Friday, July 30, 2004

A Tale of Two Bars

Yesterday after a meeting in the armpit of suburbia I ended up at a nearby pub to further chat things over while enjoying a pitcher of amber beery goodness. The pub itself was pretty typical, if a tad large and non-grimy (I can’t stand a pre-fabricated, over-scrubbed feel in a watering hole). At the entry a sign bragged about how many varieties of suds they offered. They certainly had a lot of beers on tap but somehow managed to avoid anything interesting or good. What the hell is the purpose of having Blue, Ex, Bud, Canadian, Canadian Light(!), Coors Light, etc. all on tap? Fekkin’ suburbia.

The generic qualities were not limited to the beer selection; the clientele were all Caucasian, other than the fellow I was drinking with, and all the girls were dressed in a way that somehow combined the styles of 80’s rocker chick with Britney Spears; to frightening effect. To make matters worse, the patio service was atrocious. I could write an entire rant just on this, but let’s just say it was baaaad. In fact, our server was so clueless that one could imagine her being sentenced to a lifetime of peroxiding her hair in order to perpetuate the dumb blonde stereotype.

Later I went to a Yorkville bar (not “A Yorkville Bar”, just a bar that happens to be in Yorkville) to see a buddy of mine play at an open stage night. Nice comfy chairs, good lighting, attentive service, great tunes, tasty beer and an interesting, diverse crowd; ahh, what a difference. At the end of the night, the tab comes and surprisingly, the Yorkville joint ends up being cheaper than the generic suburban hole. Thank my stars, I have no need for a 60’ lot, two car garage and a picket fence. Fekkin’ suburbia.

|

Thursday, July 29, 2004

All Right Already

The Call has been made.  Got the machine.  She hasn't phoned back yet.  *sigh*

Other than the frustration the sentiment isn't exactly right, but a Replacements reference was way overdue.  Paul Westerberg, though though unable to read or write until recently, certainly has a way with words.

Answering Machine lyrics

No matter how things pan out there will likely be no more updates on this subject for a while. 


|

Freakin' Mood

Taken from the fabulous Snobby's blog; a poetry mood matcher.  Let it be known that I put zero faith in these things and just do them for amusement/procrastination's sake.  There's no way eleven freakin' questions can generate any meaningful result, dammit.  No freakin' way.  Egad.  My result:

Aaaah... you're pining for that special person, aren't you? Here's a love poem to sigh over.

Love arm'd
 
Love in Fantastique Triumph satt,
Whilst bleeding Hearts around him flow'd,
For whom Fresh pains he did create,
And strange Tryanic power he show'd;
From thy Bright Eyes he took his fire,
Which round about, in sport he hurl'd;
But 'twas from mine he took desire,
Enough to undo the Amorous World.
From me he took his sighs and tears,
From thee his Pride and Crueltie;
From me his Languishments and Feares,
And every Killing Dart from thee;
Thus thou and I, the God have arm'd,
And sett him up a Deity;
But my poor Heart alone is harm'd,
Whilst thine the Victor is, and free.

Aphra Behn (1640 - 1689)

Damn, I mean the Girl's cute and all, and there's that Chemistry thang, but really

|

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Lump Sum

How much money would someone have to pay you today in exchange for never getting paid for working again? 

You can make money off the nest egg, how would you invest it?

What would you do with your time?



My answers:

I'm thinking about 3 million though I'd try to negotiate for 10.  I'd likely accept 2 if I could still make money playing poker.

A big chunk would go into index funds, spiders mostly.  Buy a swanky pad and invest the rest in bonds (gov't, corporate, high-yield)

Community service (habitat for humanity?), write one of the books I've got lodged in my brain (yes, it's a tight fit), play ball 5 days a week and travel.




|

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Dropping the Ball

At Radmila’s request I’ll elaborate on an ill-considered teaser I threw into the last entry. 

There’s this cute granola girl (GG) that I keep running into at various ball games or at the bar afterwards.  We’ve probably had about 15 three-minute chats as well as another that went about twenty.  All these talks have occurred amidst the chaos and extremely un-intimate environment that goes along with sporting events and group commiserations afterwards.  Regardless of the circumstances, it seems that a mutually shared vibe has developed.  On my end, this is a little surprising as GG’s not my historic “type” and I really don’t know all that much about her.

Being extremely observant my normal, oblivious self, I just recently noticed the whole vibe/chemistry thing that seems to be going on.  In normal circumstances I don’t have any huge problems seizing opportunities presented, but as I see GG and others that know both of us regularly, if there’s a chance that I’m going to make a huge ass out of myself I’d like to be sure the venture is worth the risk.  How’s that for some bass-ackward rationalization/justification?

Now for the blowing opportunities part:  Not only have I  put-off  procrastinated  wimped-out strategically delayed asking GG out, I had a golden chance handed me last week and I fumbled, multiple times. 

At the bar after last week’s games we “somehow” ended up sitting beside one another, though at different team tables.  GG left a tad on the early side, explaining that she had to be up extra-early the next day.  Some time after her departure, again with the observation skills, I noticed that she had left behind one of her possessions.

What do I do?  Hold on to it and get her phone number to arrange a chance to return it to her (and coffee perhaps)?  No, idiot that I am, I hand it off to someone else left at the bar that’s more likely to see her during the week.

A few days roll by and I’ve repressed forgotten about the missed opportunity.  In the normal course of my day I check phone messages and lo-and-behold, there is a message from GG.  I hadn’t given her my number, so this call was highly unexpected.  Momentarily my mind races with all sorts of ego building reasons why she tracked me down, but no, she’s merely concerned about her misplaced possession.  I return her call but unfortunately get her machine.  Do I leave a short message telling her to call me back perhaps leading to a productive conversation?  Again no.  On the message I give all the details I know about her missing stuff.  So, so, smart.

Yet still, I know I should could call her back to check if the information I passed on was of any help, express my concern for her misplaced stuff, offer further help and most importantly ask her out.  There was even an event going on the next night where she would have known a few of the people there, perfect.  Do I call?  No.  I drop the ball again.  Egad.

Second rambling instalment

Sunday rolls around and to make what is becoming an excessively long-winded and rambling story short, GG’s missing possession was promptly returned by the fellow I had entrusted it to.  Ball is played and with the exception of my being hurt (see yesterday) everything is going to plan.  GG stopped by my early game (to see about her stuff?) and talked a bit.  Plans were made to hook up at the bar after baseball; this seemed completely unnecessary as our teams go to the same place every week.  Unfortunately, when our separate games ended the bar’s patio was too packed with displaced smokers, myself among them, to accommodate both of our teams.  The rest of her team trundled off to the patio at the end of the block where a few of the other teams from our league congregate.  GG doesn’t go immediately though, she hangs around to exchange some pleasantries, not exclusively, though largely, with me and to see if I’d be around later.  As often as not I’m around to close the bar, so this really shouldn’t be an issue.

For various reasons things didn’t go to plan and I had to take off early.  My buddy helped me hobble down the block and we stopped by the nearby patio for combination of sympathy and good-natured ribbing from the various other players there.  Of course, I stop by and do my best to flirt a bit with GG but had to quickly take my leave.

Monday morning, I get a phone call and am offered some excellent seats for the Blue Jays game that night. All I have to do is meet at the subway platform at Yorkdale at a designated time and they’re mine, gratis.  Hmm, whom should I invite to go with me?  Hmm. 

I gather together my resolve and around noon, dial GG’s number.  No answer.  I leave a message asking her to call me back.  I hate waiting for this kind of call back.  Even worse, it’s time sensitive, if she doesn’t call or says no, will I have time to round up someone else. 

She calls right when I’m waiting on the platform waiting for the ticket drop-off.  All the time while talking to her, subways are rattling through the station, which I have now discovered to be the loudest in the system.  From what I could make out of our 5ish minute conversation she had plans that she couldn’t break and so sadly wouldn’t be able to come along.  Though, were I to get tickets again, I should call her.  Whether due to frustration induced by the noisy trains or disappointment with things not going to plan, I missed every opportunity that was presented to ask her to go out some other time.  Idiot.  The call ended with her saying something to the effect of “I hope to see you soon.” Yes, I dropped the ball.  Fuck.

Anyway, that’s where things currently sit.  I’m debating whether to wait for her to call or to seize the initiative and ring her up in a few days.  To complicate things, this week’s an off week for ball so I will likely not run into her for two weeks. 



|

Monday, July 26, 2004

Unexpected Acts of Kindness

I'm not really sure where to start.  Ahh, here will do.

The baseball team that I captain, won our second game of the season, to go with six losses.  How clutch.  How un-demoralizing.  Seriously, it's awesome.

Cute granola girl (from another team) continues to express an interest in me, no matter how many times I blow opportunities to hook up with her.  Yes, I'm an idiot.

Ahh, but the real story:  While coaching third base half way through the game, one of our players hit a rocket fast ball in my direction.  Hitting the ground, I assumed the ball would stay down and I instinctively leapt upward; right into the path of the ball.  It hit me square in the side of my left knee.  Afterwards, others described the event and claimed that the sound the ball made when it hit my knee was louder than when it came off the bat.  Due to unexpected acts of kindness it now is only sore as opposed to the swelled mass of pain that I expected.

Wish I Had A Camera:  One of my teammates helped me off the field.  He's 5'6" and I'm 6'4".  He stood on tiptoes the whole time to act as a crutch.  Apparently it was quite a sight.

ACT 1:  Seeming very concerned for me an oriental gentleman in his 60's (?) who was going around collecting empty beer bottles, came up to me on the sidelines where I convalesced and started talking to me in broken English.  His English was so bad I tried out my meager Cantonese and asked him if he spoke it.  Mistake.  My Cantonese is adequate for working in a casino (i.e bitching, gambling and girls) but isn't really practical anywhere else.  After this he refused to speak to any English and wanted to talk my ear off, not that I could understand much.  Anyhoo, he went home and returned in about ten minutes with a Chinese herbal remedy (Eucalyptus oil, I think) and spent about ten minutes applying it and massaging it in.  Damn it hurt and I'm unsure whether it worked or not but it was really terribly kind and touching.

ACT 2:  Again, on the sidelines, a young girl (11?, I'm terrible with ages) comes up to me and offers a rectangular object wrapped in a checked terry cloth.  Odd.  It turns out to be an ice pack, offered by her family who watches our games from their front porch.  So unexpected.  It certainly did a lot to reduce the swelling, and reaffirm my love for the citizens of Toronto.  I'm touched.

I'm sure there was something else I had to bring up but I can't recall what it was at the moment.  I blame it on all the anesthetic (beer) that I've taken.

Perhaps I'll clarify tomorrow.  Perhaps not.

Happy Monday.  May unexpected acts of kindness befall you all.  No injury required.

|

Friday, July 23, 2004

Advice

I really should have this figured out by now, but I don't and it's really bugging me, so I'm asking for your opinion on what is the best way to deal with this:

Situation: Friend has a Significant Other (SO) who in many respects is great. SO is bright, fun and supportive but prone to commit glaringly rude social faux pas. Apparently SO's breaches in decorum, ettiquette and blatant rudeness are universally applied, so I don't think the behaviour is aimed at me (it's more the indiscriminate grenade approach than the sniper's rifle). In fact, SO and I usually get along quite well, provided Friend isn't around.

As a small example, when SO and Friend are together sometimes SO's universe will contract to include just the two of them and SO will talk to Friend as if no one else is there; for everyone else around it's like getting the silent treatment. This also occurs sometimes when group decisions are being made; a telling demonstration of how no one else's opinion matters.

To make matters a little more difficult Friend is usually my sounding board and my outlet to vent. When I have made the mistake and fell into old habits my bitching about SO has not gone over well, at all.

Options:
a) Suck It Up - Never being one to hold my tongue I hate this one.
b) Fight It Out - Let the chips fall where they may. Sooo tempting.
c) Get a New Sounding Board - Vent the resentment elswhere. May be combined with option 1
d) See Friend without SO - Hard to do, likely reduce friendship to bi-annual get togethers.
e) Distance Yourself - Not fun. But under consideration.
f) Other:__________

|

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Light-en Up

Canadian: Permissive, tolerant and humourless

Although not a user of the wacky tabaccy, I'm very pleased to see that the Martin government is planning to reintroduce legislation to decriminalize marijuana.  It's ludicrous to burden users with criminal records if caught, much less to actually imprison them.  Legalize it entirely.  Can you imagine the tax revenues it could bring in?

The Face of Cruelty; Image Hosted by ImageShack.us  Again, political correctness has become a euphemism for humourlessness.  Apparently, feeding dogs biscuits that vaguely resemble postal carriers is insensitive and cruel.  Well, at least in Canada.    Take a look at the biscuit; a vaguely anthropomorphic shape with MAIL written across the "torso".  It's not like you are training your dog to attack mailmen mailpeople postal carriers.  The treats are made and distributed in the US, where there have been no complaints. 

No word yet about the cat shaped biscuits that the company also produces.  I guess cat owners aren't as well organized. 

|

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

New Toys

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us After months and months of almost picking it up I finally started The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon.  Thus far (120 pages or so) it is pretty amazing, both the writing and the fact that I finally picked it up.
 
I’m so far behind the curve on this blogging tech stuff you guys have probably already found one, but this toy is new to me:  IP locater.  No longer just EDT, you actually get a city, most of the time.  So cool.  I know, I know, small things…
 
I’ve been fooling around with the customizable radio station that Yahoo! Offers under the Launch name.  In essence, you rate the songs as you go along and the site learns about your preferences and adapts.  So far it’s pretty sweet; not only are the tunes good but I’m hearing new stuff that I like.  Yes new stuff, yay!
 
Examples of some of the cool bands:
From Bubblegum to Sky – odd, 60’s bubblegum crossed w/ early 70’s guitars?
The Postal Service – very Grandaddy-esque
The Magnetic Fields - Damn funny, in a bitter, bitter way.  check out some of their lyrics especially I Don't Believe You.  Sadly it's not nearly as great on paper as it is sung. 

|

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Mix It Up

Well, I’ve definitely ranted, raved, bitched and moaned enough lately.  Time for post where my irascibility and reluctance to edit won’t be so obvious.
 
To change the tone a bit I offer a recipe has that has gone over really well at various pot-lucks lately.
 
Irascible’s Really Simple Salsa
 
2 lg tomatoes cut into 1/4" cubes
1 med onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (don't go overboard here)
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 tsps finely chopped jalapeno
 
Mix well and let sit in the fridge for 1 hr to let the flavours mingle.
 
You can also improvise with all sorts of other ingredients (e.g. black beans, avocado, corn)
 
Enjoy.

|

Monday, July 19, 2004

Usury

While the vast majority of my expenses are in Canadian dollars lately a good deal of my income is denominated in US funds.  Needless to say I’m not entirely pleased with the recent appreciation of the Canadian dollar and the corresponding drop in income for me.   I’ve never before had to be all that concerned with exchange rates and the heinous fees the banks are charging through differences in the spread between what they buy and sell foreign currencies. 
 
Using Tuesday’s rates for $100 US I am pleased to announce Canadian Awards for Usurious Banking (FX category):
 
Gold:  Royal Bank of Canada
Sell: 132.59
Buy: 128.84
Spread: a whopping $3.65 Can
*offers better rates if you exchange amounts greater than $100K.  Gee, thanks.
 
Silver:  ScotiaBank
Sell:  132.9
Buy:  128.9
Spread:  $3.40
 
Bronze:  TD (Borderless Account)
Sell:  131.94
Buy:  129.06
Spread:  $2.88
 
Great name for the borderless account eh?  Almost makes you feel like you’re not getting ripped off.
 
 
Good old user friendly BMO, doesn’t even post its FX rates unless you login to their investor site.  They do provide a calculator that provides FX rates at a rate that bares no relation to reality.  Great. Thanks.  Hence I am pleased to also announce Gold Medal for Website Idiocy (FX category):  BMO.  There are no other medals in this category as the other banks are very upfront about the rates of their blatant theft.
 
Looking outside the banks there are exchange houses like Accu-Rate
Sell:  131.9
Buy:  130.3
Spread:  $1.60
 
Damn, comparatively that’s cheap.  If they can do it for so little why are the banks generally using a spread that’s twice as large?  I’m going to have to check them out.  I don’t look forward to processing times and other inconveniences .  Who knows they may have user fees hidden everywhere.

If anyone knows a better method of changing $US to $Can chime in and help me out.

|

Overzealous

The Stewart case has come up numerous times over the weekend. The best arguement for her imprisonment that I heard basically comes down to this:

-She was convicted of crimes relating to her telling untruths to the authorities.
-She should not be given special treatment and hence be treated like anyone else so convicted.
-Giving her the minimum sentence for her crime was a gift.

Sounds pretty tight. Right?

But was she treated equally throughout the process? Does everyone who lies to police get prosecuted? I have no evidence but my gut tells me no. If we're so concerned with treating people equally shouldn't this also be the case when selecting who is prosecuted?

Is this kind of overzealous prosecution happening in the Danny Heatley case as well? Yes, the passenger died while he was recklessly speeding. Is a charge of vehicular homicide appropriate though? If they charged every male in their early twenties who speeds with attempted murder so many young men would be imprisoned that Adam Sandler would be the funniest fork-lift driver at Costco.

|

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Schadenfreude

Martha Stewart’s sentencing hearing starts Friday morning.  To put it mildly, I am not a fan of hers or of any TV shows, magazines etc. that are put out by her Omnimedia Enterprises.  All the crap she puts out makes keeping up with the Joneses that much harder.  Why anyone feels the need to keep up with these “Joneses” I don’t have the faintest idea.   Who are they anyway?  Who are they to try and set standards for me?  For all I care they can go to hell.  Bastards. 
 
But I digress.
 
Martha has always pissed me off.  I Image Hosted by ImageShack.usmean who the hell needs homemade toilet paper made from  rose petals or napkin rings painstakingly inlaid with pieces of vintage glass selectively acquired at an oh-so-quaint Westchester flea market so that the rings circumferences resemble Faberge eggs?  While I’m at it who needs napkin rings anyway?  What the hell are they for?  Fold your damn napkins if you need to be fussy.  Simple.  Really, you have better things to do with your time.
 
Again with the digression.
 
Given, Martha did some naughty stuff.  A little insider trading and a few lies here and there.  Yeah, it’s not good, but do we really need to incarcerate her?  Why, to serve as a deterrent by setting an example?  Right.  If she goes to jail it will be to show the “little guy” that everyone is accountable.  No wait, that’s too kind;  it will be to appease the pettiness of the screaming masses who like to see the wealthy and famous fall on hard times.  Why else would her case get so much press?  Fine her heavily and let her go; I don’t need to see her behind bars to feel any better about myself.  Sending her to jail is NOT a good thing. 
 



Seriously, for the most part above I was making an attempt at humour.
 
I’m not a lawyer but let’s examine the established sentencing guidelines:
 
Incapacitation – Remove the offender to protect society:  Nope this doesn’t really apply in the Stewart case
 
Rehabilitation – Is prison necessary to achieve this?  Further, does prison ever rehabilitate?
 
Deterrence – Specific:  If severe enough will a heavy fine plus community service not deter Martha from doing this again?  General:  Will all the billionaire domestic mavens/media barons ruin society if Martha is not given jail time – give me a break.

Retribution –Why is a stiff fine and community service insufficient? Ah, petty vengeance; the meat of the matter. 


|

Not just irascible, grumpy too

Today I am just running out of polite ways to ask, “how is that relevant?”, “how is this pertinent in any way?” and “Why the fuck are you bothering me with this?” Everything seems out of context or when tenuously connected to the subject at hand, blown entirely out of proportion. My normal eye rolling has been replaced by the overwhelming need to massage out the tension building on my forehead.

As it seems to be every conversation I’ve had today, it’s more likely that I’m just a tad more testy than usual. Damn, I hope that pot of coffee has finished brewing.



I hope I’m not speaking too soon, but it seems the stupid pills in everyone’s coffee this morning must be wearing off – that or word got out and I’m being given a wide berth. Whatever the reason the afternoon is going much smoother.

If Dilbert-like stories are your thing check out Cubichell

|

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Looking Up

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Gotta love the G&M's selection of picture on the front page that points to the article Blair meant well, intelligence probe finds.

Why this pic? What he looking at? Perhaps the heavens, in thanks now that his faithfulness to the cause has been (somewhat)justified by an independent commission?

Do you see the halo too?





|

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Work Parody

One of my guilt-ridden indulgences over the winter was watching “The Apprentice”. A new season is set to air following the Olympics and Donald Trump is working the circuit doing what he does best, promoting himself and “his” product. Check out the G&M article here. Normally egomaniacal, relentlessly self-promoting, name-dropping blowhards really piss me off, but Trump takes this behaviour to such a level that he becomes a parody of himself. Somehow this makes it all forgivable and even enjoyable to witness.

Due to the huge success of the Apprentice, ABC is showing its typical innovative genius (remember Cop Rock?) and is producing a knock-off. The show is titled The Benefactor and has dot com billionaire Mark Cuban at the helm. Trump, while out hocking the new season of his show takes the opportunity to take a pot shot at Cuban, disparaging the performance of the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban’s team and favourite hobby. If somehow I were to come into mega-bucks I would much more likely emulate Cuban (hmm, buying the Blue Jays, now that would be fun) than Trump. Though I certainly wouldn’t dress as shabbily (either more or less so – the jersey and white sneaker look just doesn’t appeal to me). The reason why either of them do this, pursuing fame for fame’s sake, eludes me entirely.

Without Omarosa, who I just loved to loathe, I’m unsure that either show will interest me the way the original did. I’ll be buying extra videocassettes though, just in case.

|

Blather

Damn, when did I become so long winded. When I started blogging I imagined short, maybe even terse entries. Egad, I may need a new template.

Any suggestions?

|

Monday, July 12, 2004

Career Track

By trade my brother, Straight-Laced, is an investment banker. With the exception of being nice he meshes well with the Wall St. stereotype; type A, overachieving, anal-retentive, workhorse (he disputes only the retentive part). Recently he’s come to realize that the financial remuneration that the Career Track offers is not enough to compensate for the other demands it puts on his life (i.e. 12+ hr days, 7 day workweeks). At one point he was thinking of leaving the Track entirely to take up something entirely new like teaching. I’m puzzled why it took him so long, as he’s just not materialistic. My guess is that he has plugged away at the Career Track because it’s hard to get into and hard to do.

Almost a year ago Straight-Laced made the decision to take a small detour from the Career Track and left New York to take a job at a 2nd tier firm in the banking backwater of Toronto. The new job offered reasonable hours (weekends off!) and proximity to family and friends. Quite surprisingly everything that was promised to him was delivered and his choice seemed to be panning out. Unfortunately, stability was not in the cards, his firm was soon bought out and another job change likely had to be made by the end of the merger.

During the lengthy merger process between firms, Straight-Laced started a merger of his own and got engaged to a fantastic girl that he had met while previously working in NY. Almost every weekend (weekends off!) either he was flying to NY or she was coming up here. Although she works for an offshoot of a Canadian firm, a transfer wasn’t workable so my brother started looking for work back on Wall St. All that he seemed to be offered were jobs back on the Career Track, one of which he eventually accepted and he moved back to NY today.

Even though Straight-Laced and his fiancé (I’m still not used to writing or saying that) will be living together, I wonder if they will see any more of each other than they did while living in different cities. Here’s hoping it works out and that the Career Track doesn't derail the more important aspects of life.

|

Friday, July 09, 2004

Marker

It’s my birthday today.

Birthday’s used to be such a big deal; now having gone through mine thirty-odd times it has really lost its lustre. If I’m not careful I’ll take hours ruminating about aging, spending far too much time in front of the mirror counting wrinkles and worrying that my hair is migrating from the top of my head to other less desirable locales. Sure birthday celebrations still provide great opportunities to hook up with friends and get free drinks but they no longer give that focused on me, me, me, feeling I got when I was younger.

Having a summer birthday sure sucked when I was a kid. Sure, you didn’t have to go to school or anything but when it was time for your party you never knew who was going to be up at the cottage or away on family vacation. Not that I have any sob stories to tell; at least not any that I haven’t blocked out.

On the good side, I like how as one gets older you can stretch out festivities. If timed right, you can get in a full week of special treatment. Festivities began in a small way last night, will ramp up tonight, likely a recovery day tomorrow and full-on again Sunday. Sadly, I’m old enough now that that’s about all I can take. Five years ago I would have definitely taken advantage of the full week. Gotta go examine my greying temples now.

Have a good weekend.

|

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Protectionist Pandering

I’m conflicted about the selection of John Edwards as the Vice-Presidential nominee for the Democrats. On the plus side his charisma has already given the Democrats a big bounce in the polls that will hopefully carry through into the November elections and lead to a defeat of the Dubya Republicans. On the negative side a lot of Edwards’ success during the primaries can be attributed to his stance on jobs, in particular “offshoring” to countries like China and India. In my view it would be a sad thing if protectionism, a knee-jerk pandering to the ill informed, becomes a staple of the Democratic platform.

The following are excerpts from “The great hollowing-out myth” from the February 21st, 2004 edition of The Economist, at a time when Kerry’s nomination was not guaranteed. Unfortunately, unless you are a subscriber it is unavailable on-line so I typed some out for you.

“Outsourcing (or “offshoring”) has been going on for centuries, but still accounts for a tiny proportion of the jobs constantly being created and destroyed within America’s economy. Even at the best of times, the American economy has a tremendous rate of “churn” – over 2m jobs a month. In all, the process creates many more jobs than it destroys: 24m more during the 1990s. The process allocates resources – money and people – to where they can be most productive, helped by competition including from outsourcing, that lowers prices. In the long run, higher productivity is the only way to create higher standards of living across an economy.”

“…most Chinese imports are of consumer goods, competing with imports from other poor countries, whereas America’s manufacturers are chiefly capital goods. Even at their peak in 2001, the number of all “trade-related” layoffs represented a mere 0.6% of American unemployment.
As for the Indian threat, “offshoring” is certainly having an effect on some white-collar jobs that heave hitherto been safe from foreign competition. But how big is it, really? The best-known report, by Forrester Research, a consultancy, guesses that 3.3m American service-industry jobs will have gone overseas by 2015 – barely noticeable when you think about the 7m-8m lost every quarter through job-churning.”

“…There is another side to the ledger. Instead of focusing on jobs lost to the globalization of IT… (look) at globalization’s power to reduce prices and so help spread new technology, new practices and job-creating investment through the economy.
…(take) the example of cheaper IT hardware, one of the main aspects of globalization in the 1990s. Most of the drop in prices for PCs, mainframes and so on was caused by the relentless advance of technology… …was responsible for 10-30% of the fall in hardware prices. These lower prices led to higher American productivity growth and added $230 billion of extra GDP between 1995 and 2002, equivalent to an extra 0.3 percentage points of growth a year.”

“Yes, individuals will be hurt (by offshoring) and the focus of public policy should be directed towards providing a safety net for them, as well as ensuring that Americans have education to match the new jobs being created. By contrast, regarding globalization as the enemy, as Mr Edwards does often and Messrs Kerry and Bush both do by default, is a much greater threat to America’s economic health than any Indian software programmer.”


In typical Economist fashion the article is accompanied by a wry photograph. In this case it is a non-threatening south-asian looking woman with a telepone headset on; the caption: Tremble Palo Alto, tremble.

I detest Edwards' sort of pandering – pressing the emotional buttons on issues that should be dealt with rationally. Here's hoping the Democratic ticket can rise above it.

|

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Who me, Irascible?

I’ve been thinking of posting this for a while. It was almost my 2nd post but the idea seemed to lose relevance as the days went on but due to recent posts by Snobby and Radmila I thought I’d throw it up.

Days before the Euro Cup started I received an unrequested mass invitation to join a pool. I know 4 of the others on the list and may or may not have met a few of the others. I hadn't checked my email in a while and so was reading all the emails at once.

The email thread:

From: vaguely.euro.name@whatever
Sent: Monday, June 07, 2004 2:17 PM
To: irascibles.bud@generic.com; IRASCIBLE; No.idea@itfirm.ca; Quebecer?@huh.ca; apparently.welsh@yetanotheritfirm.com; Fem.poss.brit; couldbeanything@it.com; Interderminate.ancestry@multinational.com; Fem.It.name@pych.ca; shrug@ispconglomerate.com;
AnItalianname@blah.ca; Poncey.quebecer@civilservice.ca; mybud’sgal@generic.ca; nominallyscottishchick@whatever.ca
Subject: Announcing: the Euro 2004 Pool!

Rules and scoring system are described.

Don't know who to pick (and who does, really)? Assuming you are of European descent, might I suggest selecting the country of your ancestors, unless you come from one of those loser countries
that didn't make Euro 2004, in which case might I suggest selecting the countries you would most like to visit, or have the best tasting food, or the best looking women. All of these strategies have been proven to just as successful as listening to those half-witted soccer "experts".

Can you guess what’s going to happen?



From: AnItalianname@blah.ca [mailto:AnItalianname@blah.ca]
Sent: Monday, June 07, 2004 3:08
To: Whoeverthesearch&replacedidn’tworkfor@whatever.ca
Cc: mailing list

Subject: RE: Announcing: the Euro 2004 Pool!

I'm in, only if we burn a few countries flags.........

Some Italianname

Oh wee. We’re off to a fun start……


From: apparentlywelsh@yetanotheritfirm.com;
Sent: 07/06/2004 03:15
To: mailing list

Let's Italianname, let's start with Italy.

Apparently Welsh

Tit for tat. OK by me.


From: AnItalianname@blah.ca [mailto:AnItalianname@blah.ca]
Sent: Monday, June 07, 2004 3:22
To: apparentlywelsh@yetanotheritfirm.com
Cc: mailinglist

I was hoping we'd start with the English......

Some Italianname

Ooh! Now that’s some clever reparte.


From: apparentlywelsh@yetanotheritfirm.com
To:
CC: mailing list
Sadly Wales was not allowed to field a team AGAIN! Damn English imperialists! I'm with you Some Itailianname! Burn the Cross of St. George!
BURN HER!

Appy Welsh

The cleverness just doesn’t stop.


From: nominallyscottishchick@whatever.ca 07/06/2004 04:34
To: apparentlywelsh@yetanotheritfirm.com, AnItalianname@blah.ca
cc: mailing list

I feel your pain, apparentlywelsh. On behalf of all Scots, add me to that list.

Nominally Scottish

How she got appointed spokesperson for the Scots I'll never know; it must be a list of those approaching braindeath.


From: AnItalianname@blah.ca
To: nominallyscottishchick@whatever.ca
Cc: mailing list
Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 7:59 AM

great! so we are all in to burn the flag of those hooligans!

Some Italianname

Whether due to insufficient caffeine or just my inherent irascibility I have to weigh in.


From: IRASCIBLE
Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 10:09
To: nominallyscottishchick@whatever.ca; AnItalianname@blah.ca
Cc: mailing list

Are flag burning and singling out a nation for your anathema supposed to be funny or simply distasteful?

IRASCIBLE


Two more emails were sent out somewhat defusing my comment. And no, I didn't join the pool.

It was later suggested to me that perhaps I had over-reacted as this was normal dialogue between a number of the members of the list.

Horseshit.

It's all about context and knowing your audience; if you plan on making off colour comments that you somehow pass as humour amongst friends don't broadcast them indiscriminately.

|

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Bailey, George Bailey

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Driving around the other day I passed George Bailey Public School. Although likely not named after the character played by Jimmy Stewart in Capra’s classic schmaltz fest “It’s A Wonderful Life” I can’t help but make the association. Incongruous with this connection, the building is cold and unapproachable in appearance, constructed in the typical of blank-faced brick wall style popular in the early 70’s.

Being a curious fellow and at times dedicated procrastinator, I conduct a search on the net when I get home and surprisingly find this. Who knows maybe the school was named because of the film.

|

Monday, July 05, 2004

Softball vs. Soccer vs. Thunderstorm

For some reason Torontonians who play baseball could care less about soccer. Likely as children they had to choose which summer sport they would participate in to the exclusion of the other. Or it could be that soccer is deadly dull. Or both.

Anyhoo, I’m out playing baseball Sunday while the Final Game of Euro 2004 is being contested. Being mere blocks away from Little Portugal my only concern about the Final is that if the Portuguese win their celebrations may prove to be an irritant. As someone who lived on College St. the last time Brazil won the World Cup, I know what I’m talking about. More than just the senseless honking of car horns, which is irritating enough, I have another game to play later right in the heart of Little Portugal. There's no doubt that if the Portuguese win that the park will be overrun by a riotous celebration, causing the cancellation of MY game. Needless to say because of this I’m pulling for Greece.

As the afternoon progresses the lack of obnoxious, blaring car horns becomes synonymous with the sweet sound of Greek victory. Sweet, at least when you are far enough away from Greektown on the Danforth.

Now that my second game is going ahead, I trundled over to the ball field in Little Portugal. Predictably, the area was subdued and downcast faces were easily found. Saddest of all was the vendor, who expecting a Portuguese victory had painted his face and set up an elaborate speaker system playing happy Euro-pop.

Playing ball with an up-tempo beat in the background is fine, but sadly the weather did not cooperate. The skies opened up and drenched both teams, mocking our futile effort to shelter ourselves under the canopies of nearby trees. As well as soaking us, the field became so saturated with water the game had to be called off.

After at the bar while trying to enjoy a beer in dripping uniforms we wondered how the vendor, his painted face and his bouncy music made out. Ah, if only I had a waterproof camera and made a side trip. Poor guy.

I wonder how much the downpour put a damp-er (sorry) on the celebrations in Greektown.




P.S. As I’ve previously noted, I really don’t get this whole nationalism deal. Even stranger to me is when patriotism is distanced by time, geography and generations. Odd.

|

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Taking Stock

After a couple of busy days I've got nothing to do today except read the paper, drink coffee, catch up on a chore or two and do a small favour for my father. Having studied business, my dad wants me to look over this stock evaluation system he is considering subscribing to.

For as long as I can remember my father has been obsessed with the stock market. Before I could see above the countertops I remember him talking about Fort Norman, a speculative mining firm in the NWT. My parents still love recounting the story of when as a toddler I entered the room and tried to impress them with my newly acquired ability to recite the numbers one to ten. Holding my head high with pride I began: "one, two, three, Fort Norman." Of course they then break out in giggles.

More important to me was the weekly battle for the television on Friday nights. When I was a child we only had one television and a number of my favourite shows always seemed to air at the same time as my father's investment shows. Damn that Louis Rukeyser and his pun filled commentary, he interfered with The Six Million Dollar Man. Bastard. Now writing this, I recall that when I misbehaved my parent's favourite punishment for me was making me miss my favourite Friday shows. Killing two birds with one stone perhaps?

Over the years my father's investing has earned him a decent return, but not anything significant relative to the overall gains in the market. He must realize that all the time and study he puts into researching stocks really doesn't generate a commensurate return for him. But hey, everyone has got to have a hobby. Lately he has become interested in using technical analysis as a method of evaluating stocks.

Let me give you a very brief overview of technical analysis. Like the ancients who looked at the stars and thought the Big Dipper looked like a bear, you basically look at the charts of a stock's past performance until you find patterns (or are dizzy). Then you somehow take a leap of faith and predict that these patterns will reoccur (if dizzy, just select some random section of the chart). People actually get paid good money to develop rationalizations for this crap. They are the new (Commerce) Court Astrologers. Egad.

My absolute favourite example of the worthlessness of technical analysis was the charting "expert" they had on MSNBC. A girl cut from the same cloth that weather-girls come from would stand in front of a full-screen stock chart. If the line was a little lower on the left than on the right she would motion along its path and in a perky voice announce deep insights like "as you can see ABC is charting UP!" Yeah. Thanks.

In my (not-so-humble) opinion, the only way for a typical investor to systematically "beat" the market is to have (often inside) information that others do not. If you have this and are on the proper side of the law, go crazy, if not you likely should stick to index funds. For a rationale very similar to mine check out this.

I hope that this stock evaluation program I am looking over doesn't contain too much hocus-pocus mumbo-jumbo; the resultant head shaking and eye rolling might dampen my lazy, sunny day.

Have a good weekend.

|

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Happy Canada Day

I know it is some sort of tribal instinct, but I don’t really get this whole nationalism thing. Don’t misunderstand, I’m happy to be associated with a country that is known for its tolerance, multiculturalism, universal healthcare etc. and its citizens that share these values. But do I really have anything to do with Canada being the tolerant, humane nation it is? I vote and pay taxes, so I guess about 1/30,000,000th. Not a ratio I feel transfers much credit to me.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

If there is anything that our national credo of tolerance should be teaching us it is that people are created equally. This should include nationality. Why should citizenship confer any extra merit to a person? Perhaps Charter of Rights and Freedoms Day would be better to celebrate.

I don’t so much feel proud to be Canadian as just plain lucky.

|