Thursday, July 17, 2008

Canadians shouldn't be so smug

Interesting, isn't it, how certain Canadian publications are commenting on the American economic, dare I say, crisis, yet major economists are taking every crumb of passably good news to say that Canadians won't suffer the same fate. But, will it?

First, the good news: the government saw the writing on the wall and put an end to no money down, 40 year amortization mortgages, thus putting constraints on a lucrative, yet higher-risk segment of the mortgage market. Does this avert a U.S. type housing-crisis in Canada? Well, probably not, but it's a solid step toward limiting the possible damage.

Supposedly, Canada's economy rose 0.8% at the latest outlook. However, this increase was largely buoyed by consumer spending. Have we not learned that an economy buoyed by consumer spending is fools gold? Consumers are spending more, yes, largely because 1) it's the summer and people are getting outside more, and 2) shit is more expensive. More expensive shit = more money spent. When people run out of money, these gains will be evaporated, and yes, they will run out of money. That's what happens during times of rampant inflation when you have to spend more just to stay where you're at.

Other danger signs: remember, it's never different, and history ends up repeating itself. I've repeatedly stated to my friends that we're in 1928 right now...just before the Great Depression. Heading into the Great Depression, Canada had the world's fastest growing economy, largely through our exports to the US. However, people thought the boom times would never end, and extended their credit to afford to increase their standard of living. When the US, also tapped out, were unable to buy Canadian resources and manufactured goods, the economy sank into a tailspin.

Now, things needed to play out in the States first for the ripple effect to hit Canada, and I can imagine the Canadians of the 20s looking pretty smug too. But after the dust settled, Canada actually suffered MORE under the Great Depression than the US did. Eighty years later, and in spite of an increasingly globalized world, we are staring the exact same problem in the face. Ontario is already starting to suffer, and this will continue for the next few years, as people downsize houses, or hold on to their vehicles a little longer, or can't afford good cuts of meat.

There are differences, however, between then and now, which will allow Canadians to come out of this situation relatively well. First, we have been using our economic boom times to aggressively pay down national debt. Our government, if need be, has the resources available to massively invest in make-work and infrastructure projects. The timing couldn't be any more fortunate, as much of our infrastructure is at least 40 years old and is sorely in need of renewal. Also, personal debt in Canada is lower than in the US. This means that if the financial situation gets tough in Canada, people will have a few more options in front of them.

That said, we are just at the start of a very ugly chain reaction. Banks and manufacturers going out of business and laying off employees, contributing to less consumer spending, which means businesses make less, lay off employees, who in turn spend less and force further layoffs, etc. Until citizens, corporations and governments can get this situation under control, it's only going to continue.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Living the Dream

One of my friends is in a band. It's a pretty good band. He's in it with another guy I know, and two other guys who I don't know. I used to jam with them a bit on weekends, and he told me that he wanted to see if he could actually make this work. And kudos to him, he's going and doing it.

His band, the Insurgentlemen, put out their debut CD, Cement, a few months ago. And even though I've listened to the CD, and it sounds good, and they've played a few shows, it was still pretty surreal seeing their CD on Amazon and iTunes.

Can't say that I'm not a tad envious, but I know that these guys aren't just partying it up, they're working very hard at their craft and I'm happy that they're catching a few breaks and building up a following.

If you make it big boys, make sure to think of me while you're having mad groupie love.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'm sure this is a great metaphor for something...

Two people are walking towards a bus stop. They both are in a hurry to get home because they're running a few minutes late and they promised their significant other/child/parent a nice evening outing. The bus whips by them before they get to the bus stop, and picks up a few people at the stop, then takes off quickly because it's behind schedule, leaving our subjects a few steps behind.

Person #1 waves his arms incredulously, as if it's impossible the bus driver couldn't obviously see that he wanted to get on the bus. He rages internally about how he'll be late, his evening will be ruined, how people will be upset with him, how life isn't fair, how this always happens to him, and why can't he ever get lucky. He gives the bus the finger and sullenly puts his head down and pouts at the bus stop.

Person #2 puts his head down and starts running after the bus. He figures he might as well give it a shot, he's late anyway and he's got nothing to lose. Besides, he wasn't at the bus stop yet, and the bus was, according to his watch, a little behind schedule anyway. And this'll be a good way to work off the extra donut he ate over lunchtime.

The next bus stop is just past some stop lights a bit further ahead. Person #2 looks up and notices the light has gone red and the bus is stopped behind it. If he can only get to the stop lights before they turn green, he'll be able to get to the bus stop on the other side and hop on. Person #1 mumbles to himself about the lack of courtesy of city bus drivers and kicks at the dirt.

The light turns green, and Person #2 never has to break stride and runs clear across the intersection to the bus stop, hopping on the bus. Person #1 finally looks up, sees what's happening, and starts sprinting like a madman towards the bus. But the light at the intersection goes red, and he has to stop, looking up and seeing the bus heading off into the distance. There will be no catching it now. Person #1 screams obscenities, and since he exerted himself and didn't get any further (well, maybe a half-block), he's even angrier than before.

Person #1 gets home 20 minutes late and in a bad mood. He already considers that his nice evening is ruined. He barks at his family, is rude to the waiter at the restaurant, doesn't talk to his date, and goes to bed regretful about how he intended on having a nice evening, but the stupid bus driver ruined it all.

Person #2 gets home on time and energized because his gamble to run after the bus paid off. He tells the story of his trip home to his family, who are flattered by the fact that he went to such an effort to make sure the evening took place as planned. Everyone enjoys their dinner, and go home, deciding that they don't want their evening to end just yet, and stop by the movie store to pick up a rental and some popcorn. Laughter is shared by all, and all go to bed happy.

What have we learned?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Midnight insomniac posting marathon

Got a lot of crap floating around in my brain tonight, apparently. Feeling your eyelids closing and your brain moving a million miles an hour at the same time is never a good feeling.

I wanted to think of a clever anecdote to write tonight, but none seem to be coming to me. I just reread some of my archive and saw just how frankly I laid my life out over the Internet. Pretty crazy.

The other night, I was thinking of blog ideas and realized that I was starting to have a bit of trouble remembering my university days clearly. Then I realized that all that stuff - the craziest of it, anyway - happened over 10 years ago. Fuck. Even my commune days are getting tougher to remember.

Friday, April 25, 2008 more?

Oh sure, I'll keep posting under this handle. Though I was thinking of renaming myself the Sheepleherder. How cool would that be?

It's more my lot in life. In a matter of months, I may have to drop the "2B" off my name to remain honest. It seems like I have an inside track on a couple of executive jobs, so odds are I'll come away with at least one offer. I've scored well on the exams (in the "these scores are practically unheard of" range), which is very important, because it was necessary to counter my lack of actual working experience.

The one job would be the coolest. 15 minute drive from home means I get to both pick up and drop off B at daycare, and my wife can work whatever schedule she likes. Much better home life that way. W00t.

Someone else's still a problem

Quick word on the rice shortage, which somehow has become my new interest as far as planetary doom is concerned, ahead of the housing bust, devaluation of the US dollar and impending stock market implosion.

I wish I could find this quote I read yesterday, but some important guy said that we have been dipping into our rice reserves for 8 of the last 9 years, that is, that we've been overconsuming rice for at least 80 percent of the last decade. And people somewhere knew this? And no one made a fuss about it until now???

The more I look objectively at what goes on around me, the more I notice that somewhere in the last few generations, humanity lost the ability to think and plan collectively. I don't know that we were ever really able to before then, but it sure seemed that way. Now, everyone is looking to get rich quick, drive a nice car, have a huge house in the burbs, and nuts to the other guy. Sure, I think that way too, but at least I draw the line somewhere before "nuts to the other guy". Rice? Wheat? Corn? It's ok, it'll magically come up from somewhere, even though more land is being used to support our housing addiction, fewer people are farming, the world's population is growing, our climate is (for whatever reason) changing, and more people are eating meat, which takes a lot of rice, wheat and corn to raise. But it'll magically be ok. Of course it will.

I'm not asking for pity or looking for handouts. I've taken care of myself and my family, so food can stand to get more expensive and I'll be fine. But I find the idea of food riots and people eating dirt to survive pretty unsettling in this day and age, and nobody (me included) seems to have any idea how bad it's going to get.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Don't Believe Everything You Hear...

So, inflation is stable in Canada, or at least, so reports the media.

But why, then, am I now $3 for a loaf of bread, or $1.15 a litre for gas? And I haven't really noticed anything else get particularly cheaper except for the price of cars, and I don't buy a car every week.

Again, I'm not telling you what to think, I'm just telling you to THINK. Take a look at what is happening. Bear Stearns claimed all is well last week, and is now being picked up off the scrap heap. Hard decisions around the world will have to be made regarding climate change, the financial crisis, demographic shifts, and the transfer of power from the US to several smaller powers, which we believe will include China and India, but really, next to nothing is known at this point, because we're entering uncharted territory. I certainly don't expect people in power to be up front with us, because these decisions will be hard and will not guarantee success. Nobody wants egg on their face, so the name of the game will be denial and misdirection until hopefully, something positive happens that can be reported.

Read the papers, watch the news, read the blogs. But then, after you've done that, look at the facts and make up your own mind.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"She Had A Hard Life..."

So...been a while. Brandon's getting older and is turning my previously scheduled life into a train wreck, and what with a new job and such, blogging unfortunately takes low priority. Shame.

However, I saw two unrelated newspaper articles that deserved comment.

1) Lady in Sudbury kidnaps a baby. Relative asks for forgiveness, saying "she had a hard life...".

2) Newspaper columnist has grade school bully attempt to befriend her on Facebook. Not only refuses friendship, but sees fit to send an insulting message back to said bully, followed by further insults and all of a sudden, I look around, and everyone's back in grade school again.

These two articles, to me, epitomize the worst of our victim society. Look, EVERYONE has had a hard life. Sure, what I consider "hard" and what others consider "hard" are in the eyes of the beholder, I don't think you'll find a huge percentage of people who say their lives have been roses the whole time. The easiest way to get attention, is to get people to feel sorry for you. Case in point: what's the first thing you do when you hear someone's sob story? The first instinct, usually, is to try to tell a bigger sob story. I do it, even though I don't intend to. If you don't have that instinct, kudos to you.

"Having a hard life" is not an excuse to kidnap babies, set fire to things, exact revenge on your tormentors, etc. "Having a hard life" should give the motivation required to escape the socioeconomic barriers imposed upon you at birth. Everyone has it in them to rise above their personal situation and grow. Some situations are more difficult than others, but with hard work and dedication, all your dreams might not come true, but you'll certainly end up in a better place than where you started. And isn't that all that anyone really has the right to ask for?

On the subject of bullies: yeah, I was bullied as a kid. Not as badly as kids get it nowadays, but I got roughed up a bit. And I got made fun of because I was gawky and smart. Hell, even some of my teachers joined the fun at my expense. But if any of those people were to try to get into contact with me today, would I begrudge them? Absolutely not. I believe that it's the cumulative amount of our life experiences that make us who we are, and as I've said before, since I really like who I am now and where I'm at, I therefore have to be grateful for everything that's happened to me to get me to this point, for better or for worse.

Being an adult and still harbouring grudges against people who wronged you during school, which amounts to a lifetime ago, is just sad. It's a waste of precious energy and no good can come of it. You end up just reliving all of that pain over and over again, with no way to resolve it or change the past. The idea isn't to take all those negative feelings and bury them, because that isn't any better. The idea is to accept your past and acknowledge that it can't be changed. Then, even if you never see your bullies again, you have to forgive them. Not in person, but within your heart. You have to forgive, and thank them for giving you a challenge in your life to overcome, which made you a stronger person. That way, your negative experiences get reframed into a positive. It's easier said than done, but if you manage, it can set you free.