Monday, September 24, 2018

Canadians Don't Scare Easily

An incident last week reminded me that Canadians, unlike Americans, don't wallow in fear.  Americans love to be scared about crime, hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, floods, bad politicians, Trump, guns, restrictions on guns, illegal immigrants, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Ebola, Lyme Disease, Muslims, SARS, solar flares, aliens, and flesh-easting diseases of all kinds.

Last week, we had two tornadoes during the evening 6pm local news broadcast.  The local CTV news station duly reported on what was happening, what Environment Canada was predicting, radar of the storms, damage to buildings.  It was pretty bad with quite a few houses destroyed in Dunrobin, an outlying Ottawa suburb, along with their "Mini Mall".  Just across the river in Gatineau, quite a few apartments were destroyed along with cars.  One of two major Electric substations in Ottawa was completely destroyed.

Well the newscast was coming to an end at 7pm and based on my experiences in the US, I expected 24/7 coverage to continue for the next week.  But instead, the station put on its normal Canadian lightweight entertainment show "Etalk", which was breathlessly covering Justin Bieber marriage rumors and the latest gowns and stars at the Toronto film festival.  A banner kept running underneath with news flashes on the tornadoes, but there was no "OH MY GOD!  LOOK AT THE DEVASTATION!!.." continuous coverage.  I think there might have been a short news flash during ETalk, where we might have missed something about Kardashian babies, but that's about it.

Everyone is concerned, neighbors are helping out, first responders are working hard, donations are being made, politicians have flown in for photo ops and promised aid, but no one is going bonkers like they did in Dallas if a tornado took out a couple of trailers containing meth labs.  Just another sign that Canadians are a little different.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Advantages of Being An Old White Guy

Now that I am retired, I am definitely an old white guy (the blog picture is about 15 years old).  I am not the "get off my lawn, I love Trump, I have a weapon" old white guy, I am the kindly old white guy.  There are advantages to attaining this position in life:

  1. Police will often let you off the hook if they catch you speeding and you are polite since you are a law abiding kindly old white guy.
  2. You can look at sexy women and smile (no leering) and not get a dirty look.  You are completely harmless unless you have 1M points in the Viagra loyalty program.
  3. You can walk around with your fly undone and people assume that you are having a senior moment, not being a pervert.
  4. Every senior discount is yours for the asking.
  5. People will tolerate a little of the "back in the days before email" stories without rolling their eyes, but don't overdo it.
  6. No one will try to sell you thong underwear or Speedo bathing suits at the store.
  7. Children will put up with all your corny jokes and poor attempts at humour.
  8. The border guards hardly ever stop you to pay duty since you are a polite old white fellow.
  9. You can pass off all farts and burps as beneficial and medicinal.  "You don't want me to get acid reflux, do you??"  This works with most folks but not with your spouse, by the way.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Facts for President Trump

I know that President Trump regularly reads my blog when he is not playing golf or watching Fox and Friends for their sophisticated insights on global issues.  I thought I would help you out Mr. President with a few facts.  I included links to your government agencies that provided the facts.

  1. Immigrants work more than native born Americans.  Yes, according to your Bureau of Labor Statistics, "The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 4.1 percent in 2017, down from 4.3 percent in 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The jobless rate of native born persons was 4.4 percent in 2017, down from 5.0 percent in 2016."
  2. The USA has a trade surplus with Canada.  According to your US Trade Representative, "U.S. goods and services trade with Canada totaled an estimated $673.9 billion in 2017. Exports were $341.2 billion; imports were $332.8 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Canada was $8.4 billion in 2017."
  3. The only time NATO has invoked the mutual defense treaty was to defend the United States after it was attacked on 9/11.  Yes, no other NATO country has asked for support from other members, just the USA.  In spite of you not liking every member of NATO, they stood by the USA.
  4. The following government agencies, organizations, and companies say that Russia meddled in the 2016 election: CIA, FBI, Facebook, Twitter, US Senate, US House of Representatives, UK GCHQ, and your US Ambassador to Russia.  The only people who seem to disagree are you and Vladimir Putin.
  5. According to the US government, you got less electoral college votes (304) than Obama (332 in 2012, 365 in 2008), GH Bush (426 in 1988), Clinton (379 in 1996), and others.
  6. NASA statistics show the planet is warming and CO2 is increasing.

By now you are probably losing interest and thinking about which staffer is most grope-worthy so I will stop here.  Let me know if I can help some more.

Photo: Flickr

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Why is Canada More United Than the United States?

Thirty years ago, Canada was breaking up and the USA was a unified patriotic powerhouse.  Things have changed a lot lately.

In the 80's and 90'sQuebec had a separatist government, there were lots of arguments over West versus East, French versus English, and free trade versus protectionism.  Referendums were held to see if the country should break up.  Then Canada then went through a long period of adjustment where Quebec got more powers in social areas, new political parties were formed and folded, industry adjusted to free trade, people moved within the country to areas with better job prospects, and new immigrants arrived.  This resulted in a more unified country where Quebec sentiment is against separation since most people feel their culture and language is stable, eastern and western attitudes became more liberal, industry adjusted to free trade, and there were periods of left and right wing governments at the provincial and federal level without major problems and disruptions.  This is why Canada is fairly united and happy.  Opposition to Trump has contributed to further unity.

In the 80's, the US faced an existential threat from the USSR and communism in general.  The left and right represented by two parties were united in their support for the USA against this threat.  Then, the threat evaporated as the USSR disintegrated and the USA became the most powerful nation on earth by far.  Things continued as before until American society became polarized between its two parties.  No other parties or organizations were able to form to represent points of view, there can only be two: left or right, liberal or conservative, takers or makers, gun control versus guns for all, Democrats or Republicans.  Now this dynamic has resulted in a President who does not want to unify the country, who wants to only promote himself and his side and vilify the other side.  The USA is about as Ununited as they were in the 60's, and the trend is for more polarization, more enmity, less unity.

Where will it end?  I don't really know.  If I had to make a bet, it would be on China becoming the most powerful nation on earth with the USA in second place, tied with the European Union.

Photo credit: flickr

Monday, June 25, 2018

Why I Like Immigrants to Canada

Like most Canadians, I think we need a steady flow of immigrants and we should admit valid refugees like Syrians and Rohingya.  But why do I like immigrants?

  1. Immigrants are here by choice, and are less likely to whine and moan about Canada.  They, like all Canadians, can moan about the winter, this right is enshrined in our Bill of Rights.  But I never hear them complain about taxes, the metric system, two official languages, etc.
  2. Immigrants are more likely to work than native born Canadians.  This is also true in the USA.
  3. Immigrants commit less crimes than natives, also true in USA.
  4. Immigrants do not seem to get tattoos like native-born Canadians.  I still don't get why you need tattoos of roses/crosses/celebrities up and down both arms, both legs, and your neck.
  5. We have lots of spare land, water, and air up here.
  6.  We need people to take care of the baby boomers when they enter their "Depends Years".
  7. Most people who look like immigrants drive practical cars and minivans.  You never see an immigrant commuting to work from the suburbs alone in a tricked out Super Duty pickup.
  8. Immigrants generally value education and make sure their kids take full advantage of Canada's excellent education system.
  9. I never see anyone who looks or sounds like an immigrant begging on Elgin Street.
  10. Canada's food scene in the 60's was just horrible - pizza, steak, and fish were the most exotic things on the menu.  Now we have Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Indian, Pakistani, and North African cuisine thanks to immigrants.
Photo credit: Flickr

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Iphone to Android Migration

I am in the midst of moving from Iphone (IOS) to Android.  Why?

I like my Iphone 6+ but it is getting old and cranky - the charging connector is intermittent, app performance is slow, and it is running out of memory.  On top of that, I have two SIMs, one from a Canadian operator and one from the US.  Iphones don't handle dual SIMs, but I found a clumsy workaround.

So I looked at getting a new Iphone.  The Iphone X is expensive, and I don't like the facial recognition thing.  The Iphone 8 is expensive, has the same screen as my 3 year old Iphone, and just adds wireless charging.  The Iphone 7 is the exact same as my Iphone 6 except it has a faster processor, it is also expensive.

So I looked at Android and found an unlocked dual SIM phone from a reputable manufacturer (ASUS) that supports two SIM cards.  Check out the comparison between my current phone, the IPhone 7+, and the Zenfone 4 here.  It is almost the same hardware as the Iphone 7, but half the price, and it supports dual SIMs.

I managed to find a way to sync photos and music using software called "Doubletwist" and reloaded all my favorite apps onto the Zenfone.

So far, so good.  The dual SIM performance is much better on the Zenfone compared to my Iphone workaround, the screen is nice, size and weight are good, battery performance is excellent.

Apple needs to up its game to stay competitive in the Smartphone space, in my opinion.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Facebook is Evil Part 2

Reference my previous blog post about Facebook and how it distorts the news to keep you coming back to their site.

The latest information is that Facebook allowed your private information to be sold without your consent to political operatives who used it to influence the 2016 US election.  This info, combined with Facebook algorithms that promote biassed and false news, allowed the Republican party to target people with ads and news stories to influence their votes.  It also allowed Republicans to avoid wasting money targeting people who would never vote for lying sexual predators like Trump.

So I have given up on Facebook.  I have not looked at it for 45 days and they bombard me with messages saying that I am missing out on cat videos and pictures from distant acquaintances.  I will stay away.

photo credit: Flickr

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Time to Rebalance Your Portfolio

The stock markets in the USA are hitting new records again. It means your stocks, ETFs, Equity Mutual Funds are probably at all time highs as well.

You probably have a desired portfolio allocation for stocks, bonds, international stocks, cash, etc. Check your holdings and you will likely find you are over-weighted in stocks because of the market's performance.

So now is a good time to rebalance your portfolio if your allocation is out of balance by more than a few percent. Sell some of those winning domestic equity holdings, buy bonds or international stocks or whatever you are underweight. This means "take some of your winnings off the table."

This technique of keeping a balanced portfolio is recommended by Warren Buffet, Vanguard, Fidelity, and most other respected investment authorities.

Disclaimer: this is not professional investment advice and should be used at your own risk. The author is not a licensed financial advisor. You should not believe everything on the Internet including this blog and should check multiple sources possibly including a professional financial advisor before making decisions.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Watch Out for Inflation

A few of us remember the 70's and 80's when inflation was around 10%.  When I started work, I was disappointed if I did not get a raise of 15 to 20% and I expected my rent to go up about 10% per year.  President Nixon was so worried about inflation that he passed wage and price controls, and he was a Republican.

USA Inflation % per year

For the last 20 years, inflation has been low.  Drastic increases in interest rates by the Fed (Volker) slowed inflation.  Then, productivity increases due to technology (Internet, wireless, computers..), globalization, and other factors have kept wage and price inflation under control.

Right now we see a perfect storm:
  • low unemployment in the USA and many other countries
  • economic growth in the USA and globally
  • fiscal stimulus in the USA from tax cuts and debt increases
  • employers unable to get workers in the USA, immigration being reduced
  • plenty of money in the financial system due to past stimulus, quantitative easing
  • endless war in Afghanistan and Iraq
This should cause an increase in inflation, but so far we don't see it.  No one seems to know why based on my reading of financial media and listening to Bloomberg.  Every "expert" says something like "I can't explain why inflation is low but I think .."

My opinion is that we will get much higher inflation starting in a year or two, perhaps sooner.  There are too many factors that will drive up wages and then prices.

Disclaimer: this is not professional investment advice and should be used at your own risk. The author is not a licensed financial advisor. You should not believe everything on the Internet including this blog and should check multiple sources possibly including a professional financial advisor before making decisions.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

BIG Warm Canadian Winter Coats

My wife just talked me into buying a new winter coat, a warm one.  It cost a fortune and I get heat prostration if I wear it inside or in the car, it is very warm.  The "snorkel hood" is so big I look like an elephant with a trunk if I deploy it.

Canadians seem to really be into big warm winter coats, think "Canada Goose" or similar.  You see them everywhere.  If you wanted to organize a walk to the North Pole, you could round up random people on Ste Catherine Street in Montreal and they would all be fully equipped for the expedition.  Even teenagers wear these Michelin Man coats.

Back in the day (60's and 70's), no one would be seen dead with such a big warm coat.  At our high school, you could identify students by their winter wear when it was -20 Celcius:

  1. The "Cool Kids" - they would have a jean jacket with a short sleeve T shirt underneath, ripped jeans, and adidas sneakers.
  2. The "Regular Kids" - jean jacket with sweater underneath or stylish lightweight ski jacket, jeans, and boots.
  3. The "Uncool kids" - random winter jacket, corduroy trousers for warmth, and overshoe boots over unstylish shoes.  Usually accented with a ridiculous winter hat with a huge pom-pom on top.

I fondly remember going skiing in -40C wind chill weather and wanting to attract girls so I wore a sweater, nylon jacket, tight ski pants, stylish hat and gloves, and I got frostbite and no girl took a second look.  If anything had happened, they would have admired my hidden red long underwear I am sure.

But now I am old and under new management, so it is a super warm super thick super duper jacket for me.