Sunday, December 27, 2009

2010 plans

I'm not going to do resolutions for 2010. Back to the older tradition.

I don't really agree with resolutions in a way because you can make positive changes at any time. Why wait for the new year?

Also resolutions are more like things you need to start on right away like quit smoking, lose weight, join a gym, etc. For 2010 I'm thinking more of things I should do during the year but generally not right away in January.

It's nice to be at a point where I can look ahead and think in time scales of months and even years. The month to month and cheque to cheque scrambling of the past made it difficult to impossible to focus on more than the immediate issues.

Of course the economy remains precarious so we don't know what upheavals may still happen which would turn everything upside down. So of course there may still be radical unplanned changes in direction. I don't really have much control over that so I can hope that things remain stable as they have been but need to be prepared for the unexpected.

I did ok on my 2009 resolutions It was a stay the course year and things were pretty stable; which is good. No major life or career changes in 2009. Sometimes you need to just pause a bit after years of upheaval. And the steady state is great if you're in a positive situation.

I did manage to eliminate all of the consumer debt in 2009. So that was a good accomplishment. For 2010 the remaining debt on the Honda will be paid off on its own around September. So then I'll be more truly debt free. So I'm looking forward that.

After a fairly quiet 2009 I expect some more changes in 2010. There is an Important Matter that needs to be dealt with; really in the first half of the year. With the consumer debt now gone it would be nice to move. I'd like to get a bigger, nicer apartment in the neighbourhood close to where I am right now.

I should take a proper summer vacation in 2010. Travel would be nice as well to PEI or Ottawa.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I saw the movie 2012 yesterday. I'd wanted to see it in the theatre since I saw the trailer for it. It was definitely a theatre movie. Spectacular sound, visuals and special effects. Very well done. I especially liked the "crackpot" doomsday underground radio character in Yosemite park who was entertaining.

The story was pretty interesting about how world leaders deal with the world ending on December 21 2012. There seemed to be some influences from other recent movies in 2012. There was of course the who will survive the disaster Titanic theme. Also there was a subplot which made me think of the movie Click as it played out.

There weren't too many people there. Around 10 in the theatre for a Wed afternoon show. So I'm glad I caught it while it was on the big screen. I didn't notice any other December movies that I especially want to see. The last movie I went to on my own was Star Trek earlier this year. I don't know of any coming up that I would like to see. Maybe there'll be 1-2 again next year that will be worth going to.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Last week at work a guy sent an e-mail out. He was at a local walk in clinic to get his H1N1 vaccine shot. He said there was walk in available with no wait.

I decided to drive down the hill to the clinic at the local strip mall from work. It was around a 5 minute drive down the hill. It was raining heavily that day. On the drive down I thought; I'm more likely to die in a car accident driving to the clinic and back than I am to die of swine flu.

I got to the clinic but I guess word got around and they said you needed an appointment and it was booked solid for the next two days. I just turned around and left. Luckily the drive back to the office was uneventful in the heavy rain.

In Nova Scotia there are around 1 million generally healthy people. Of this population 1 has died of swine flu this year. That's right, the chance of an otherwise healthy person in Nova Scotia dying of swine flu is literally about 1 in a million.

That's about as remote a chance of mortality as it gets. You're statistically much more likely to be murdered than to die of swine flu.

The most likely outcome for me is I won't get swine flu. If I did get it the far most likely outcome is I would enjoy a paid week off work without having to use any of my vacation time.

Some might look at that and suggest that there was no significant H1N1 threat. That it was and is an artificial crisis, just a lot of hysteria and sensational yellow journalism trying to sell newspapers. I believe the threat was at least somewhat overstated. Still I'll give the government some credit for acting on what it knew and acting in good faith.

I respect Dr. Strang and when he went on live at five more than once to state the threat was real and to get vaccinated then I believe he is competent and sincere and his statements are based on real science.

Still if H1N1 is such a threat then why so few mortalities? I think of it like the Y2K computer bug, and the cold war. There was perceived to be a serious threat to our very society. Vast resources were spent countering this threat. In the end the threat didn't really materialize and we were able to resume our lives.

Was there ever a real threat to begin with? Who knows, it doesn't really matter since the thing we were worried about didn't materialize [well not yet at least with swine flu]. So we should grudgingly consider it money well spent. The thing about H1N1 different from the cold war/Y2K is that with H1N1 we don't really have big powerful financial interests profiteering from the situation. So it is more likely to be sincere when we're told this is something we need to deal with decisively.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Interesting times Canada and China

It's been an interesting sequence of events with Canada and China the last few days.

- PM Stephen Harper makes his first visit to China in several years. Shortly after US president Obama breezed through that country

- Harper makes a statement on the Canadian economy while he's in China

- China leader publicly criticizes Harper for taking so long between visits

- for the first time, finance minister Flaherty expresses concern about Canada's defecit. Vows to eliminate the $1 billion a week federal budget gap and get back to a balanced budget in a definite time frame

hmmm, so what to make of this. I don't really follow it but how long was Harper's planned visit known. Because it seems kind of sudden. Although for appearances we were a bit stuck as Obama was right to go first - bigger and more important country. So Harper had to wait for Obama. Still was Harper "summoned" to China by top Chinese officials?

Interesting that Harper commented on the Canadian economy from Chinese turf and Flaherty suddenly notices and expresses concern about the horrible defecit. The defecit situation is actually far worse when you consider that pretty much every province is also running a record defecit. Also the federal government took on $75 billion of subprime mortgages off the banks books as a back door bailout. The current and eventual losses on that portfolio will likely be substantial.

The thing about the defecit is this. It's borrowed money. So in order to borrow money you need someone else to lend you money. I was very concerned about the record federal and provincial defecits for that reason. I felt there was a real risk that the bond auctions would fail; that we wouldn't be able to find anyone willing to lend us that much to fund these enormous defecits.

That's where China comes in. I suspect that a lot of the record federal and provincial defecits this year and in the projected next five years was loaned to us by China. Thus if we want China to continue to lend Canada money to fund the federal and provincial defecits then like Obama we have to make nice with our Chinese creditors.

So Harper makes a sudden trip to China. The Chinese publicly chastise Harper to his face when he's there. Harper reassures that Canada's economy is getting better. At the same time Flaherty reassures the Chinese that the money they lent us is safe; he'll be switching to Paul Martin mode real soon now and the defecit will be eliminated within 5 years max at any social cost.

In a way I'm glad. As long as China is on board for a 5 year plan then we can get our nation's finances back on track in an orderly [although still probably painful and unpopular] way. That's a lot better than being cut off by China and having to immediately cut the federal and provincial budgets by about $30-$60 billion.