Saturday, July 24, 2010

Michael Crichton State of Fear

I just finished reading another book. It was State of Fear by Michael Crichton.

It was a good book. It was a more challenging read as it wasn't really clear throughout who where the good guys and the bad guys. In the plot a mild mannered California lawyer Peter Evans who does a lot of work for a multimillionaire philanthropist and environmental activist becomes tangled up in a scheme involving the radical militant environmental movement.

Although it was a bit of a leap with Evans' character development. If I was Evans I personally would have said after the Antarctica incident and got back to sunny southern Cal. whoa, whoa, whoa, this is crazy. I'm just a dumb lawyer, a paper pusher, I didn't go to law school to risk my life, I'm outta here. I want to chase ambulances, not end up in one. Still besides the occasional leap of faith and believability its an entertaining read, a page turner.

The author presents some very interesting views on the contemporary environment movement, global warming and the debates around the validity of global warming claimants, the incestuous relationship between government bureaucracies and government funded climate research scientists. The corrosive effect of the politicization of science. It was a rare book where the footnotes at the end were as nearly compelling as the story in the book.

The author uses characters such as a nutty retired sociology professor and an out of style drummed out MIT professor Kenner as the voices of reason. The reader notes that it was only after leaving academia that they were able to speak honestly their opinions about the true state of the environment.

The good news about the environment is that lifespan in the industrial west is still increasing. That would seem to suggest that wealth and industrial development is hardly killing us, actually it's making us healthier and safer and lengthening our lives.

Like every Crichton book it's a fast read, a good read. I'm not surprised it isn't a well known book and hasn't and won't be made into a motion picture. It challenges too many sensitive areas dear to the hollywood/celebrity elite clique.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

RRSP contribution

Some good news at work recently. The matching RRSP has been increased from 3% to 4% of salary.

I signed up immediately and went from 3% to now 4%. As noted before this is a great deal. For every $1 I put into the RRSP my employer throws in $1. Then I get a tax refund on the contribution. Plus whatever the RRSP investments are able to get.

So for every dollar I spend my personal wealth increases by about $2.50. That's a great deal for me. So with 4% out of paycheque going to RRSP and 4% matching I'm now saving around 8% of my pay. That's not bad. Still I'm interested in other investments outside of RRSP some higher risk or non traditional ventures perhaps.

With the matching I revisited my investments allocation on Manulife. I decided again to adjust it to a bit more conservative. Since I'm getting 100% anyway on investment because of employer matching there's a case for preserving that gain. Plus I might be more willing to take risks in non registered schemes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

got the apartment

Heard from the super this morning. He said the application went through and I'll be getting the place.

He's got some work to do on it that was in progress when I was there to look at it. A new floor for a bedroom. New paint on the walls.

He said he'll call next week with the plans for the lease and when the place will be ready. Possibly before August. No big rush since I still have to put in notice where I'm at.

So now lots of stuff to plan for the move. Insurance, utilities, time off work, the move itself.

I was thinking it over a bit more and I kind of realized it might be easiest to just use the movers to move everything. I was definitely getting them to move the furniture and heavy items anyway so the marginal cost of getting them to haul the boxes as well would probably be very little.

I suspect it only makes sense to move the lighter boxes yourself if you have access to a truck or panel van. If you have to rent a vehicle which I would have to then that would wipe out any savings over the marginal extra cost of getting the pro movers to just take them. Plus it would be so much easier and fast. It's not worth going through some big hassle to try to save $100.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

apartment searching

I've been looking for a new place to live recently. With the car loan now paid off this is a good time to move forward on this. This is looking to be a busy summer there's a few things going on that I'm trying to advance. Moving is one of them.

I'm looking for a bigger, nicer place. In or around the neighbourhood I'm presently in. I'm looking for a 2 BR and a dishwasher is a must. I put together a big checklist of things to look at.

Vacancy seems pretty tight. Most buildings seem pretty full. Customer service seems to be generally awful. Not one message I've left has been returned so far! So it's just try and catch people at home I guess.

I've looked at two places so far. The first place advertised 3 appliances but still had no dishwasher. The second place had more promise. A more modern building it seemed promising. I put in an application but haven't heard back yet. I'll have to call the super tomorrow if I don't hear anything and find out what's up. It's different on the first floor which would be a change for me.

If it doesn't work out with this place I'm not too hung up about it. I haven't put in notice where I'm at so I don't have to be rushed.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

car is paid off

Some news in my recent bank statement. The last payment has been made on my 2005 Honda Civic. So I now properly own it. Another debt gone. The car has around 130,000 km on it and is running well; hardly any problems at all.

It's great to have it paid off. I've been thinking for a while about what to do after it was done. The payment was $175 every two weeks. Counting the occasional 3 payment months it averaged to $379 a month.

I'm pretty sure it would be a mistake to just pocket this $379 a month as new clear money. That would create a distortion in my finances where I have unnatural prosperity when payment free then followed by the shock of going back to making payments.

I see car ownership as an ongoing expense. I do expect and hope to be well enough physically and financially to own more cars after this Honda. So my plan is to enjoy some relief right now for paying off the vehicle while continuing to make payments for car ownership.

So I went to the Presidents Choice pavilion at the local Superstore and opened a savings account. My plan is to put what would have been car payments into this account. I think I'll put in around $340 a month or so. That way I see some new money now in the monthly budget while smoothing out the vehicle payments. Depending on how long the 2005 lasts I might be able to buy my next car outright with no financing. Or at least I should have some down payment that I can get a better car with financing for about the same amount per month.

I already use PC financial for my chequing account so it will be easy to deposit to the PC savings account. Basically one click from their well designed website.It was interesting at Superstore the PC financial rep told me after opening the savings account that I qualified for a low interest line of credit. Ah the life of the self cured. I politely declined his offer to go back into debt.

One other vehicle cost I want to look at is insurance. The car is basically old with high mileage. A quick kijiji search reveals 2005 Civics are selling for around $5k - $9k today. I suspect mine would be worth closer to 5 than 9. So I'm considering dropping my insurance back to PLPD. At some point the marginal cost of collision on the insurance vs. the amount they would pay out in a claim just isn't worth it. Especially since I could always get a new vehicle and just go back to paying $380 a month.