Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the black guy stumbles

If anybody is following the Democratic nomination process, last week has been a hoot. Since the start of his campaign, the black guy hasn't stood for anything except being black and now a black preacher is threatening to derail him. The Americans may be ready for a black president or they may not be. One thing is for sure though, they aren't ready for one that is radically black. As long as he is just a light cafe colour he just may be palatable to a large enough segment of the public. He's very carefully trod the line so that the black constituency will vote for his skin colour and the white constituency won't feel that he is too black. But now here comes a strident BLACK preacher saying all the things that the black guy has carefully avoided saying and forcing the black guy to actually take a stand. What's informative is that he has moved away from his blackness by trying to distance himself from the famous preacher.

The media keeps painting this as a religious issue but it has very little to do with religion. It has everything to do with race and forcing the black guy to state who he really is and what he is really about. That's what the preacher is asking - "Who are you & what do you stand for?" That's what the Democrats should have been asking all along.

The Republicans meanwhile are staying carefully away from the fray and Billary is loving it, silently. She has tried to ask the question but a white person can't ask those hard questions of a black.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

5 Months Later - Back in Nipawin

Almost exactly 5 months after we pulled out of the yard we rolled back into it. I think we left for Saskatoon on Nov 27 and it was about noon on April 24 when I got back. We stayed in Saskatoon waiting for the weather forecast to improve and actually would have left on Wednesday but I think I food poisoned myself Monday night so I was in no mood to think about travel on Tuesday. Our timing was pretty good - we got a clear day for travel and then it clouded up and we had some snow on the ground Saturday morning. It didn't stick around but it still hasn't warmed up.

My new computer was waiting for me when we got back to town. I always hate switching computers but at the same time its kind of fun getting a new toy. The switch over went better than it could have but not without its moments of frustration. I bought some software called LapLink which purports to move all your software complete with activations and all your data. It also recreates your desktop and presumably all your program settings. And I have to say it did a pretty good job. In a weak moment when I was ordering the new computer I pressed "buy" for the current version of MessySoft's Office suite. I had the best of intentions of switching to Open Office but at the last minute wimped out. I think I actually backtracked in the order process to add the Office option. Of course it is full of change for the sake of change. I had been using Office 2003 so I wasn't expecting great big changes - silly me. They have hidden a lot of the functional menus and dumbed everything down. Fortunately the keyboard shortcuts that worked under 2003 appear to continue to work under 2007, despite the fact that the menus they refer to no longer exist. I didn't even realize I was using them until I happened to look up at the screen at one point and saw a long string of characters and recognized it as the keyboard shortcut sequence I was typing at that particular moment.

I had some "issues" with the screen resolution on the new laptop. I like running really high resolutions and apparently this one won't support the kind of resolution I am used to (1800 x 1600). The workaround I have discovered is that it will easily support multiple monitors. That may actually turn out to be a superior alternative - better for old eyes too.

The yard looks like it always does in the spring - a mess. Peifer's shit pile is just as ripe as it always is in the spring. There's still no green in the grass but it is supposed to warm up Monday so maybe that will change. One thing I noticed driving home is that there are still no seed drills sitting in the yards along the road. That's a sure sign that farmers are ready to go - when they get the drill up in front of the shop, hooked up and start checking to see if everything is working then seeding isn't more than a week away. I didn't see any of that last week although I understand that there are colonies in southern Alberta that are done seeding already.

Today I filed my income tax, finally. I should have had it done sooner but there was some stuff here that we needed to finish it off so, rather than have it almost done, I was able to procrastinate it completely until yesterday. Its really pretty amazing how easy it is to do now with tax software and e-filing. I use Quicktax - I suppose there's probably other ones out there but that's the one I'm used to now - and the one whose mailing list I'm on. About the end of November they mail me a free CD with the next year's software on it. Then its up to me whether I register it (and pay for it) or not. This year for a change I owed the bastards money so, after I filed the returns, I went onto the Royal Bank website and sent them the money. I don't think I write 12 cheques a year anymore.

I think I'm going to buy a Kubota - that will take a cheque I guess. My tax bill was less than I expected and I hate mowing grass. I've been looking at used stuff - like 3010s and 830s but there's a lot of junk out there and I've done my time getting greasy and frustrated with old tractors. I looked at some Chinese tractors at Osler last week - they looked really shiny and the salesdroid had a good spiel but he let slip that they were 1983 tractors that had been "refurbished" by "Chinese tractor technicians". I asked him if that meant they had been repainted and his answer wasn't completely believable or reassuring. The price was tempting but that's sometimes even more of a danger signal. I watched Hodgins sale online with every intention of bidding on some older stuff - there was a 3020 and a 930 as I recall - but by the time the bidding slowed down they were 120-180% of what I thought a good maximum was. If I have to spend over 50% of the price of a new Kubota for a 30-40 year old tractor then I'd just as soon have the new Kubota. I'd be prepared to put up with the oil leaks and flaky starting if I could spend $2 or 3,000 but not if I have to spend $6-8000. And if I buy something new then Marilyn will be able to use it too - if its a tempermental starter then it will be a one MAN tractor.

George seemed to remember the house although he had to have his bird watching post pointed out to him. He's been ripping around jumping out from behind doorways at whoever happens to be passing by.

Friday, April 18, 2008

big storm coming our way

This really sucks. We were looking forward to going to Regina on Sunday to celebrate Mom & Dad's 51st anniversary with them but now it looks like the weather is going to shut down that plan. They've been forecasting this storm for 3 days now - usually they can't tell what is going to happen this afternoon but it looks like they might have it right on this one. Tonight it sounded like it might swing more into the southwest part of the province so maybe we'll get lucky but we can't really afford to get stormed in down in Regina either so it will have to look good on Sunday.

This week I did something new. I went to the Hodgins auction on Thursday and I never left the comfort of my own living room. I was thinking about going to the sale because I'm looking pretty hard for a tractor to mow the yard with and I was looking for a generator too. Anyway, it seemed like a lot of driving to get to a sale that I probably wouldn't buy anything at anyway and then I remembered that Hodgins does a live webcast of their sales. It worked really well. I got a login ID for their sale - I couldn't make it work on Wednesday but by Thursday I had it figured out and I logged in to watch some items in the morning. They have it set up so you can set an alarm when an item you are interested in comes up so I did that. It goes off like a fire siren and then you can watch the item and hear the auctioneer. You can click on a "bid now" button or enter an amount to bid if you don't like the bid the auctioneer is looking for. It works pretty good. I ended up buying a generator. I phoned the office after my bid and she said she was going to send me an invoice but she hasn't done that yet. She also said it would be OK to pick it up on Monday so I will do that - assuming we aren't stuck in the snow here on Monday. I'm not sure how well it will work in the bus but I had to do something. The Kubota we have in here now is getting pretty tired. I may end up rebuilding it and selling the one I just bought or I may end up keeping the one I bought in the bus but either way at least we will have a working generator. Right now we really don't have one.

Marilyn spent the afternoon trying to buy a cell phone. Its more complicated than you would think. We are trying to lessen our ties to SaskTel so she had convinced herself that she would get a Telus phone. They sell them all over the place - apparently they work in Nipawin - unlike Fido or Rogers - most importantly Telus is NOT SaskTel - so it seemed like a plan. Then she discovered that Telus sells phones in Saskatchewan - with Alberta phone numbers. And the kid she was talking to couldn't tell her where the phone number would be from. So that meant that if she was in Nipawin and I phoned her from the farm we would both pay long distance charges. That was clearly a non-starter. This afternoon she went back to SaskTel but even that wasn't easy. They want to "give" you a phone in return for locking you into a contract of some description. She kept pushing them until she figured out what the absolute cheapest alternative was, and it certainly wasn't taking their so-called free phone.

Tonight the wind is howling around and there was a huge black cloud off to the west. George was a wild thing all day and my arthritis is acting up. Its hard not to think that the weather forecast was right.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Back in Saskatchewan

Well, we left Airdrie yesterday afternoon and arrived in Saskatoon this morning. I had a couple of stone chips in the driver's window on the bus. I carry repair kits for them but it has to be above 10 degrees to use the repair kit and it just hadn't ever been warm enough to use them. So yesterday we were pretty late getting out of Allison's yard while we waited for it to first get warm enough and then waited for the resin to cure. Last night we stayed on the Chev dealer's lot in Rosetown and this morning we checked into 16 West, just north of Saskatoon on the road to North Battleford. There's a surprisingly large number of others like us staying here. We had expected to be the only ones here. They aren't officially open yet, the water isn't turned on and the sewer is still frozen up but there must be 12 or more other rigs here as well as us. G-II likes it - he has a good view to the north, lots of trees for birds and lots of dead leaves blowing around on the ground.

I spent Wed-Friday in Manitoba. We had an NTSCC training session in Brandon on Wednesday. Then I drove up to Minitonas to meet with an FCC client that night. On Thursday I had 3 meetings in Swan River, Minitonas and Dauphin and then drove back to Winnipeg so we could meet with Transport Canada on Friday. By Friday night I was pretty well whipped. When I got back to Calgary Marilyn informed me that we were making supper for Camiel and Al but I wasn't much fun after supper. I think they stayed up and watched a movie until after midnight but I didn't.

We're thinking we might be able to move back to Nipawin after next weekend. Mom & Dad have invited us to their 51st anniversary supper Sunday night so we won't move until Monday but, assuming Quint says the yard looks halfway dry, we might just move back there a week from tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

all's quiet in the west

Its been pretty quiet out here next to the foothills. Mother says I don't post anything except rants but that's about all I've had to say for the last while. And sometimes Steffie is just such a fool that I can't resist.

Not much happened again last week. I made a flying trip back to Saskatchewan last Sunday to finish up a file with a client, had supper with RJ and was back out here Monday night so that I could be in Red Deer to conduct an NTSCC training session on Tuesday. I've got one more of those coming up in Brandon tomorrow and then we should be about done with them. We'll probably come up with a virtual course to close off the few remaining training opportunities but I doubt that we will find enough participants to run any more classroom sessions for that.

Last night we took Camiel & Allison out for supper - it seemed like the least we could do after they have let us park here for over a month now. I ate too much and now I'm up in the middle of the night with a belly-ache and an insomniac cat in my lap. He just helped type that last line but his little fingers aren't very good at hitting the keys so he's not really all that much help.

Last week I finally mustered up the courage to open a brokerage account again. I had a bout of thinking I knew something about buying and selling stocks about 4 years ago, took the cure and went back to letting the pros handle it but it really bugs me to see what they charge vs. what they deliver. Even a relatively small portfolio is likely paying a minimum of $20,000 annually in management fees and for what? Most of the managers don't beat the major indices. In other words, if you ran your own portfolio and all you did was buy an index fund, you'd beat over 90% of the street managers. That bugs me. So this winter I have made a concerted effort to educate myself.

Andy Sirski (former Grainews editor) writes a common sense letter for little investors. We used to say that the Western Producer was about agriculture and Grainews was about farming. His newsletter carries on that tradition only in the investment arena. Where other market letters are about the markets, Andy's letter is about how to invest. I also bought a set of CDs from some high-priced outfit in California that keeps phoning me and trying to upsell me for some more training. The combination of the two has certainly been informative - time will tell just how useful it may or may not have been. So far I have just put $5000 in the trading account. If I ever get to the point where I think I know what I am doing again then it will be time enough to put some more in there. If we get a few more months of panic in the markets that has to open up some major buying opportunities.

We're getting ready to pull up stakes and head further east, probably next weekend. I phoned Quint last week to see what our yard looks like - it sounds like we don't want to go there yet. He said that SaskPower must have got stuck in the lane when they tried to go in to read the meter. It sounds like they didn't even get to the treeline. Silly buggers. It might have looked better than it was because my tracks from Feb. have likely reappeared but it sounds like it is a long way from ready for us to come back yet. We'll probably go back as far as Saskatoon or P.A and then hang out there until Nipawin dries up.

I finally got the satellite switch done yesterday. We've been spoiled here in Al's yard because they have a super fast wi-fi network that we have been sponging off of. We were still assigned to SatMex 5 and I hadn't felt any urgency about getting switched until I started trying about 2 weeks ago. I got a variety of stories depending who I talked to but I think what was going on was that Hughes was doing some maintenance on the actual satellite and wouldn't allow any new assignments until they got done whatever they were doing. That finally happened yesterday so we are able to get locked on a satellite whenever we get around to moving. In the process I learned quite a bit including that I can talk directly to Galaxy Broadband who are the people who deal with Hughes so that removed one middleman from the contact list. It was also reassuring to know that Galaxy knows that we are tripod users. I've heard so many conflicting stories about how us tripod users are illegal or unsupported so it was good to talk to someone and tell them that we are on a tripod and have them continue to provide support. Having gone from a "Canadian" satellite to SatMex 5 and back again I now have some confidence that we can continue to travel North America and count on always having internet access.

I just re-read my opening paragraph and I think I mispoke. Steffie is always a fool - its just that sometimes it shows more than others.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Gutter politics

The opposition bill to "respect" fallen soldiers by flying the flag at half mast is the worst kind of gutter politics imaginable. The Liberals clearly demonstrated their lack of respect for the armed services by successive budgets that decimated the Canadian army. For them now to pretend to care is the height of hypocrisy.

Raising and lowering the flag for every fallen soldier doesn't demonstrate respect. Rather it debases the symbol. The flag deserves to be lowered for Remembrance Day. The rest of the year we can either show our respect for our fighting men and women with money and commitment or else admit that we don't really respect the job they do. What the opposition proposes is not designed to respect our soldiers but rather to make them fodder for political gain. This is the worst form of gutter politics but I don't expect the public will be smart enough to realize it and punish the offenders.