ikea who came knocking...Nahhhhh!

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Bumper Sticker

1980s Bust Alberta

"Please God, give Alberta another oil boom and we promise not to piss it away this time."

2009 Bust Alberta

"Please God, don't give Alberta another oil boom, because they will piss it away next time."

Witness the mighty provincial Progressive Conservative government - in power for 38 continuous years, and they have learned absolutely squat.

- Alberta passed a (meaningless) no-deficit law during the Klein oligarchy
- therefore, deficits are illegal in Alberta
- now they are running a $1 billion deficit
- convenient loophole: the deficit legislation does not apply when non-renewable resource revenue comes in lower than expected
- what about if renewable resource revenue comes in lower? O yeah, never mind...

I couldn't make this stuff up even if I tried....really hard.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thank you, Rick Mercer!

For eloquently saying what I have been feeling about the coalition movement for the past month or so....

Rick's Rant - Parliament and the Need to be Informed

We all need to know certain, basic facts about our own governmental system. Who's to blame? The education system? Parents? Let's just stop playing the blame game, take responsibility, and inform ourselves. Sheesh, I bet we could all learn a few things from a 5th Grade civics class....if there still is such a thing.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

I'll get back to politics in a tic - it all got too ghastly to deal with, especially when I was in Ottawa with 35 cm of snow, -20 degrees and transit strike.

But I have to really wonder what our fellow citizens and media are doing these days. Take a look at these headlines from the Calgary Herald:

Alberta rig count at lowest level since '93
Land sale prices hit 10-year low
TSX slips up on oil drop
Calgary home sales slide to lowest since '96

And then this gem:

Canadians not deflated about economic outlook

Huh? Unbelievable. Stay tuned folks - it's gonna be a bumpy ride.