Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jack's 15 minutes

One of our favorite movies is "The American President" starring Michael Douglas, Annette Bening and Richard Dreyfuss. The Dreyfuss character spends most of the movie thundering "My name is Bob Runsom and I'm running for president of the United States" much like Jack has been fond of doing lately.

Jack appears to be a well educated man, possibly a little stupid but well educated. Unfortunately "well educated" and "smart" all too often are mutually exclusive concepts but that's a whole other matter. So Jack must know that he isn't really running for Prime Minister of Canada. I have about as much chance of getting elected Prime Minister on Oct. 14 as Jack does. Neither of us is going to be moving into 24 Sussex in the near future (or ever for that matter). But there goes Jack like a little wind up soldier claiming that he's running for Prime Minister.

The line is so reminiscent of The American President that you would have to think Jack knows where it came from - copied it even. But if so then he must surely also know how that movie ends. For those of you who don't know, it ends with Michael Douglas finally engaging the Dreyfuss character. The Douglas character starts that speech by saying "My name is Andrew Shephard and I AM the president of the United States. Bob Runsom - your fifteen minutes of fame are over." So enjoy it while it lasts Jack.

We've been holed up in Prince Albert for a week now and it looks like we will be here a while longer. Anne is still in the hospital. She's apparently doing well but the doctors haven't discharged her and she probably enjoys all the attention.

I was in Brandon on Wednesday to do some NTSCC training for CAAR and then we both went to Saskatoon on Friday. Marilyn had some meetings and I took RJ out for his 20th birthday supper. Hard to believe that its 20 already. Originally we had planned to move back to Saskatoon this weekend but we'll likely stay here for another week now. It looks like we will then be off to Grande Prairie for a week or so. I'd rather be heading south but its nice to have lots of work lined up if we are going to be here anyway.

We took the boat back to Nipawin on Tuesday and picked up Marilyn's car so that we could both have a vehicle again. I got the boat winterized and stuck in the shop. I always hate doing that - it seems so much like the end of summer and it always seems like we don't get enough time to use it. This year we put close to 60 hours on it. Last year it was barely 40 hours but that says more about Candle Lake than it does about how much we used the boat this year. The best we ever did was one summer when the kids were younger when we put over 100 hours on it. Usually if we can get over 50 hours I count it as relatively successful. We should be able to start to consistently put more than that on it though once we put Saskatchewan in the rear view mirror. When we were in Osoyoos it looked as though we could be on the water to the end of September or perhaps even well into October. If we can start in June in the Shuswaps and finish in October in Osoyoos that would be a major improvement on the 8 or 9 weeks that we have been used to.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Market whiners, fall colours and philosophy

I've been spending a lot of time over the last year trying to learn how to make money in the stock market. And I have to say I've done pretty well. I was doing even better until last Friday. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, the world was not about to end last week. Some of us were playing by the rules and doing just fine. Then the US government changed the rules completely. Which has lead to some whining. But not from me because I think I have learned the single most important rule that every investor or trader should memorize. "Know how much you can lose before you open the position". If everybody did that then one of two things would happen:

  • they would make money because the stock did what they expected it to do
  • they would lose the money that they had determined ahead of time they could afford to lose
Its really that simple. Position size has to be related to what you can afford to lose. If everyone invested that way there would likely still be a lot of whining but there would be no rational reason for anyone to whine. There were lots of us last week who were short the market and who had been short it for a long time. We were making money - sometimes a lot of money. A lot of people were whining but some of us were quietly making money. Then the US gummit stepped in and changed the rules, effectively saying "if you're big enough and in a bad enough mess then you can't go broke". You know the old saying "If you owe the bank $1 million and can't pay then you have a problem. If you owe the bank $100 million and can't pay then the bank has a problem." To that you can apparently now add "If you owe $100 billion and can't pay then the whole world has a problem." I'm not wild about that philosophy and I've got a lot of company in that sentiment but it ultimately doesn't matter. I knew what I could afford to lose going in. I know how to manage the eventual loss and my capital will be intact to trade another day. Its too bad everyone didn't have that attitude because if they did we wouldn't need massive governmental interference in the markets at immense public expense.

Today we moved from Saskatoon to Prince Albert, having spent the weekend at Blaine and Jacquie's after a couple of days at Ron & Norma's. We caused a lot of excitement in Shields. I don't think they get a lot of converted Prevosts stopping in Shields or even passing by Shields. And the internet satellite system was another topic of conversation. It was great to get reacquainted with Ron and Norma - we haven't spent any significant amount of time with them for a long while. They took us to the Hole in the Wall Restaurant on Thursday evening. That was a taste treat to be long remembered.

We moved to Saskatoon on Friday hoping that we would get in some boat time on the river but that wasn't to be. It was too cold yesterday and too windy both days. Today has been an absolute bear for wind. I'm worried that the dish is going to blow over despite the fact that it is snuggled up against the bus in a well treed campground and staked down.

Marilyn has been up at the hospital most of the day. Anne isn't doing well after having emergency surgery for a strangulated hernia last week. She recovered well from the surgery but she has some kind of an infection and today she developed pain whenever she swallows so she hasn't been able to eat or drink. She's a tough old bird but at 101 I guess some of the systems just aren't as resilient as they once were. We'll likely stay here all week. I have to be in Brandon on Wednesday but I can leave from here just as easily as from Nipawin. We have to be back in Saskatoon next weekend anyway because it is RJ's birthday and because I have some meetings there early next week.

I think it is time to go out and worry about the dish some more. I've got one of those things you use to stake a dog out in the yard. Maybe I'll screw it in and tie the tripod down to that.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Golden, BC

We're back where we slept the first night we owned the bus only on the other side of the highway. We got Kerri married off over the weekend, ate too much, visited with numerous relates and left town this morning late enough to miss rush hour. All in all a pretty successful visit.

The wedding was at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Jericho clubhouse. In case you don't know the RVYC has something like 9 or 10 locations. The one we were at is at the west end of Jericho beach. It was a pretty spectacular setting for an afternoon and evening wedding. Just at dusk the groom's stepmother took over the microphone for a few minutes to point out that there was an island mirage rising out of the western horizon. We were seeing islands that she said were over 100 miles away and very seldom visible. She should know - she used to race sailboats. Kerri's husband has been a member of RVYC since he was 10 years old. We had a great visit with his father over breakfast Sunday morning. He told us that he signed both of his boys up when they were 10 because that meant that by the time they were 30 they would have put in the necessary 20 year wait to get a moorage.

We left Capilano this morning and got briefly disoriented but quickly got back on course. Then we had to wander around Abbotsford for a while to find diesel fuel but thank goodness we did because it was $1.31 there and as high as $1.45 the rest of the day. We rolled into Golden right about dark and parked by the Husky, thinking that they would have wifi but they didn't. We could see some unsecured sites but the strongest one wanted a password eventually and we would have had to stay in the hotel to get the password so that wasn't on. So we moved ahead a few hundred yards and found another hotel with an unsecured access point. Its really amazing how many unsecured sites there still are. I keep expecting that evenually people will figure out how to implement security and the sites will no longer be available but so far it hasn't happened. So we're stealing a little bit of internet from some place called the Golden somethingorother - can't remember what it is right now.

Tomorrow - Calgary. And then on to Saskatoon and maybe even Candle Lake for the weekend.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kamikaze campaign

The current election campaign reminds me of Joe Clark's kamikaze effort in 1980. Except this time its the Liberals that are going to take the fall. Steffie Ding Dong just doesn't seem to get it. Canadians generally don't want more taxes. A lot of us have this strange notion that we are the best judges of how to spend our own money. It looks like the party faithful are starting to run from the sinking ship too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sunny Vancouver

We got moved to Vancouver yesterday. We arrived at the WalMart in Surrey about 3 in the afternoon, found a quiet parking spot and set out to do some shopping and eat out at one of the Chinese restaurants we could see across the street. Before we did that we thought maybe we should read the one of the big signs we could see on the lamp posts in the parking lot. Sure enough, the signs told us our money wasn't welcome in Surrey. There's a few communities that have bowed to pressure from their local campgrounds and enacted anti-overnight parking regulations. Apparently Surrey is one of them. That was an expensive move on their part.

So far Marilyn has bought Kerri's wedding present in Vancouver and Capilano RV has received an extra night's rent from us. Surrey is out the wedding present and a restaurant meal and we'll make a point of avoiding the place in the future as well. These small minded councillors just don't get it. RVers don't want to wander around looking for a campground when they just plan to spend the night. We'll go where our money is welcome. Our house has wheels under it which makes it real easy to move on when we don't feel welcome.

We went through some PDP (pretty darn pretty) countryside along the way but I think it will be a long time before we come across on #3 highway again. Like long enough for me to forget some of the hairpin curves and 9% grades that go on forever. I couldn't help thinking "what is going to happen here if the Jake brake ever decides to quit?" Fortunately it never did. We've got a lot of weight to stop if we ever had to depend on just the service brakes to come down a mountain. I guess trucks did it before they invented compression brakes but that's also why they have those runaway lanes and I don't want to experience one of them either.

Yesterday after we arrived we went over to Granville Island to get some clams which I then cooked up in white wine with tomatos and onions to make a linguine sauce. It would have been a lot better if I had used 1/4 of the jalapeƱo instead of 1/2. It was pretty hot. We may not get a chance to do it again because it sounds like our every minute is planned going forward but I'm going to watch for a chance.

On the way back from the market we were stuck in traffic on Howe Street. I looked over at the car next to us and thought "that looks like Kerri-Lynne" (the wedding girl) but then I thought "don't be silly - you just think that because you are out here for the wedding." So I looked away and then looked back and it still looked like her so I said something to Marilyn. It was her. We visited for about 1/2 a block and then their lane moved ahead - it always works that way - whatever lane I'm in is never the one that moves ahead.

This week has been very relaxing. Even allowing for the times we were leading a 10 vehicle convoy down a 9% grade and wondering if the Jake was going to hold, it has been a good week. I was so busy for the last month that I had just closed out all my stock positions, which in hindsight was probably the best thing to do anyway. I spent Sunday and Monday catching up on my reading and then bought puts on five different companies. On Tuesday the market tanked and its got worse as the week goes on. Life is good. I've got until January to exercise my puts but it doesn't look like I will need anywhere near that long.

Time to go get shaved so we can go somewhere fancy for supper. I try to avoid shaving more than once a month - its one of the major perqs of our new lifestyle. However I am afraid that I will have to burn up a couple of month's worth of shaving over the next few days. The sacrifices I make!!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bears - everywhere we go - bears

So Thursday night we left Swift Current about 6:00 and drove through to camp Wally Mart in Lethbridge. We didn't get a very early start from Lethbridge because I wanted to buy a new camera. Ever since the big Japan trip my little S20 hasn't worked very well and most of the time it hasn't worked at all. I guess it didn't owe me anything any more - technology has moved on. I'd been scouting pocket cameras on the internet - I love my digital Rebel but there's times when its just too awkward to carry it around. If I was going to buy one anyway then I wanted to buy it before the big wedding and buying it in Alberta saved me the sales tax. But that meant we had to wait until Future Shop opened at 10:00. And then we had to navigate the streets to where it is located in Lethbridge - no easy task that either.

Back on the road with $200 worth of new camera and $20 worth of memory - 4 Gig for $20 - can you imagine? I should have bought more than one but I guess they will likely be cheaper next week. Marilyn pointed out that if we fill one of them and put it in the picture frames we won't see the same pictures for a week.

We chugged all the way through to New Denver that night. We hadn't intended to go nearly that far but it was early when we got to Creston so we headed up the lake, missed the 5:20 sailing for the ferry and settled in to wait for the 7:00 sailing. We had supper while we were waiting and Marilyn phoned our 1st choice campground on the west shore of Kootenay lake. It was closed but we could park on their grass overnight and come in to pay in the morning. Thank you but no thank you. So she phoned another place that it turned out we had stayed at the year Michael lost his glasses. We got there at about 8:00 - it was blacker than the inside of a cow and we didn't like the looks of where we would have to get to plus it looked like we would share a 15 amp plug with several other rigs so we kept on going.

Somewhere along the Valley of the Ghosts between Kaslo and New Denver a black bear flushed out of the ditch and rambled across the road directly in front of us. You can't go very fast on that road and that was a good thing for Mr. Bear cuz he'd have been bear-burger otherwise. He kept looking over his shoulder and shambling along the median just ahead of me but finally turned left and got out of the way just in time.

This morning just after we left Slocan there was another bear crossed the road about 100 yards in front of us. I don't think we've ever seen two bears in one summer, let alone 2 days apart.

Today we arrived in Osoyoos and checked into Waltons Lakefront Resort. We stayed here several years ago with the kids but the place has gone considerably upscale since we were last here. Now they are trying to sell the pads for $179,000 per each. For that we get a level pad and a road barely wide enough to back into the site. No thanks to the $179k but its an OK rental at $35 per night.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Grasslands National Snore

We just got back from an 80 km tour around the west block of the "Park". Don't bother. We didn't see anything that I didn't see 40 years ago driving across the pasture behind the farm at Kenaston. There may be something of cultural or historical significance in the east block but there sure isn't in the west block. We saw some fat gophers AKA prairie dogs but that was about it for wildlife. A few long legged ditch rats (whitetail deer) in one spot and the occasional bird but really not that much. There's supposed to be buffalo on this side but we didn't see them.

There's a grazing project underway in the east block with local cattle. Apparently one scientist who works for Parks Canada actually has a brain and has noticed that protecting the park from grazing doesn't actually preserve it. The historic pattern of fire and overgrazing has been disrupted by man's preservation efforts. It turns out that changing the grazing pattern changes the climax species on the prairie -surprise, surprise. One proposed solution is to selectively graze areas of the park with cattle. Of course some of the more radical tree huggers in Parks Canada aren't 100% in favour of that solution but the science supports it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tree huggers

We stayed 3 nights at Gail & Al Balfour's just outside of Climax. Al was kind enough to pretend that I was helpful as a truck driver while they were combining. We only got in one day of combining because the weather went seriously bad but we had a pretty good day while we were going. We had a great visit with Gail & Al - hadn't seen them for ages. Last night they took us on a road trip to the bar in Turner, MT. I think maybe Al has been there before - everybody seemed to know him. Mind you, there were more Canadians in that bar than there were Americans.

This morning we hooked up and headed east. The road north from Climax is under construction and it wouldn't have been pretty after all the rain they have had. Al's brother and sister-in-law went through it last night and it sounds like they barely made it in 4WD.

We thought we should get out of Al's way so he could get some work done but we didn't go very far. We ended up at a B & B just outside Val Marie, right on the edge of the Grasslands National Park . I think know that the people that own the place are tree huggers but they seem otherwise OK. They are starting to develop a campground behind the B & B and they have one 20 amp hookup. Its more than just a little muddy here so we ended up on the good gravel near the house plugged into the side of the house. They seem to think its a 20 amp hookup but the tea kettle just popped their breaker so there might be a few other things besides us on the circuit.

We'll spend a couple of nights here getting some work finished off. I've got four reports to deliver close to Mankota plus another one up by Swift Current and a couple over at Moose Jaw. I've got most of them printed off and bound now; I'll get the last one wrapped up this afternoon and make some phone calls tonight. The rain should give me a chance to catch these guys at home and get this all done in one day. Marilyn may have to make a trip to P.A. so we'll try to coordinate that with my trip to Moose Jaw. With any luck we'll be on our way west by Thursday or Friday. We've got a reservation in Vancouver for the following Thursday so we still have lots of time but we'd like as much time to look around on the way out as possible.

Its been pretty dry down here. The hills are all yellow. I expect they will green up one last time with this rain. I don't know what they've had here but I think Al & Gail are probably getting close to 2 inches by now. Just what they need for harvest.