Friday, 31 December 2010

The best eclipse photo ever !!

Actually, this isn’t just one photograph — it’s a composite of 31 different images, taken in the shadow of the solar eclipse that passed over Asia and parts of the Pacific back in July for 6 minutes and 39 seconds. That’s the longest solar eclipse anyone on Earth will witness this century; a longer one isn’t coming until 2132. Mathematician and eclipse photographer Miloslav Druckmüller didn’t waste a second of it, positioned with a team of colleagues on Enewetak Atoll in the South Pacific, which just happens to be where the first hydrogen bomb was tested by the United States back in 1952. (Sounds like the setup to an un-aired episode of Lost, but anyway.)The photo shows the solar corona that make up the sun’s “atmosphere” in glorious detail. Its whorls and loops extend millions of miles into space, are nearly 200 times hotter than the visible surface of the sun, and yet aren’t nearly as bright (by a factor of something like a million), hence, we can only see them during eclipses. I love the delicate beauty of this photo, and how it makes various features of the corona so plainly visible, like the difference in activity around its polar regions, as well as the dim, cratered surface of the moon. Ain’t the universe purdy?

[Photo via Scientific American.]
[Originally posted on]

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Prepare for a rambling tirade on this Christmas day...

We have people stranded in Europe's Airports because they don't have enough de-icing machines (last year wasn't a heads up ?). Last time I checked the Weather Network was available on TV (FAIL)

AP & Reuters are going ape-shit about a female bomber in Pakistan. Not cause she's female (we've seen this play before) but cause she was wearing a burqa ? Would it be more acceptable if she wore a Nicks ball cap ?

Another Earthquake in the SW pacific. The media want's you to get geared up for their next Tsunami special which will be pre-empted with the next Lohan outburst.

Scar-Jo or Ryan-ab fest. Who cares ? Either one of them is fucking someone they shouldn't but apparently they aren't fucking each other. Divorce please and get it off my rag.

USA DADT legislation. DUH.
It took "the first black president" to get this through ? Please....Obama, I live in a different country and would've voted for you if I could (as would most sane people who drank your campaign kool-aid) but buddy, what happened ? Legacy be damned, you've got THAT...make a change.

Goldman Sachs (and no others apparently) is willing to accept a Pay-Brake. It means that they're willing to halt 10^6 payments to people we don't know if the bank requests US Gov't aid. I gotta question, I personally know a woman in her 60's, used to work for GS but got laid off and is now struggling. Where's her bailout ?

I could go on but I haven't opened my Xmas present yet and the tea's getting cold.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Nuff said

Urban Winters Suck

The ad-nausea Xmas commercials that we're bombarded with. I mean seriously, do I really need to buy yet another piece of electronified, digitized, lights-blinking, buttons-pushing gizmo that'll die unused before springtime ? 

Do you really believe the smiling, frolicking shoppers seen on the ads for Sears, the GAP or Home Depot ? 
Come on, when was the last time that you went to a shopping mall during the Xmas season and had a "good time" ? If you're like me, when you hit the mall any time of the year, you pretty much get in & get out ASAP, hopefully with your sanity and credit rating intact.

City Winters Suck
I love the snow. Something fresh and clean about it. Not to mention the fact that it's pretty when it's snowing. But living in a big city in the winter is like living in a soiled slushie cup. Between the traffic, the salt, the pollution, it's pretty friggin disgusting. Not to mention the invariable grey skies that seem to persist.
At least with the cottage in the winter you can strap on the X-country skis and take the dogs for a hike, in the city it's a slog through puddles and grey/black crud. BAH

So.....I've decided to shake it up this Xmas season.

I'm headed north for a week with the dogs and my lady friend. We're stocking up on wine, cheese and will get whatever else we need in town. I will be having a roaring fire every night and praying for blizzard like conditions all week. Being snowed in won't matter as long as the wood and wine hold out.

Then I'm debating a sailing trip for a week in Barbados, if I can find a dog sitter. Afterall, if the first part of my plan works out, I will need to thaw myself out. Nothing beats warm water, blue skies and pretending I know what I'm doing on a rented boat (remember the extended insurance Sean....).  

I'll post some pics if any of this works out.....

End of line.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

SUPERCELL - Wow is all I can say

It looks like something from the film Independence Day.
But although it may seem like an alien mothership, this incredible picture is actually an impressive thunderstorm cloud known as a supercell. 

Windswept dust and rain dominate the storm's centre while rings of jagged clouds surround the edge. A flimsy tree in the foreground looks like a toy next to the magnificent natural phenomenon.

The photograph is just one image from the portfolio of electrician Sean Heavey. The supercell cloud was photographed in July west of Glasgow, Montana, USA.
Mr Heavey, 34, an amateur photographer, created the jaw-dropping panoramic image by stitching together three photos from the 400 frames he took of the violent scene he witnessed in July
It caused minor damage, and lasted several hours before moving on. Massive storm systems like this centre on mesocyclones -- rotating updrafts that deliver torrential rain and high winds.
The dangerous outbreak of weather raged for several hours and caused minor damage to local communities - while watchful Mr Heavey captured all its devastating beauty from a distance. 
Taking photographs of storms for the past seven years, this year Mr Heavey and his masterpiece are up for a prestigious award from National Geographic. 
Called the 'Mothership', because of the striking image's similarity to an alien space ship, the photograph was actually four years in the making.
'I have two storm chasing friends I met through my wife Toni and they've been badgering me to go out with them for that long,' explained Sean.
'I' normally rely on simply being in the right place at the right time for my photography, while I'm out working. But in July I finally decided to do it and thankfully this picture was the result. We don't usually get weather like this out in Montana, it felt like the perfect storm.
'The power was awe inspiring.'

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Make you go Hrrrrmm...

  • It takes 7 seconds for food to pass from your mouth to your stomach
  • A human hair can hold 3kg
  • The length of the human penis is 3 times the length of the thumb
  • The femur is as hard as concrete
  • A woman's heart beats faster than a man's
  • Women blink twice as much as men
  • We use 300 muscles just to keep our balance when we stand
  • The woman has finished reading this whole text, the man is still looking at his thumb

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Banking Greed

I volunteer a few hours a week to a local soup kitchen / community centre here in Toronto.

The clients are, to put it mildly, poor. Some are living on disability cheques, old age pensions, some on welfare and a few are living by means unknown but they all have one thing in common. The need for a bank account.

A client at the centre recently asked me why he was being charged a monthly $5.00 fee on his account and having been a former banker, I had no good reason to offer him.

Let's see...

  • The bank gets his money direct deposited electronically so no teller is involved
  • I'm pretty sure that even as an account holder, he wouldn't be allowed to enter a bank let alone deal directly with the teller in person so no he's not a "high maintenance" client
  • The client has no credit cards, no line of credit, no loans, mortgages and no overdraft protection so he's not a potential credit risk
  • His account balance is never high enough to get any interest paid 
  • He is not likely to be writing many cheques and I doubt does more than 2-3 ATM debits a month
  • Of the ATM withdrawls he does, he can only do them in $20.00 increments so at the end of the month, there's likely some amount < $20.00 remaining in his account which rolls over monthly and the bank pools this with the rest of it's deposits
To put it bluntly, this guy is a LOW net worth individual but every month, like clockwork, he gets ding'd with a $5.00 fee for the privilege of banking with XXXX. Considering his gross income, that $5 is a fair chunk of change. That represents what he may spend on food for a day yet he has to pay it out to a corporation that last quarter made in excess of $1.28 Billion in profit.

I know all the arguments in favor of the fees. Hell, I used to spout them off when friends of mine bitched to me when I was in banking. This guy's money is safe, he's got convenient and secure access to his funds anytime he wants it through ATMs or Debit Card purchasing. The bank's invested huge amounts of money in the infrastructure to set up the network of ATMs. Etc..etc..etc..

But wouldn't it be possible for the banks in general to set up some kind of "Fee Waiver" program for anyone receiving Social Assistance ? I know the bank can tell where his monthly stipend is coming from. Just flag his account and the fee gets waived.

Let's do a little experiment. We're going to focus on just the homeless for this experiment, not the poor, the disabled, those on old age pensions, the underemployed or those just living below the poverty line. Just the homeless ok ?.............In Canada there are estimated to be somewhere around 150,000 - 300,000 homeless people.
Despite the visibility of homelessness in Canada, there are no accurate national statistics on the size of the homeless population.13 Canada's National Secretariat on Homelessness has estimated that the problem affects approximately 150,000 people,14 although other reports identify as many as 300,000 homeless in Canada.15
Lets say that the XXXX bank mentioned above was the ONLY bank that the homeless can deal with and they waive the $5.00/month fee for them all. Worst case scenario is that the bank would be out $1.5 Million a month in revenue ($5 x 300,000) or $4.5 Million a Quarter. The bank's Profit would drop by 3/10ths of a percent.

Read this sentence over carefully and then let it sink in.

If bank XXXX waived it's monthly banking fees for every homeless person in Canada, their profit would drop by 0.03%

While it may not be sexy imagery on Bay St. I would think a few posters showing a homeless person holding a mug of hot soup on a cold wet and snowy winter night or something like this would go a long way to guilting the shareholders out of 3/10 of a percent in profit................

(short notice and I'm not an artist)



Monday, 8 November 2010

Destination Toronto

Here's a look around my current stomping grounds, Downtown Toronto, Canada.
I've highlighted a few of the more "Tourist" oriented areas that may be of interest for those of you who've never been here.

If you want to read more about Toronto, I'd suggest that you look at sites like

View Downtown Toronto, SightSeeing in a larger map

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Time Lapse Wizardry

I've recently developed an interest in photography and while reviewing some of my favorite sites I came across the following videos. It's incredible that this is all possible with little more than an idea, some relatively inexpensive kit and an investment of time.

I really enjoyed them in fullscreen and hope you do too.

(courtesy of The Awesomer and Vimeo)

The talented Mike Flores used 2 custom track and dolly systems that he engineered himself to craft this gorgeous time-lapse montage showreel using a Canon 5DII. Very nicely done.

Shot by Sam Javanrouh with a Canon 5D Mark II, this 347 frame video of a Toronto lightning storm shows that it can strike twice–multiple times for the CN Tower in the middle.

Time lapse video of night sky as it passes over the 2009 Texas Star Party in Fort Davis, Texas. The galactic core of Milky Way is brightly displayed. Images taken with 15mm fisheye lens.

Simon Christen shot time-lapse videos of the San Francisco Bay Area, and the result speaks for itself. Nick Cave’s music helps a lot too. Go grab a cold one and watch the HD version in full screen.

Lotto Blotto

I, like many Canadians have been playing the various lotteries for some time now. Whether it's the pool at work, the impulse buy when getting change at the store or the last minute "Hail Mary" ticket when I realize that the lottery's damn big and for a few bucks I'll roll the dice.

Over time, as I began to amass nothing but mostly loosing tickets, I began to keep an eye on just how much I was spending. Now I realize that playing the lottery is more about the entertainment than anything else. Afterall, for your $2 you're getting the chance to dream about "What if I was the lucky winner.......".

The actual odds of winning a jackpot on Lotto649 are astronomical (see below) but there are people that indeed win and some of them win HUGE!

So over time, and relying on my Googl'ing skills, I began to search for the stories of winners, if only so I could live vicariously through their fortune. Think of it as my own voyeuristic trip that would likely be the closest I ever became a multi-gazillionaire. It seems that the actual winners of lotteries are a private bunch cause I didn't find a single website by a jackpot winner, or at least one that was marginally believable. Maybe they're required to sign a non-disclosure document when picking up the million dollar cheques ?

What I did find online was a huge array of "Lottery Systems", books, wheels and methodologies that promised to either win you the jackpot of your dreams or at the very least improve your chances. Now I'm not a mathematician but I am fairly sure I have a firm grasp of the concept of randomness......but.....I was willing to listen...up to a point. Personally, I felt that if any of these systems/schemes could in fact improve your chances, the authors wouldn't be too inclined to share their secrets with the rest of us (too busy jet setting and sipping bubbly). But, who knows.....there actually might be a few "Rain Man" intuitive lottery masters who have an altruistic streak and are willing to share their knowledge with us afterall (wanna bet on that one ?)

So here I am, handy with Excel and with a few hours to kill & I decided I would look at the underlying statistics and trends of the game for myself. What follows is not a system for beating the odds (technically you can't in a random system) but instead, a look at the various HISTORICAL patterns that have cropped up over the years. I've also tossed in some simple & intuitive ideas but as always...Caveat Emptor !!

Why did I choose Lotto649 ? Simply put, it's the cheaper of the major National lotteries here in Canada and also, it's the longest running that I could obtain all the historic data from which the following stats and analysis is derived. So without further ado, let's dive in and see what we can interpret.

First off, we'll explore some fun and interesting Lotto649 Odds'n Facts. Here's your chance to get a quick dose of reality. Then we'll move along with some of the basic Historical Stats & Trends. This is where the websites I mentioned above would have you drinking the Kool-Aid and believing in discernible patterns from which predictions can be made.

Here are a few little facts about your odds of winning the Lotto649 specifically and the lottery in general.
  • You have a better chance of being killed in a Terrorist Attack while travelling (1 in 650,000)
  • You have a better chance of dying of a Flesh Eating Disease (1 in 1,000,000)
  • You have a better chance of being killed by lightning (1 in 56,439)
  • If you bought 50 Tickets a week, chances are you would win ONCE every 5,000 years
  • You could cover every possible combination of numbers and win, but it'd cost you $27,967,632
  • The number 13 is rarely drawn in the month of April
  • In Canada, winners do NOT pay Income Tax on the winnings, only on the interest earned on the principal in subsequent years
  • If your numbers start with 24 or higher, your chances of winning the jackpot are extremely slim. The same goes for any numbers that end in 26 or less
  • Approximately 72-74% of adult Canadians or more than 16 million people play the lotteries. Of this number, around 50% buy Quick Picks chosen by the lotteries' computers
  • Per adult population, Nova Scotians gamble the most, followed by Saskatchewans
  • The highest frequently drawn number, 31, appears the most in the 4th position
  • The Best 2 Numbers, 20 with 43, also show up quite frequently in the Overall Best 3 Numbers and seem to be drawn more with 1st position numbers, 9 and 2
  • Since the beginning of Lotto 6/49, 6 out of 10 draws have had at least one repeating number from the immediate previous draw
  • At least one Prime Number has been drawn in 90% of all draws
  • The most popular drawn combination of Odd and Even numbers has been 3 Odd and 3 Even

First Number
  • Starting your number selection is important
  • If you start your numbers with a 1, then you have 13,983,816 combinations to choose from.
  • If you start your numbers with a 2, then you have 12,271,512 combinations to choose from, BUT you are lessening your ability to win by 1,712,304 (13,983,816 - 12,271,512) combinations
  • Starting your numbers with a 3, you have 10,737,573 combinations to choose from. However you have now reduced your ability to win by 3,246,243 (13,983,816 - 12,271,512) combinations
  • For numbers starting with a 4, there are 9,366,819 combinations to choose from and your ability to win has now been dropped by 4,616,997 (13,983,816 - 9,366,819) combinations. That's a whopping 33 percent or 1 in every 3 draws that you are missing out on the Jackpot
  • If you examine Position Frequency percentages you will see that the first three numbers (1, 2, 3) in the first position of Winning Numbers account for approximately 32 percent of all draws while the first four numbers (1, 2, 3, 4) account for approximately 42 percent of all draws
  • So the higher the number you start with, the lower the opportunity you have of winning the Jackpot

    Prizes and chance of winning (source Wikipedia)

    Number of Matches
    Probability of Winning on a $2 play
    Share of 80.5% of the Pool's Fund
    1 in 13,983,816
    5/6 + Bonus
    Share of 5.75% of the Pool's Fund
    1 in 2,330,636
    Share of 4.75% of the Pool's Fund
    1 in 55,492
    Share of 9% of the Pool's Fund
    1 in 1,033
    $10 prize
    1 in 56.7
    2/6 + Bonus
    $5 prize
    1 in 81.2
    Any prize
    1 in 32.3
    If a jackpot of $30 million or higher is not won, the following prize structure applies to all subsequent draws until the jackpot has been won. This does not apply to bonus jackpots.
    Number of Matches
    Probability of Winning on a $2 play
    Share of 40% of the Pool's Fund
    1 in 13,983,816
    5/6 + Bonus
    Share of 16% of the Pool's Fund
    1 in 2,330,636
    Share of 15% of the Pool's Fund
    1 in 55,492
    Share of 29% of the Pool's Fund
    1 in 1,033
    $10 prize
    1 in 56.7
    2/6 + Bonus
    $5 prize
    1 in 81.2
    Any prize
    1 in 32.3
    Draws are held weekly on Wednesday and Saturday, executed with a Ryo-Catteau Tulipe ball machine by the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation.
    What we spend on gambling, by income group
    After-tax income
    Average expenditure
    Expenditure as percentage of total income
    All Canadians
    Less than $20,000
    $20,000 to $39,999
    $40,000 to $59,999
    $60,000 to $79,999
    $80,000 and over
    Source: Statistics Canada Survey of Household Spending
Below are a few Historical Statistics that illustrate various trends over time with Lotto649. While there is no doubt that there are indeed trends over time, even if you filtered your own number selections to fall within the ranges specified within these trends, you're still playing a RANDOM game.

    (Clicking on the photos will enlarge them in your browser)

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Isn't it Gr8

Below is what I would've submitted at around 2:30pm but things have changed since....

Intermittent rain, the helicopters are still buzzing around and the tally has certainly climbed since I last checked. So far we've got police cars torched, store fronts (BMO, Scotia Bank and even a Starbucks) smashed, 150+ people arrested and for what ?

Now I'm all in favor of people expressing their displeasure. Hell, a good protest march is a civic right and in some cases, almost a duty but this type of crap is a bit over the top. I could almost forgive some of the violence if it were directed with a reason (I said I could ALMOST..but not quite).

For example, I'm pissed at Starbucks. I think that the prices they charge for coffee is outrageous let alone one of their speciality drinks but smashing their window ? Same goes for the banks. Hell, I'm pissed at getting screwed by service charges but smashing their windows won't change a thing. Now if these protesters had any brains they would've left behind some kinda message other than shards of glass...Something like a spray-painted
"Give me cheap java or give me death !!"
"Service charge this....."
would've been fine with me but just smashing for smashing's sake is idiotic, not to mention un-Canadian.

One question I do have is why didn't the cops just build their fence and then put 5,000 coppers inside the perimeter and have the remaining 14,000 who've been called in for the G8/G20 doing their usual jobs around the country ? Would've been cheaper I think, less provocative, less invasive & imposing. With the fence up, tear gas guns at the ready and a clearly communicated stance that if you climb the fence you get gassed and arrested, things might've gone more smoothly.

But noooo.... Instead let's screw up the core of Canada's largest city, negatively impact the citizens, cost businesses thousands, cost tax payers hundreds of millions etc..etc..

Well, here's Toronto in the middle of a world summit.

Sitting here typing away and the sound of helicopters is droning overhead. Now for those of you who don't know me, I live downtown. Usually a buzz of traffic, people...the city is prevalent but not this time. The city's a ghost town, unless you count the HEAVY police presence.

Last night, after dinner with my mom we decided to take our respective dogs for a walk over to the Red Zone (Security nexus here in T.O.)

Again, for the un-initiated, Toronto is Canada's largest city. Total population is about 3.5 million. Friday nights are usually busy on the streets with traffic and people. Last night, nada. Sure, there were a few gawkers like my mom & I. People who strolled close enough to the summit venue to see the hub-hub if any but other than that, civilians were out numbered by a huge margin by the police, the roving mini-vans with tinted windows and I am sure by the snipers, surveillance cameras, heli-eyes in the sky and probably more than a few predator drones overhead.

Now I don't mind the security precautions being taken by the politicos. After all, theirs is a life fraught with danger. The proletariat might get close enough to touch them or god forbid, scold them. But 19,000 cops in a ghost town, 3m fences and a police-state law...sheesh....

Monday, 1 March 2010

Canadian's in Exile

the Atlantic
Menachem Kaiser
Canadians in Exile Rejoice Over Hockey Win
MAR 1 2010, 8:12 AM ET

Canadian politeness might be legendary, but it has its limits: Do not mess with a Canadian and his hockey, even on your own turf.

That's what a brave handful of USA hockey fans discovered at Van Diemen's, a bar in the Murray Hill neighborhood, in New York, during the U.S.-Canada Olympic gold medal game Sunday night. None, wisely, came alone, as nearly 300 die-hard Canadian hockey fans (i.e., Canadians) piled in to cheer, drink, yell, drink, agonize, and, ultimately, celebrate. USA paraphernalia was viewed askance, the wearer subject to the most withering look a Canadian could muster, like a raised eyebrow, or even worse.

The Canadian Assoiciation of New York had organized the event, along with the owners of Van Diemen's. Officially, it was a neutral Olympic-watching zone—both a Canadian and American flag were draped behind the bar—but realistically, it was about as American as a dish of poutine. The pregame mood was a strange mix of cockiness and anxiety—the Canadians wanted revenge, to re-assume their rightful place on top of the hockey hierarchy.

A full hour before the game, the place was full. Or so I thought. Armies of Canucks kept marching in, somehow squeezing themselves a place. The bar across the street, Arctica, was used for spillover. The crowd was a sea of red and white, to the point where the casually clothed felt awkward and underdressed. The crowd was decked out not just in hockey sweaters (or "jerseys" to boorish Americans), but also in toques, kangols, capes, scarves, mittens. It was a bit surreal: people came inside, got settled, and donned winter apparel. One fan, for reasons unclear, had a Boba Fett helmet with a Canadian toque taped onto the top. I asked why. He looked at me as if I had asked what an offside was, put the helmet on, and yelled a muffled but hearty, "Go Canada!".

I was accosted by a heavy-set guy, beer in hand. "You know," he said. "If Canada loses, we execute the players in the town square." It wasn't clear if it was a joke, a wish, or some strange combination thereof.

By the time the puck dropped, the crowd was restless. The news that the bar had run out of Canadian beer was taken in stride; the new buckets and pitchers were filled with "foreign piss," as I was informed. No one seemed to slow their intake.

Whatever anxiety and worry there might have been—the US had won the previous game, after all—dissipated as soon as the game began. Petty conversation was pushed aside; you had to focus. The mood was long stretches of modulating anticipation, punctuated by extreme elation (Canadian goal) or extreme disappointment/anger (American goal). When the Canadians scored, the crowd went into a frenzy. Arms were raised (no easy feat, considering the density), and a flurry of high-fives and embraces ensued. Beers flew. And cowbells—just loads of cowbells—clanged furiously. When that other team answered with goals of their own, lonely squeals of "USA! USA!", emitting from corners of the bar, would be buried in an avalanche of counter-chants.

Confidence was running high throughout the game. The Canadian scored early and led, and seemed to be in control. But, with just under 25 seconds to go, the hockey gods struck with a vengeance, and the Americans tied it up. The place became, briefly, a funeral parlor. Breathing tightened. And then they needed a scapegoat. Who to blame? Names whizzed by.

"Neidermayer left him open, that bastard!" "Luongo! Argghh! Brodeur would have had it!!" But this was replaced with a fierce pragmatism, a knowledge that victory would be that much sweeter now. Overtime: the Americans deserved to lose in it, to have their hopes raised and quashed.

And then something exceedingly rare, an event most assume is myth, happened: The Canadian fans were momentarily hockey-ignorant. How did Olympic overtime work? Was it sudden death? Twenty minutes, like playoff hockey, or five like in the regular season? And then a shootout? Blackberries and iPhones were brought out en masse. This was life and death.

A four-year-old girl stood up and clanged her cowbell to the time of CA-NA-DA. The crowd went berserk.

Overtime started, and the entire country was standing on the thin precipice between national tragedy and redemption. Heads were clutched, knuckles whitened, beers forgotten, breaths held for entire shifts. Even the waiters, who had incessantly shoved their way through with sandwiches and drinks, stopped to watch.

And the Canadians scored.

And the heavens opened and beer came down in torrents and the place dissolved into a puddle of hugs and tears. All was okay in hockeyland.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The world according to GARP...well, actually me

Ok, some of you may be confused by the title, suffice it to say, I'm dating myself with that reference.

Anyways, what's been happening in the world for the last week or so. Let's see.....

1. US aid to earthquake stricken Haiti is declining...Yippie !! Just what the Hatians need, more of less. Now I will commend the US for their quick response and no doubt, they have saved lives but is this really the time to be backing off on major disaster relief literally in your own backyard while the World's watching ? Ehh...Mr. Nobel Laureate ?

2. The US has just released their budget for F2010 and it's a whopper !! $3.5 Trillion dollars and a good chunk of that is in additional borrowing. Hrmm...when I was about 18, I got a credit card and remember racking up $2000 on it and having to bust my ass off to repay it. The US just got a credit limit increase and they can't even make the minimum payments. But they can afford to spend $750 Billion on the Pentagon this year. Sure, the recession / economic meltdown has kicked them in the shins and they need to get jobs money flowing, fight 2 wars etc. but sounds to me like insolvency is just around the corner. Wonder how long it'll be till they're asking the IMF for aid themselves ?

3. The 2010 Winter Olympics are a week away and Vancouver has had to resort to trucking in sown in order to effectively host the games. Thank god that Global Warming's a myth and not really a concern. See, there is no such thing as Global Warming, afterall, it snowed somewhere and we can still truck it in.

4. Israel just paid the UN $10.5 Million (that's right, I said MILLION) and now says that all claims are off the table following it's little January 2009 war in Gaza. The money is supposed to be compensation for them having blown up a UN school in Gaza (illegally). So let's see if I have this right....they illegally target and then destroy a UN factility but as long as they can pay a token amount then no harm no foul ? Nice to see the sanctity of the UN is intact and our sense of Global outrage have held firm. Meanwhile, let's pray that the government of Hamas can come up with a matching amount to buy their own "Get out of Jail Free" card.

5. China & the US are having diplomatic problems stemming from a few minor hiccups. The scoring so far is......
- Chinese hackers try to break into Google (among others) and steal data or tamper with their systems...
- US is selling $5-6 Billion on military hardware to Taiwan, that pesky breakaway province whose been around as long as the
current Chinese government... But the Chinese sell arms to places like Iran and North Korea ?
- China is pissed cause Obama is going to meet the Dali Llama and this could highlight the whole Tibetan issue ?
- Obama wants to get tough with China on enforcing the trade agreements between the two nations. Sounds like blustering
sound-bites to me. Afterall, in light of #2 above, and the fact that China's basically the global Sugar Daddy, what leverage
does the US actually have ?

So those are the few things that pop into my mind on this early Sunday morning. Just needed to vent. But on a lighter side...

I found a shiny nickel on the pavement outside my apartment today. My retirement fund is well on it's way !!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Workout Mania

Christmas came and went (BAH HUMBUG !!) but Santa was nice enough to get me a membership to the local Rec. Centre that has a gym and pool. So merrily on Dec 27th I trundled over and got my card and went in for the first day of a healthy me.

Now the place has the usual assortment of the instruments of pain and torture and as usual, my first days results included among other immediate results, pain in my arms and legs to the point that the following morning necessitated a HOT bath just to get me moving. It doesn't help that puppy Otto sleeps with me and at 7:00am he's full of energy looking for his morning walk regardless of my discomfort.

But on I went and I have continued to do so for about 4-5 days a week. My routines are getting longer but more organized now with a certain routine to them and it seems to be paying off a bit. Now I've got no delusions that I'm an adonis in the making but I am slowly making progress. The weights lifted are slowly increasing, the duration of my lifecycle / elliptical bouts are increasing and 'lo and behold, the pain is actually a thing of the past (mostly). As an added benefit, I've actually lost some weight (about 10 lbs in 4 weeks) and my sleep is improving but DAMN....slow going......My membership will carry me through till the summer at which point I hope to have shed somewhere in the vicinity of 30 pounds and firmed up whatever's left.

One strange thing though that bothers me about the Centre where I workout. You see here in Toronto, they are city buildings, staffed by city employees and in every ward of the city, there are free to the citizens....except in my ward. Now I can't exactly complain about the actual cost to me for a membership (it was a gift afterall) because at $96 for 6 months, that's 1/3 the cost of the cheapest gym in town but still....Why do we have to pay a membership to a facility that our tax dollars already paid to build, equip and staff ?

Can it be because it has a pool ? Nope, there are other centres with pools. Can it be because it has squash courts ? I hope not 'cause why then am I subsidizing the squash players when I don't play myself ? Can it be because it has a gymnasium ? Same as the previous point so I hope not. Add to this the fact that in my ward / neighborhood, it's all buildings (apartments & condos) so we have a pretty high population density which means lots of tax revenue from this area to pay for those goodies in the first place.

Something to take up with the government. Yet another example of Downtown Toronto residents getting fleeced.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Why I wanna be a US banker

In these times of economic uncertainty and timidity I want to be a banker. In fact, I just plain wanna be a US bank for 1 day. Let me explain my reasoning.

J.P Morgan just released their Quarterly profits (that's 3 months folks) and they've managed to shatter the old record. Now it should be stated that J.P is the 2nd largest US bank so one can only guess at the profits of their largest. Anyways, they "earned" $3.3 Billion in profits for the quarter. Just say that out loud to yourself. $3.3 BILLION.

$3,300,000,000.00 (nine zeros)
3,300 x New Millionaires
$10.00 from every man, woman & child in the USA (or $40 per US Citizen/year)

Another way of looking at this (literally is....)

- $100 is something you could spend on you and your loved one for dinner & a movie

- $10,000 (ten thousand dollars) A stack of $100 bills (1000 of them) would fit snugly in your pocket and let you have one very nice vacation in a 5 star resort

- $1,000,000 (million dollars) Now we're getting into lottery money. This is where you buy a house, pay off the bills, send the kids to college

- $100,000,000 (hundred million) This is uber-rich kind of money. At this level you're Hollywood rich. Tom Cruise, Arnold, Mike Jordan, Mike Jackson..hell, even Tiger have a few of these to their names and we've all seen the photos of their lifestyles

- $1,000,000,000 (billion dollars) Congratulations, you've just made it onto FORBES Billionaire's list. Now to put this into perspective, Bill Gates has about 50 times this. At this level, you are James Bond super villain rich. You have a chateau in the south of France, your own tropical island, a mega yacht or two, private planes and if you really wanted to, you could own a sky scraper or two in Manhattan.

Multiply this x 3 and that's what J.P Morgan made as PROFIT in 3 months. That means they've paid the bills and salaries and this is the gravy...For 3 months of "work". Don't worry though, they'll do it again in another 3 months and so will their competitors. They're just one bank.

Now how did they make this much ? Well, they gouged you, the depositor. They used your money to invest and this is the profit they made from your money while at the same time only giving you %0.25 in return. They made this by charging you %30 on your credit cards. They made this by exploiting every loophole in the tax system.

So next time you're standing in line at the supermarket with a handfull of clipped coupons from the newspaper so you can save $0.50 on Tuna fish, remember, that the 50 cent fee charged on your debit card is helping to rake up that $3.3 Billion in quarterly profit.