30 January 2006

Rainy days, be damned!

Americans' Savings Rate at Lowest Level Since 1933

Published: January 30, 2006
Filed at 1:13 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans' personal savings rate dipped into negative territory in 2005, something that hasn't happened since the Great Depression. Consumers depleted their savings to finance the purchases of cars and other big-ticket items.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that the savings rate fell into negative territory at minus 0.5 percent, meaning that Americans not only spent all of their after-tax income last year but had to dip into previous savings or increase borrowing.

The savings rate has been negative for an entire year only twice before -- in 1932 and 1933 -- two years when the country was struggling to cope with the Great Depression, a time of massive business failures and job layoffs.

With employment growth strong now, analysts said that different factors are at play. Americans feel they can spend more, given that the value of their homes, the biggest asset for most families, has been rising sharply in recent years.

But analysts cautioned that this behavior was risky at a time when 78 million Americans are on the verge of retirement.

''Americans seem to have the feeling that it is wimpish to save,'' said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. ''The idea is to put away money for old age and we are just not doing that.''

The Commerce report said that consumer spending for December rose by 0.9 percent, more than double the 0.4 percent increase in incomes last month.

A price gauge that excludes food and energy rose by a tiny 0.1 percent in December, down from a 0.2 percent rise in November. This inflation index linked to consumer spending is closely watched by officials at the Federal Reserve.

The central bank meets on Tuesday, when it is expected it will boost interest rates for a 14th time. However, many economists believe those rate hikes are drawing to a close with perhaps another quarter-point hike at the March 28 meeting as the central bank is starting to see the impact of the previous rate hikes in a slowing economy.

The government reported on Friday that overall economic growth slowed to a 1.1 percent rate in the final three months of the year, the most sluggish pace in three years.

That slowdown was heavily influenced by a big drop for the quarter in spending on new cars, which had surged in the summer as automakers offered attractive sales incentives.

A negative savings rate means that Americans spent all their disposable income, the amount left over after paying taxes, and dipped into their past savings to finance their purchases. For the month, the savings rate fell to 0.7 percent, the largest one-month decline since a 3.4 percent drop in August.

The 0.5 percent negative savings rate for 2005 followed a 1.8 percent rate of savings in 2004. The last negative rates occurred in 1932, a drop of 0.9 percent, and a record 1.5 percent decline in 1933. In those years Americans exhausted their savings to try to meet expenses in the wake of the worst economic crisis in U.S. history.

One major reason that consumers felt confident in spending all of their disposable incomes and dipping into savings last year was that a booming housing market made them feel more wealthy. As their home prices surged at double-digit rates, that created what economists call a ''wealth effect'' that supported greater spending.

The concern, however, is that the housing boom of the past five years is beginning to quiet down with the rise in mortgage rates. Analysts are closing watching to see whether consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity, falters in 2006 as Americans, already carrying heavy debt loads, don't feel as wealthy as the price appreciation of their homes would seem to indicate.

For December, the 0.4 percent rise in incomes was in line with Wall Street expectations. It followed a similar 0.4 percent increase in November, with both months lower than the 0.6 percent rise in October.

The 0.9 percent rise in spending with slightly above the expectation for a 0.8 percent increase and was almost double the 0.5 percent increase in November.

Holy crap. This can NOT be a good sign.

This simply means that millions and millions of Americans are a pink slip, an accident, or a bout of illness away from utter and irretrievable financial disaster.

The disconnect between financial reality and people's behavior is astounding. This goes beyond anything I've read, including the recent pieces of the neurobiology of denial. The 'lottery' mentality is out there, money for nothing.

Begs the question (from Diamond's book Collapse): what were the Easter Islanders thinking when they chopped down the last tree? What are 21st Century Americans thinking when they spend money they don't have under conditions that virtually ensure they will never be able to repay? What are 21st Century American companies thinking when they loan money to these people? Can anybody tell me that the ATM-cum-McMansion economy of the last three years is going to persist into the foreseeable future? Why is everything crazy?

Oily slicks

"The oil endowment is our inheritance, renewable energy is our hard earned wage."

Oil-price shock tops list of global economic risks

The good news about oil is that even if terrorists were to blow up key infrastructure around the world, there probably(emphasis added) would be enough reserves to make up the shortfall for as long as a year. At least that was the conclusion from a crisis simulation held at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The bad news: Oil prices would still soar as high as US$120 a barrel, and economists, ceos and risk analysts gathered at Davos still put an oil-price shock at the top of their list of global economic risks. Lack of spare output capacity and growing worries over geopolitics are making that more possible, they say. In fact, some economists say the US economy already is suffering from an oil-price shock. It just doesn't realize it yet. Research by Washington-based consultant Robert Wescott, a former International Monetary Fund and White House economist, suggests oil prices are already hurting stock prices, and may hurt profits and growth. Wescott looked at what has happened to US stock prices since 1950 when corporate profits rose sharply, as they did last year. He found that stocks rose by an average 21.5% when profits were up by 30% or more -- except in 2005. Last year, profits rose about 30%, but stocks were flat. In Westcott's view, oil prices are the key reason. "Oil prices have been creaming our companies," he said after the simulation. The only reason the oil-price surge hasn't hammered US growth, he said, is that job creation in housing-related sectors of the economy and mortgage-equity withdrawals have kept US consumers spending, despite higher gasoline and heating costs. As the housing market slows, he says, that cushion will disappear and the ill effects of expensive oil will become clear. He cited weak US growth figures for the fourth quarter of 2005, released last week, as evidence. Wescott's is a minority view. Most economists believe the oil-price rise of recent years has had little impact so far. But his contention underlines a general unease that with oil prices now over $60 a barrel, the global economy might not weather an additional runup the way it has handled the climb so far.
(Wall Street Journal 060130)

What about bird flu? Has everyone forgotten about bird flu?

Exxon Mobil makes record US$36.13B in 2005

High prices for oil and gasoline have driven Exxon Mobil to the biggest quarterly and full-year profits in US corporate history. On Monday, the company said it made US$10.71 billion in the fourth quarter and $33.13B for the year. The company owned the previous records for quarterly and annual profits. Exxon said it made $1.71 per share in the last three months of 2005, up from $1.30 a year earlier. Excluding onetime charges, the company made $1.65 per share, well ahead of the $1.44 that Wall Street analysts had been expecting. The firm's fourth quarter revenues also rose sharply, climbing to $99.66B from $83.37B a year ago. For the full year, Exxon made $5.71 a share, up from $3.89 in 2004. Full-year revenue rose to $371B from $298.04B
(CBC 060130)

Saudi Arabia says production should not be cut

Saudi Arabia's oil minister said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the producer of more than a third of the world's crude, should not cut production when the group meets Jan. 31. "Absolutely not," Ali al-Naimi said in Vienna, echoing comments from Algeria's energy minister, Chakib Khelil. "Growth, economic growth" will drive Asian demand for energy this year, he said. Officials from Nigeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Indonesia in the past week expressed similar views. OPEC is pumping as much as it can to fill a widening gap between production from non-OPEC countries, which stagnated last year, and rising demand.
(National Post 060130)

Once again, the big question is: how much spare capacity is there left in the system? OPEC claims they have upwards of a few extra million barrels a day of extra capacity that can be brought onstream at a moments notice, but there is growing skepticism in the OPEC nations' numbers. Truth be told, no one really know for certain how much could be brought online in short order, and the only way we would know for sure is for it to happen, and figure out the numbers after the fact. A lot of people are making a lot of decisions based on guesstimates. Pretty scary stuff.

Saudi Arabia is currently producing around 8 million barrels a day, I think? They optimistically claim based on their probable reserves they can bring upwards of 10 to 15 million a day online over the next few years and into the far future. These claims are being used for long-term planning in all of the western countries (and now China and India along with Japan). The problem is that very few people are questioning the validity of these claims. Papers from Saudi Aramco (the national oil company) show they are doing secondary and tertiary remediation work on old, previously disappointing fields to simply make up for production declines in the giants and super-giants (of which a vast majority of the Middle East's production is from several mega-fields which are 50 to 70 years old). There has not been a major new field discovery in Saudi Arabia for twenty years. Should these probable reserves be as big as they are estimated to be? Does the disappointing history of these fields indicate that the probable reserves should be re-evaluated? There has been no pressure for Saudi Aramco (along with all the other OPEC nations' nationalized oil companies) to validate their proven reserves and to ignore the probable reserve numbers completely.

I think there at least is agreement that there is a lot of oil left in standard and unconventional forms. However, for the insatiable and out-of-control growth in appetite of the world economy, I think the biggest question is: how much of that oil that's left is cheap to get at? From the looks of it, everything that is coming down the pipes now is costing a lot more to produce than even ten years ago. This will be reflected in the prices we pay for everything very soon, how much the oil companies need to spend to get at the harder-to-get-at stuff, and how much they make as well.

Yet another good resource of information here.

"Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too." Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 8.

27 January 2006

Yogurt for my berry girl...

Look what new product I found in the downtown Co-op last night:

For Sara...I've gotta put a Saskatoon package together for you someday soon.

The new me

Thanks to Sara, I now have a new avatar - and one that befits me, too! Less the bike and spandex, though. That stuff wasn't available. I thought beer and Towelie would suffice.

The new bed - partially courtesy of Ralph Klein

Oh, how I'd love to let Ralph know that his prosperity cheques were being spent to facilitate more comfortable gay sex! ROTFLMAO!

The new high-rise bed. It's a freakin' foot higher than the old mattress! I'll need to get Joe a footstool... ;-)

Someone's a Sealy fan. Now that critter knows quality!

Pay as you pollute

Neasa MacErlean
Tuesday January 24, 2006

In a few years from now you will have another plastic card in your wallet - your carbon card. You will start the year with 1,000 points on it and each time you fill up your car, you put the card in a slot on the pump and it will deduct a few points.
Each time you buy an airline ticket, it will cost you a minimum of 100 points. If you fly regularly, you may have to buy more points through the carbon market - but since it is all in the cause of reducing greenhouse gas emissions you do not mind so much.

An environmentalist's pipe dream? Not at all, but a scheme put before parliament 18 months ago in a private member's bill sponsored by Colin Challen, the Labour MP for Morley & Rothwell.
Mr Challen hopes that a national scheme will be in place by 2009, and along with 44 other MPs he is working to reduce his own carbon emissions by 25% by 2010 as an example of how individuals need to start doing their bit on climate change.

"The idea is picking up speed but it is a radical one and needs to be widely debated,' he said.

The Royal Society of Arts, meanwhile, has just begun a three-year project on personal carbon allowances. It plans to produce schools packs and run a lecture series later this year leading to the production of concrete proposals by the end of 2007.

The government - through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - describes the subject as "a very interesting idea", but that is as far as it will go. Defra minister Elliott Morley has talked of a timetable of at least 10 years.

Politicians are wary of public reaction, and statements such as: "One has to be looking at the end of cheap air flights" from the creator of the idea, David Fleming, terrify them. But Fleming - an independent writer - is pressing for his scheme of tradable energy quotas to be rolled out within a couple of years.

"Practically all the infrastructure exists," he said.

Richard Starkey of The Tyndall Centre - a leading academic in the field - agrees.

"You would not be pushing the technology envelope. It would rely on well-established credit card technologies," he said.

Starkey has probably looked in more detail than anyone else at how the scheme could work.

Each of us would get the same allowance at the start of the year. "If people weren't particularly interested in messing about with carbon units, they could sell them back straightaway and buy them again when they needed them," he said.

The carbon market would work similarly to the foreign currency markets. You could walk into a high street bank or the Post Office and buy or sell your units there. Just as they do now with foreign currencies, the financial institutions would offer carbon units at their own prices and the die-hards amongst us would shop around for the best deals.

Many in the poorest 30% of households would stand to gain from trading. Those who do not want or cannot afford to go for holidays in the sun could sell their allowances on the market to be snapped up by frequent flyers.

Price volatility could be a problem, and this would be an area of concern for politicians. A similar scheme introduced a year ago for businesses in the EU saw prices quadruple within weeks, and a personal carbon market could be just as unpredictable.

While politicians keep a safe distance away from the RSA's research, other experts will follow it closely. Dr Brenda Boardman of the Environmental Change Unit at Oxford University points to the surprising fact that domestic UK electricity consumption rose 6% between July and September last year.

"We are going in absolutely the wrong direction now," she said.

Boardman is "deeply disappointed" that the government has done so little to encourage households - responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions - to go in the right direction, and believes personal carbon allowances could be the way.

Personal carbon trading raises complicated issues. What would happen to the Kenyan economy, for instance, if the UK stopped importing mangetout - as it could well do as a domino effect of a personal carbon trading scheme? There are many such awkward questions to confront, but that should not deter the development of a promising idea.

Source: The Guardian

Rebirth? More like Zombie Death.

More damage control propoganda from Detroit:

GM: Brace for more cuts

General Motors warned of more cutbacks after the company capped a disastrous 2005 by reporting on Thursday an US$8.6-billion loss for the year, the second-largest loss in the history of Detroit automakers. The larger-than-expected loss raised more concerns among GM's executives and workers about the automaker's shaky future and sent the automaker's already battered stock down 3.35%. Ceo Rick Wagoner said 2005 was "one of the most difficult years in GM's history." He said the automaker will have to chop beyond the health care concessions reached with the UAW in October, and November's plan to idle a dozen plants and cut 30,000 jobs in North America by the end of 2008. "We need to continue to lower our overall manufacturing costs," Wagoner said. GM also needs to cut the "huge legacy cost disadvantage burden," he said, referring to the health care and pension benefits paid to more than 1 million retirees, a cost foreign automakers don't face. Wagoner and other GM executives did not specify what those cost cuts would be. Analysts who follow the industry say they are concerned GM's problems are not over. "We believe that Kerkorian's presence has ratcheted up pressure on GM management to restructure the business," Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy said in a report to investors Thursday. Regardless of what Kerkorian does, "we believe that things are going to get worse before they get better," Murphy added.
(Detroit Free Press 060127)

Lay them all off! Shut everything down! Move operations to Myanmar or Cambodia ASAFP!!!

Ford ad gambles on family imprint: 'Rebirth'

This past Monday, William Clay Ford Jr., ceo of Ford, made his case to employees, analysts, and the media for how his company could survive. Then he planned to start making that case to consumers. Whether they will buy it is another issue. In a new television commercial Ford timed for broadcast just two days after it said it would close as many as 14 factories and cut up to 30,000 jobs during the next six years, Ford says his company is "determined to retake the American roadway." The ad, titled "Rebirth," echoes much of the restructuring plan the company presented and candidly acknowledges the company's recent difficulties. Details of the plan continued to unfold on Tuesday as Ford shook up its top management ranks. Its chief marketing and sales executive, Stephen Lyons, and its head of investor relations, Barbara Gasper, will both leave the company, Ford said. Ford also eliminated four corporate officer positions and shuffled other high-ranking managers. Anne Stevens, Ford's coo, said if Ford was to overcome the perception it was not doing enough to address its problems, candour was the best way to do that. The 30-second commercial will appear on national television and in some select markets, including Detroit, New York, and Washington, during the next three months. There are no plans to air the ad in Canada. But analysts said the commercial, intended as a marketing component of its restructuring plan, was risky because it reminds consumers of Ford's problems even as it asks them to buy Ford vehicles. This is not the first time Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, has taken up the role of company spokesman. His first starring role in Ford commercials was in 2002, shortly after he became ceo and began his first corporate turnaround plan. Those ads, titled "Ford on Ford," featured Ford talking about his family's imprint on American culture.
(National Post 060127)

I think the North American car companies have shown once again that they are incapable of competing in the world marketplace. Everytime there's an economic downturn, the car manufacturers and airlines are seemingly always caught holding the hot potato. It's inevitable that they either have to close up shop or move somewhere where their capital expenses are lower. Either way, rising out of the ashes like a phoenix 'rebirth' is not an apt metaphor. It's more like a zombie that gets hacked up again and again, but never dies. It just keeps coming back to try to kill you and your loved ones over and over again.

As for my take on Ford's imprint on American culture, well, they've certainly been successful in convincing everyone that the independent, free-driving lifestyle is the norm of affluence, success, and power and always will be. That car ownership = independence = American Dream. Admittedly, they are only partly responsible for the environmental devastation, societal stresses, and resource shortage problems we are already witnessing but about to see become much, much worse. They should be held completely culpable for those things that can be directly attributable to them. Everyone is about to see that their 'imprint' was a ruse and tenuous fabrication.

26 January 2006

Auto woes

General Motors loses US$8.6B in 2005

Struggling General Motors has reported a 2005 loss of US$8.6 billion, dragged down by huge restructuring charges and weak results at its North American operations. The loss amounted to $15.13 per share, compared to net income of $2.8B, or $4.92 a share in the same year-ago period. The company said its full-year revenue slipped slightly to $192.6B, compared to $193.5B in 2004. "2005 was one of the most difficult years in GM's history, driven by poor performance in North America," company chairman and ceo Rick Wagoner said in a release. "It was a year in which two significant fundamental weaknesses in our North American operations were fully exposed – our huge legacy cost burden and our inability to adjust structural costs in line with falling revenue." Wagoner also said the results were adversely affected by parts-maker Delphi's bankruptcy-protection filing. In November, GM announced it would close or cut back 12 North American facilities, including two in Ontario, and slash 30,000 jobs as part of its plan to return to profitability. In the fourth quarter alone, GM lost $4.8B, or $8.45 a share. In the same period last year, the company lost $99 million, or 18 cents a share. GM's sales for the quarter slipped to $51.2B from $51.4B a year earlier.

In other news, billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian is acquiring 12 million shares of GM stock, matching the number of shares he sold in December, a federal regulatory filing showed on Wednesday. Kerkorian's private equity firm, Tracinda, bought five million shares of GM stock on Monday for an average purchase price of $21.40, or approximately $107M, it said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. On Tuesday, Tracinda agreed to purchase an additional seven million GM shares in a private transaction for $22.25 per share, or approximately $155.8M. Those purchases would boost Kerkorian's stake in the world's largest automaker to 9.9%, the same as it was before Tracinda sold 12 million shares in December. Tracinda said at the time that it sold the shares so that it could end its fiscal year with a capital loss, making it eligible for certain US federal and California income tax breaks. But it left open the possibility of reacquiring shares, and it waited only a short time after so-called wash rules lapsed. Federal tax rules prohibit a taxpayer from claiming a loss on the sale of stock if replacement shares are acquired within 30 days.
(CBC, Calgary Herald 060126)

Of course things get more difficult the fatter and lazier you get. Of the fat and lazy, GM has been the fattest and laziest of them all. I guess you tend to lose motivation to stay relevant when you have a cash cow like the SUV market to rely on. Oh wait, that was fickle, unsustainable, and destructive -- what a big surprise, they've already fallen out of favour with the general public! How did this happen? Why didn't we see the signs? Help us jebus! You morons. Way to let the market pass you by, losers.

GM, Ford woes could bite Chrysler next

While its Detroit rivals struggle with falling US sales, deep losses and plant closing announcements, everything seems to be going well for Chrysler Group. But some experts say that the problems that have bitten General Motors and Ford so hard could be just around the corner for the North American unit of DaimlerChrysler. Company executives concede the company's economic outlook is closer to that of its Detroit rivals than its Japanese competitors. At first blush, everything seems to be fine at Chrysler. It saw US sales increase 4.4% in 2005; GM and Ford both had sales fall almost 5%. It has an investment grade credit rating; GM and Ford have been downgraded to junk bond status and their executives have been forced to repeatedly answer questions about whether bankruptcy lies ahead. Perhaps most importantly, Chrysler Group made US$1.3 billion in the first three quarters of 2005, while GM lost $1.6B from its North American automotive operations during the same period, excluding special items. Ford lost $1.6B on a pre-tax basis, excluding special items, on its North American auto operations in 2005.

But DaimlerChrysler's credit rating is only a couple of steps above junk bond status itself. And some analysts raise questions about the strength of both its profits and its sales. "They're not making anywhere near the money they need to be making," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, who points to issues such as retiree health care costs and limited flexibility for its factories to switch between products. "The only reason we're not talking more about them is because they don't have as serious a problem as GM or Ford." The experts say that the problems at GM and Ford could show up at Chrysler relatively quickly if its sales slump even slightly. And some question whether Chrysler's sales and product line-up are nearly as strong as they appear. "The weakness of Ford and GM has kept the microscope off of Chrysler," said Walter McManus, director of the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation at the University of Michigan. "But they're also lagging the Japanese how fast they are getting new product out. Their product portfolio is not adequate. The 300 was a hit but the downside of the hot niche product, they have a short shelf life." Cole added that DaimlerChrysler leadership is aware of the challenges it faces and he still believes that it should be able to avoid the financial situation now facing GM and Ford. He points to the announcement this week that DaimlerChrysler will trim 6,000 white collar jobs, mostly in Europe, as proof that company management is working on its challenges. But Cole said that the sudden onset of the problems at GM and Ford in 2005 shows how fast fortunes can change in the industry today. "They're not home free," said Cole. "They've been a little separated from the recent pain, but not by very much. It [a financial crisis at Chrysler] is a very major concern for the top executives there."
(CNN 060125)

Message from GM and Ford to DaimlerChrysler: "If we're going down, we're taking you with us!"

The auto industry and housing market will be falling into full-fledged tailspin very soon. The housing boom is anticipated to be off by as much as 10% in 2006. Too bad the entire North American economy is propped up by these two sectors. Woe is us.

Bush balks at auto bailouts

US President Bush says General Motors and Ford should develop “a product that's relevant” rather than look to Washington for help with their heavy pension obligations, and hinted he would take a dim view of a government bailout if the struggling auto makers sought one. In an Oval Office interview, Bush said his administration has discussed the development of new fuel technologies with the nation's top two auto makers, which might make them more competitive, but that he has had no talks about the companies' finances. Asked whether he had spoken to GM chairman and ceo Rick Wagoner or Ford chairman and ceo Bill Ford, Bush replied: “Not about their balance sheets.” He added: “And I haven't been asked by any automobile manufacturer about a bailout.”

In discussing the auto companies' woes, Bush suggested his sympathies lie more with the workers who are displaced or unsettled by a changing corporate environment. On the subject of ballooning pension expenses, which are part of Detroit's problems, Bush called on GM, Ford and the airline industry to think twice before backing away from their promises to pay in full. “That's not how the market works and that's not corporate responsibility as I see it,” he said. “I'm very firm on seeing to it that this government hold people to account.” While neither GM nor Ford has sought to pass on pension obligations, a few airlines have. After filing for bankruptcy protection, UAL's United Airlines and US Airways Group dumped nearly US$10-billion in unfunded pension obligations on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal insurer of private sector traditional pension plans. Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which are currently operating in Chapter 11, have said they haven't decided whether they will ask the court to shift their pension plans to the PBGC. Additionally, Bush said his administration would focus on ways to retrain laid-off employees. “This is going to be a very troubling time for workers and their families,” Bush said, adding that companies had an obligation to assist employees they cut loose.
(Globe and Mail 060126)

How come corporations can rescind on their obligations to their employees when in trouble (like agreed-upon pension contracts, etc.)? Isn't this essentially out-and-out theft? Fuckin' corporations. They've single-handedly in their sociopathic mania short-sightedness and greed destroyed the world.

25 January 2006


The 2005 Gang

Yay! We've just confirmed the annual bike training camp in Tucson, Arizona from March 31 to April 9, 2006. This year's group will be smaller than last year, but it sure will be a great time! Reid, BK, Jon, Frank, Cory and myself are going this year.

Saguaro East National Park

It sure is a trip-intensive time of year. I just booked accommodations for Joe and I at the McGill University Residence for the Outgames in Montreal from July 29 to August 7th as well today, and I'm still in a post-vacation bliss from Texas. Unfortunately work is insane, so I'm not able to dwell on it very much while at work...

View from Mile 18, Mt. Lemmon

Good sleepin'

Joe and I went to the Brick last night. They're having a mattress sale so we decided that's what we were going to spend our Prosperity cheques on - a new mattress set. I didn't get out of work until 7pm, so needless to say all the mattresses I lied on at the store felt heavenly due to simple exhaustion. We selected a Sealy Perfect Sleeper Backlogic Gold 3000 Eurotop Firm Queen Mattress Set. It's wonderful and being delivered on Friday. Bye-bye 'free money', hello quality sleep. I'll be glad to get rid of the spring contraption we currently sleep on.

I still hadn't eaten or drank anything since the early afternoon, so needless to say I was predictably getting frustrated and tired by the time we headed home. I basically hit the sack as soon as we walked in the door. Two more sleeps.....

24 January 2006

Harper's thin blue line

Voters put an end to 12 years of Liberal government yesterday but left the victorious Conservatives under Stephen Harper with a very tenuous hold on government. Helped by a dramatic breakthrough in Quebec and a slide of Liberal fortunes in Ontario, the Conservatives eked out a minority government that will make Harper, a 46-year-old economist, Canada's 22nd prime minister. Liberal Leader Paul Martin said he would not fight another election although he would remain as an MP. He promised to consult his new caucus and the party leadership “in the coming days” to ensure an orderly transition to a new leader. Canadians appeared to be saying they were tired of the scandals that had plagued the Liberals under Martin during his 26 months as prime minister and were ready to give a tentative embrace to a Conservative Party that pledged to clean up government while cutting taxes and cracking down on crime. Even though he was denied a majority, the election represented a significant victory for Harper who was given little chance of success when he took over the Conservatives more than two years ago after a merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives.

At the dissolution of Parliament, the Liberals held 133 seats in the Commons, while the Conservatives held 98, the Bloc Québécois 53 and the NDP 18. There were four independents and two seats were vacant. The Liberals entered the election campaign six percentage points ahead of the Conservatives but facing a restive electorate. The Liberals lost their government and the Conservatives won their minority with a change in about two dozen seats in Central Canada. The NDP under Jack Layton made its strongest showing in decades. The Bloc under Leader Gilles Duceppe maintained its stranglehold on Quebec, but fell short of its ambitions. Duceppe, who was re-elected in Montreal, set his sights high but did not meet expectations. He had bragged that his party would increase its standing to about 60 seats and claim more than 50% of the popular vote, showing clear support for sovereignty. But while his party will continue to dominate the province, it lost a handful of seats and hovered below 50% of the popular vote. When all the votes were counted, Canadians elected 124 Conservatives, 103 Liberals, 51 Bloc, 29 NDP and 1 Independent to represent them in the next Parliament.
(Globe and Mail, Wall Street Journal, (National Post 060124)

The popular vote breakdown is interesting. Even though the Green Party didn't get any seats, they garnered 4.5% of the popular vote nationally, and had 6.6% of the popular vote in Alberta! I'm not sure what to make of that, whether most people were protest voting and the Greens were the sure bet, or if there's really an awareness of a need for radical change out there, and if it's especially felt in this province in particular due to the increasing divide between rich and poor, have and have-not here. Interesting nonetheless. In my riding of Calgary Centre, the vote breakdown was this:

Party CON
Candidate Lee Richardson*
% of votes 55.4%
Votes 30213

Party LIB
Candidate Heesung Kim
% of votes 19.2%
Votes 10504

Party NDP
Candidate Brian Pincott
% of votes 13.3%
Votes 7232

Party GRN
Candidate John Johnson
% of votes 11.7%
Votes 6368

Party CAP
Candidate Trevor Grover
% of votes 0.5%
Votes 250

Back to D & G (and not the Italian fancy D & G)

Here's a link to Daily KOS' final admission that there's a problem with our global oil supply, which then links to an Independent/European Tribune story on $100/bbl oil. It's coming sooner than you think...

After reading "Twilight in the Desert", anything's possible. There is no more cheap oil left.

23 January 2006

Welcome and Welcome Baa-ack

I'd like to welcome the arrival of Malina and the return of Natasha to the blogosphere. These two chicks freakin' ROCK! I love them both to death and can't wait to engage with them again in some lively political/cultural/ethical/civic/environmental debate. Watch out, they've got tongues as sharp as their wits!

I'm Baa-ack!

Hello everyone! Happy election day (well, maybe sad election day depending on who's platform you felt contained the fewest lies)! It's so good to be back! I'd like to say I'm glad to be home, however I now feel after a day of work that I never even left. Back to the grind, back to the problems, back to the stress. Great. Oh well, I have lots of great memories from Texas and had a great time with my parents.

I thought that instead of going through detail minutiae, I'd share my diary notes that I took down while I was down there with some filler to explain and describe.

Saturday, January 14: arrive Harlingen 22:30. Drive to Weslaco. Because of construction (and M & D's unfamiliarity with the lay of the land), we end up looping around the same service road exits, trying to get onto Express 83 to Weslaco. Hilarity ensures (not really). Lots of cursing is more like it. The service roads all the way from Harlingen to McAllen are a massive mess in various stages of construction - and apparently they've been this way for a few years already. Probably will be for a few more yet too.

Mom and Dad's southern home

The pool where I spent a lot of pensive time...

Sunday, January 15: to South Padre Island w/ M & D, Raymond and Laura (family friends). Lots of fun. Search for shells at north part of civilization on the island, laugh at people bogged down in the sand with vehicles.

SPI truckin'. This guy was stuck there for quite a long time.

I figured the dunes in the uninhabited north end of the island would make a great locale for some great porn shoots, but alas, I never got to scope out any prime locations.

Shell hunting on SPI beach

The sand on SPI is so fine that on windy days it apparently acts as a super-abrasive on buildings, everything. It also drifts across the roads like snow - and they use grader patrols to remove it from the roads too!

Drifting sand on the main SPI highway

View of SPI

SPI beach at Isla Blanca

I bought some board shorts downtown on sale, and we headed to the beach at Isla Blanca. Nice day, but windy. Went for a jog down the beach, built a sand castle, BBQed with the folks at the Pavilion. Headed back to Weslaco in the evening.

Me in my new vibrant shorts!

My sand creation. The tidal surge didn't take long to work it back to nature

M & D on the beach

Monday, January 16: Lazy day, breezy 25C. Finished "Twilight In the Desert"", laid on pool deck for 4.5 hours in afternoon. Nicely burned. Ran in a.m. on crappy knee. Checked out Weslaco Fitness Center. Will go later in the week - they even have a weightlifting platform.

Mini-bananas. Cute and tasty!

Tuesday, January 17: super windy, high of 20C. Ran to Dad's ball game in a.m. This geriatric league of trailer park vs. trailer park is super-competitive. My dad hates it. Too much pressure. Funny. A bunch of hyper-competitive old men. The super-complicated rules were discussed at dad's b-day party. Their irrationality made me think of the rules of Blurnsball on Futurama.

Mom and I went to get party crap for his b-day, then picked up dad and headed to Nuevo Progreso, MX for some shopping while dad got his teeth worked on. Came back and b-day party started. Happy 60th dad!

Dad's 60th

Nuevo Progreso is weird. It is totally a service town catering to the Winter Texans that cross the bridge to get cheap dental work done and cheap drugs at the pharmacias. I have a picture here of an entire 'dental mall'. The streets are narrow and you spend an inordinate amount of time navigating around the geriatric crowd there.

Downtown Nuevo Progreso

the Dentist Mall. How bizarre....

Wednesday, January 18: I was supposed to meet Sara & Eliot in San Antonio today, but they caught the flu so the plans were kiboshed. What to do today? Got to the city library, did some emailing.

Random scribe: "Winter Texans" - funny. An entire sub-industry is devoted to them and their money here in the Rio Grande Valley. All I see are old silver-haired and overweight people everywhere. Where are all the young and beautiful people here? Have they all flocked to the metroplexes further north?

Did you know there is are teams in Texas belonging to the Central Hockey League? The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees play out of the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo. Ricky Martin opened the festivities of the All-Star Hockey Game. Do you think Ricky has ever seen a hockey game? Austin's team are called the Ice Bats. Odessa Jackalopes. Amarillo Gorillas. Lubbock Cotton Kings. Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs? Freakin' hilarious. I guess most of the players are Canadian imports anyways.

Random scribe: There are NO sidewalks here. I'm walking to the gym every morning and jogging on the roads facing traffic. People are truly amazed to see someone walking as they drive by.

America Heart Wal-Mart.

Americans love their cars. Even the poorest of the poor strive for identity and status with pimped out cars. Probably worth more than anything else they own.

Gym workout went okay today. Upper body workout tomorrow - run early in am.m Thinking about doing a run after dark tonight - uhm, maybe not. Got home, spent one hour on pool deck. Dinner. Started reading main part of 'The End of Faith' by Sam Harris. I MUST RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO JEFF AND NATASHA. samharris.org. I must send the guy a thank-you email. I am so outraged now about religion. I'm really glad that I bought these last two books I've read.

Did another late night excursion to Wal-Mart with Mom and Dad. In the late evening, the store is chock full of evolutionary lapses. Bought Paulina Rubio's 'Pau-Latina', and RBD's 'Nuestro Amor'.

Thursday, January 19: gym workout and run. "Aloe King" Aloe Vera farm tour at 1:30pm. Actually very interesting. On the farm they grow Aloe Vera, Avocados, Papaya, Pecan trees, Valencia and Navel oranges, Texas coconuts (little ones, apparently Texans aren't too proud of them since they're so small - don't fit the mould of big Texan things). I learned a lot of things, like the fact avocados actually grow on trees. Really big trees.

Genuine Aloe Vera gel. Amazing!

Aloe Vera field

Orange grove

After the tour, headed to the Texas tourist bureau in Harlingen to scam a bunch of free maps, etc. for the next time I visit. I think next time, Joe and I will come down and land in Dallas or Houston, rent a car, check out the sights, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and spend a few days in the Valley.

Went for dinner in the evening to Wild Bill's in Mercedes. Absolutely humungous portions. Ordered brisket and ribs, got double order of ribs from Bill himself because apparently the first rack were too dry....

My Texas-sized meal at Wild Bills. Yes, that's a regulation fork!

Random scribe: People here sure love dogs, especially free-range ones. I got chased five times on my run this morning. I was ready to crush some little doggie heads by the end of it all.

What is it with people at the gym here? No one returns weights or plates back on the racks when they're done, they just leave them where they used them. No one. Why?

Friday, January 20: Upper and lower body workout in the morning (same as the Peak Power Monday hypertrophy workout). Very exhausting. Spent afternoon on pool deck after zipping down to Nuevo Progreso to pick up my future duty-free booze and cigarettes. The temp today is nearly 30C.

Bought 750ml (26oz.) Sauza Tres Generationes tequila - $36, 750ml Bombay Sapphire Gin - $14, 200 Winston lights - $15.

Paid $2.03 Federal tax on liquor over one litre crossing over to Texas, and $7.25 State tax, mostly on the cigs. Should only have to pay duty on 360ml coming back into Canada.

Decided to go to Pepe's on the River in Mission tomorrow. Had pork and shrimp dinner at Uncle Irwin and Aunt Marys.

Saturday, January 21: cold, rainy. Went to Don Wes flea market with folks. Definitely not my type of place. Just lots of white trash Winter Texans buying crap and junk. It's busy here on a cold day - I can only imagine what it's like on a nice weekend day. There is a huge flea market in Brownsville that we drove over en route to SPI on Sunday as well - thousands upon thousands of people, cars. Apparently it is quite the experience, if you're into those types of things.

People are just out buying crap for the sake of buying crap.

Went to Pepe's on the River for lunch. Interesting locale, very country. Entire complex would probably be pretty fun and rocking on a hot weekend day. Oh wait, there are so many retired freakin' Winter Texans here, weekend doesn't mean anything to them. These places could be busy on any given day, I guess.

Took a drive through McAllen on the way back to Weslaco. It is a pretty ugly town too. Looks the same as all the rest of them in the Valley. Main drags are all full of new car and used car dealerships, Burger Kings and Whattaburgers. Even in this small city of 100K, traffic is snarled and congested. Weslaco is much nicer than McAllen, I'll even admit.

Downtown Weslaco, TX

On the way out of McAllen, saw this billboard way up in the air on the Express 83 heading east:
"Vaginal Rejuvenation" at the Cosmetic Gynecology Center. Yeesh. Meat curtains! Eep!

Needless to say, I'll be glad to be hanging out with young people again. I saw FIVE hot guys all week. Everyone else was either really ancient, fat, ugly, or a combination of the three.
Two of the guys were kayaking on SPI, and really weren't quite as hot as they thought they were, however they won the booby prize due to lack of entries. One was a surfer on SPI in a wetsuit. Didn't see much skin, but appeared to have a good body and a great face. Another hottie was a young guy at the Weslaco Gym I saw on Wednesday, but never saw again. He was the yummiest. And the final one was a decent looking guy at the Don Wes flea market being dragged around by his wife. He was a Navy guy, not the most good looking face, but had a decent body, ie., didn't have a freaking gut like everyone else around here).

Hottie kayakers

Random scribe: They sell individual dill pickles here, either in plastic bags with the brine (which I saw on SPI), or deli-style. Laura thought I got a big kick out of this, so on the last day, she bought me a dill pickle. I had already told her I was giving here my Aloe Vera plant since I wouldn't be able to take it into Canada, so we had a commodity exchange! Very funny!

The historic Aloe Vera - Pickle exchange of 2006!

Sunday, January 22: Time to go home. M & D got me at the Valley International in Harlingen at 06:30. Had a coffee with them and then headed through Customs to my flight. Still cold and stormy outside. Flight between Harlingen and Houston wasn't too rough, but flying out of Houston was the most turbulent flight I've been on to date. Got into Calgary at 14:40. By the time I got through Customs and baggage, it was nearly 16:00.

For future reference, the Duty Free prices in Houston IAH were $17.50 for Gin, $24 for American cigs, plus taxes, and there was no tequila on the shelves! Would recommend buying the duty-free items in Mexico, paying the tax to bring them into Texas, then flying with that. It's still cheaper. Of course, I didn't realize there was a $15 Health Tax upon entering into Canada with American Cigs. Weird eh? Because I honestly didn't know about this, the Customs Officer let me away with it this time. I guess that's why the DuMaurier cigs in Houston were like $36. Still cheap.

That's the end of this story.

13 January 2006

Deep in the Heart of Texas

(June Hershey/Don Swander)

The stars at night - are big and bright
Deep in the heart of texas.
The prairie sky - is wide and high
Deep in the heart of texas.
The sage in bloom - is like perfume
Deep in the heart of texas.
Reminds me of - the one I love
Deep in the heart of texas.
The cowboys cry - ki-yip-pie-yi
Deep in the heart of texas.
The rabbits rush - around the brush
Deep in the heart of texas.
The coyotes wail - along the trail
Deep in the heart of texas.
The doggies bawl - and bawl and bawl
Deep in the heart of texas.

Yee-haw! I'm heading to warmer climes tomorrow. I've been waiting for this forever - possibly moreso to get away from work and shit for a few days. I don't think I'll be meeting up with any rabbits, coyotes, or doggies though. Maybe a few heavies in SUVs, or old white-hairs with walkers. I'll publish pics and stories as soon as I get back. Behave yourselves next week, everyone!

12 January 2006


Natural gas crisis on horizon: analyst

Wilf Gobert, vice-chairman of Peters & Co., said he sees a crisis looming in natural gas supply. "The newest energy crisis I believe is at hand and it's not over crude oil, but North American natural gas supply," said Gobert at the Outlook 2006 luncheon held in Calgary. "Crude oil is liquid product and the pun is intended. It can be transported to the United States by ocean tanker, by pipeline, by truck . . . US consumption of natural gas is supplied by US production. It's pipelined from Canada . . . US natural gas production has not grown in the past 10 years. So growth in the US economy has seen Canada be the source of new supply for nearly all of the incremental consumption." But he said Canadian natural gas production stopped growing in 2003. "It's the first time in our history that the industry has been unable to grow production," said Gobert. He was speaking at Outlook 2006, sponsored by the National Post and Roynat Capital in association with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and the Calgary Herald. The luncheon tour also includes stops in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax and Montreal.
(Calgary Herald 060112)

the Peak Oilers have been saying this for years now. North America's NG supply is still almost completely domestically produced, and the infrastructure to import is prohibitively expensive, takes a long time to build and is typically something that falls under the 'not in my back yard' category, much like a nuclear reactor due to the dangers of the product involved (LNG). Continental Peak NG occurred a decade ago, yet the vast majority of homes, buildings, etc. are still piped into gas. I wonder whether those 4000 square foot McMansions in Springbank will still look as enticing when the heating bills per month are in the thousands of dollars???

Tory win may jolt loonie

The high-flying loonie may duck for a bit of cover and financial markets could be roiled on Jan. 24 if a Conservative government is elected the day before, some analysts say. If a largely unknown and untested Tory government is elected, markets could experience some turmoil, although the underlying strengths of the Canadian economy should soon help settle some of the uncertainty, they add. Public opinion polls are suggesting the Jan. 23 federal election could end with a minority Conservative government, with a few surveys even indicating a majority Tory mandate. That's triggering some questions about how financial markets -- accustomed to roughly 13 years of Liberal administrations -- might adjust to the change. The Canadian dollar is likely the most sensitive barometer of political change and uncertainty, says Doug Porter, deputy chief economist with brokerage BMO Nesbitt Burns. And it could experience some volatility, moving by a few cents up and down, if a new regime is put in place, he said. "What we can say is that we'd be dealing with a great deal of uncertainty if the Conservatives came in, at least initially, simply because you're dealing with a lot of unknowns." One of the greatest unknown factors is the personalities: almost none of the incumbent Conservative MPs -- including leader Stephen Harper -- or even candidates have served in a federal cabinet. Some have provincial experience but in general, the players are largely untested, said Porter.
(Calgary Herald 060112)

Don't the analysts know the only difference between Liberal and Conservative is 'same shit, different pile'? Everything will certainly remain status quo whomever gets elected in on the 23rd.

Global forces point to strong growth in West

Warren Jestin, svp and chief economist at Scotiabank Group writes that Canadian growth has averaged nearly 3% over the past two years and more of the same is likely in 2006. However, this steady national glide path masks major differences among regions, with solid momentum in the West and Newfoundland counterbalancing softer growth in other areas. This pattern is mirrored at the industry level, as buoyant commodity markets compensate for the drag from a high-flying loonie and the erosion of our US market share of manufactured products to low-cost overseas competitors. Is growth approaching 3% a good performance? Historically, it's in line with the Canadian average over the past three decades and much better than the meagre 1.5 to 2% growth outcomes likely in Japan and Europe. It also may be sufficient to regain G-7 leadership next year as the pace of US activity moves below 3% in 2007 for the first time in nearly half a decade. However, it is well below the trend in many new industrial powerhouses, led by China -- growing by 8.5 to 9% annually -- and India, which is cruising along at 7 to 7.5%. These nations are reshaping our economic landscape. For example, China is overtaking Canada as top foreign supplier of non-energy products to the US. Our market share in this segment dropped to 12.5% last year from 17% just six years ago. However, thanks to our substantial resource base -- and the increasing US dependence on imported energy -- we will still hold bragging rights as the top supplier of imports to our giant southern neighbour. Add in burgeoning Asian demand for a wide variety of commodities and Canada's merchandise trade surplus should stay above $50 billion.

While commodity markets are hard to predict, for 2006 we expect natural gas prices to fluctuate between US$9 to $10/mcf and oil to average just below $60/bbl. These prices are more than double the levels prevailing at the turn of the decade and provide a powerful incentive for exploration and development in Canada's resource sector. A similar story holds true for uranium. Markets for copper, nickel, zinc, iron ore and gold also are likely to be very buoyant. Taken together, the global forces fuelling commodity markets will help underpin solid gains in employment, investment and consumer spending in Western Canada. For 2006, Alberta is expected to grow by nearly five per cent, outpacing BC by about a percentage point. On a longer-term basis, this gap may vanish as major capital spending projects click in and BC more fully develops its pivotal position as Canada's gateway to Asia. With the notable exception of resource-rich Newfoundland, growth will likely be best in the West through the balance of the decade.
(Calgary Herald 060112)

People in Western Canada have been waiting decades, if not a century, for the balance of power in this nation to shift from East to West. It looks like the shift is finally happening. I wonder what the political map will look like in this country in 10 or 20 years?

Bumpy year ahead for autos, Ross says

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross yesterday forecast a bleak 2006 for the US auto parts sector, saying the year could be a “perfect storm” for companies racked by bankruptcies in 2005 and facing possible declines in overall auto sales this year. “I think this could very well be a worse shakeout year for auto suppliers than we had even last year,” Ross said before his speech at a high yield conference held in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The need for consolidation in the sector is “even more imperative” with the possibility of two more rough years in the US automotive industry, said Ross, chairman of private equity investment firm WL Ross & Co.
(Globe and Mail 060112)

Yikes - it looks like bigger and bigger problems for the idiots in Detroit. Even the investors are getting flighty, and who can blame them?

China says trade surplus tripled

China's trade surplus surged to US$101.9 billion in 2005, more than triple the $32B gap recorded the year before, according to customs figures released Wednesday. Exports rose 28.4% year-on-year in 2005 to $762B, while imports rose 17.6% to $660B, the General Administration of Customs said in a report. With total global trade of $1.42 trillion, China is now the world's third-biggest trading country, the report said. China announced earlier that it had overtaken Japan in terms of merchandise trade and remained behind the US and Germany. The figures were largely in line with expectations, but they were likely to intensify pressure for Beijing to loosen foreign exchange controls that US officials and other critics contend keep the Chinese currency, the yuan, undervalued, making Chinese exports relatively cheap in overseas markets. China's trade surplus with the US is forecast to top $200B, up nearly 25% from the record-high surplus in 2004. The report gave no breakdown for imports and exports with the US and other major trading partners. It said that China's biggest trading partner was the EU, with two-way trade estimated at $217.3B, up 22.6% from the year before. The US was second, with imports and exports totaling $211.6B, up 25%. Trade with Japan rose 9.9% to $184.5B.

The government forecast that growth in exports would slow significantly this year due to higher oil prices and trade friction. The main planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, estimated in a report published Wednesday in the state-run newspaper China Securities Journal that exports would rise about 15% year-on-year in 2006, with imports climbing about 18%. Robust exports have been a key factor behind China's feverish economic growth in recent years. The commission estimated that growth hit 9.8% in 2005, and says it is expected to slow to a still stunning 8.5 to 9% this year. China's consumer price index, its main measure for inflation, is expected to rise only 1% this year, and maybe yield to deflation later in the year, due to overproduction in many industries and slow domestic demand, the report said. Autos, steel, cement and construction are among many industries facing a glut due to soaring investment in recent years. Aluminum smelters, also targeted for cutbacks, plan to cut annual output by 335,000 tons, or about 10% of total capacity, to counter excess production, the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association said in a report on its website Wednesday. Meanwhile, the planning agency said China would spend at least 12 trillion yuan, or $1.5 trillion, in the next five years on energy and transport, areas severely strained by the breakneck pace of growth in recent years. More than half will go to road and railway construction, the commission said in a report carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.
(Canadian Press 060111)

Apparently China's Ministry of Finance can't count very well. They've been readjusting 2004/05 numbers for months now, and all indicators point to the need for the Yuan to be de-indexed from the USD and allowed to be valued on the open market. It's only fair, isn't it?

11 January 2006

Mad Scramble for Crack

Canada's oilsands are becoming such significant global oil suppliers there will be a "mad scramble" in coming years to purchase oilsands assets, two new reports predicted yesterday. Jeff Rubin, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said the oilsands are poised to become the single biggest contributor to net new global supply by the end of the decade, with growth in production on the drawing board exceeding even that planned by the world's largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia. "The combination of depleting reserves and sweeping state ownership has left each of the world's six largest publicly traded oil firms looking at declining production over the next two years," the report said. "That sets the stage for a mad scramble for whatever proven reserves the market still has access to. And there are no greater reserves accessible to private investment than the Canadian oilsands."

Meanwhile, a survey of 54 Canadian energy executives and investment bankers by the national law firm, Blake Cassels & Graydon, found there are expectations of higher merger and acquisition activity in the Canadian oilpatch in the next 12 months, driven by American and Chinese investors. Among oil executives, 38% said that their primary corporate strategy in 2006 will be a strategic merger or acquisition. Consolidation is expected to be concentrated among junior oil and gas companies converting into trusts. While M&A activity has been dominated historically by transactions involving conventional assets, the survey found that for the first time the oilsands are emerging as the major target, although there will continue to be nearly as high an interest in conventional oil and gas assets.
(National Post 060111)

Alberta has yet to see the golden days of the oilsands, however, as one of the last megafield hydrocarbon deposits in the world, it will be undoubtedly exploited to an extreme. How this will effect the surrounding environment, water supplies and energy generation in the province is yet to be discussed in any detail. I hope these conversations take place and not get lost in the mad rush to make big money and insane profits.

09 January 2006

Takeo and Hoshi

We got word just before NYE that Ryan managed to get a pup from the breeder he got Takeo from nine years ago. He had to make another trip back to Manitoba to pick him up. His name is Hoshi and he's now nine weeks old. He's so freakin' cute!

Takeo & Hoshi


Skiing and Skating

On Sunday, BK, Reid, Jon and myself met out at the Canmore Nordic Centre for a few loops around the trails. BK and Reid were working on their skating technique, while Jon was staying in the classical grooves for the morning. It was quite a nice day, so good ol' red wax was required to have any traction on the hills. I did a bit of both since I didn't have any wax until Jon showed up - I'd stick to the groomed sections for classical, but I'd have to skate to climb the hills. Needless to say, my hip flexors and shoulders are a wee bit sore today. Here are some shots from our day.

Reid @ Canmore Nordic Centre

Reid @ Canmore Nordic Centre - how do you like my 90's retro-look?

Grizzly Paw Restaurant

Thursday @ Quab

As mentioned in a previous post, Doug, Jeff, Joe and I went to the Quab show opening on Thursday for Grant Cunningham, Susanne Apgar and Jim Jewitt. The following are some of the pics from the evening.

Group @ Quab

Here are a few of Grant's works:

...and here are some of Jim's works:

Joe and "After the Rain"

Car news and more FUH2!

It's over; Drivers' once-passionate love affair with SUVs has fizzled out

For Phyllis Attrill, trading in a sport utility vehicle was hardly an earth-shattering decision. But when hundreds of thousands of Canadians and Americans made a similar move last year, the shock waves battered Detroit. The ramifications of those actions by individual drivers are on display at the North American International Auto Show in the Motor City this week, where so-called crossover utility vehicles -- the next step in the evolution of the SUV -- are grabbing centre stage. Toyota will unveil the next generation of the Camry at the show, but much of the attention of the thousands of reporters and auto-industry executives from around the globe will be focused on crossovers from Ford and General Motors. Crossovers offer the functionality and most of the space of a traditional SUV, but ride like a car because they don't sit on a truck frame the way their forebears do.

Last night, however, it was the turn of GM's biggest SUVs to take centre stage at the show. The redesign of the Chevrolet Suburban, Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon SUVs, plus the company's full-sized pickups, represents about half the volume of new or redesigned vehicles GM will introduce in the next two years. It's a calculated gamble by GM. “This poses a substantial risk if fuel prices surge again or if consumers continue to move toward the crossover segment,” Michael Bruynesteyn, who follows the industry for Prudential Equity Group said in a note to clients last week. Moving up the launch of these vehicles means the redesign of other cars and trucks has been pushed back, Bruynesteyn said, which could also be a problem for GM. GM is expecting the new vehicles to do well, said Paul Ballew, the company's executive director of market and industry analysis. None of the plants that makes full-sized SUVs or pickups will be closed, which means by 2008, the GMT900 program -- the internal code-name for the vehicles -- will represent fully 36% of GM's total production in North America.
(Globe and Mail 060109)

Yes, stick with the program, Detroit. It's sort of sad that now we're only watching for GM and Ford to inevitably shoot themselves in the foot/head.
..And here come the competitors, kicking and biting...

Record rollout by Japanese automakers

Toyota, Nissan and Honda are poised to sell at least 19 new and redesigned vehicle models in the US this year, their biggest-ever rollout, according to estimates by industry analysts. Toyota, with 70 models on its worldwide catalogue and a record 13.3% of 2005 US sales, may release nine cars and light trucks, said Credit Suisse First Boston's analyst Koji Endo. Honda may release six models, while Nissan unveils four, he said. Four of the models will be compact cars, on display this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. "This is the year when the three Japanese carmakers raise sales, profits and US market to another level" because 15 of the 19 models slated for sale are "high-volume, high-profit" designs, Endo said. Japan-based carmakers raised their combined US market share by 1.7 points to a record 32.2% last year, a pace that makes it harder for General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler to regain their lost market share, which fell 2.9 points to 55.2%.

Toyota, Nissan and Honda, which earn up to three-quarters of operating profit from the US, are building more factories there - as well as in Cambridge, ON, in Toyota's case - and adding models as GM and Ford pare production. At least four of 19 new designs planned by Japan's three largest carmakers are compact models with engines smaller than 1.8-litre capacity. They are releasing their smallest designs as cars gained market share in 2005 against sport-utility vehicles and other trucks for the first time in 25 years. The rush of new models could stretch the three companies' US factories to their limit, said Norihito Kanai, analyst at Dresdner Asset Management. "We expect the new models to do well in the US in 2006, which will lead to a lack of production capacity," said Kanai. Toyota's new and redesigned models will account for 30% of its total sales in the US in 2006, up from about 20% in 2005, Credit Suisse's Endo said. The ratio will be 36% for Honda and 25% for Nissan.
(National Post 060109)

BK, Reid and I took some great pics on the TCH from Canmore yesterday for the FUH2 site. I'll post them tonight.

Here they are!!!

Here is some inspired poetry from the FUH2 site:

Untitled by Vanilla Bean

Your wallet’s fat, your car is rank
Fuck you and your H2!
Each burst of speed costs half a tank
Fuck you and your H2!
At each stop sign and traffic light
Regardless if it’s day or night
They’ll mutter “asshole” and they’re right
Fuck you and your H2!

You can’t drive mud, you can’t clear rocks
Fuck you and your H2!
With Chevy Tahoe frame and shocks
Fuck you and your H2!
What illness do you suffer from?
Are your aesthetic senses numb?
How does it feel to be so dumb?
Fuck you and your H2!

If I gave you what you deserve
Fuck you and your H2!
I’d cut you off and make you swerve
Fuck you and your H2!
I’d follow you across the land
I’d top your gas tank off with sand
And flip the bird with my free hand
Fuck you and your H2!

It’s true you are the Tax-break winner
Fuck you and your H2!
You spent it on ‘roo-bars and Spinners
Fuck you and your H2!
Full fifty-grand you can omit,
But what remains to show for it?
A four-point-three-ton pile of shit.
Fuck you and your H2!

Despite my venomous complaint
Fuck you and your H2!
I’ve got an atom of restraint
Fuck you and your H2!
I hope this point you haven’t missed
Your car selection makes me pissed
In spite of that I can resist
Fuck you and your H2!

For 3 or more: the carpool lane
Fuck you and your H2!
But what if you have half a brain?
Fuck you and your H2!
You solo drive each day to work
That’s why your friends all joke and smirk
Come Humm on THIS, you fucking jerk!
Fuck you and your H2!

Haiku by Tim

Hulking black Hummer
Purchased in rank atonement
small peckered driver

06 January 2006


Last night was fun. I met up with Jeff, Doug, Jetboy and Joe at Backlot for a few drinks before heading to the show opening/vernissage at Quab. We had quite a few laughs at that poor boy Richard's expense (cute but not so bright), and lamented about the state of the gay community (or lack of it) in Calgary due to a multitude of reasons...Jetboy took off and we left Richard behind and headed to Quab around 7pm. The show was a combination of Grant Cunningham, Susanne Apgar and Jim Jewitts' works. Joe had had FIVE martinis at Backlot and needless to say he was a little sloppy when we got to Quab, but he has had his eye on one of Grant Cunningham's works, titled "After the Rain". We ended up buying it last night, so saying that Joe was a little excited is an understatement.

Pic of the painting is here.

Tonight we've got Joe's farewell party from Telus at the Franklin Boston Pizza. Hopefully it won't be too late of an evening. Saturday Ryan is returning from Grandview with his new Malamute pup (tentatively named "Buddha") and wants to get together, but BK and Reid want to go XC skiing at Canmore very early Sunday morning. Depending on how Saturday night goes (Jeff and Doug also talked about getting together), we'll see how early Sunday morning comes.

Eight more sleeps until I get the hell out of here for a few days. Here's where I'm going.

Over and out.

Personality test a la Jeff

You Have A Type A Personality


You are hyper, energetic, and always on the mood
You tend to succeed at everything you attempt
And if you don't succeed at first, you quickly climb your way to the top!

You could be called a workaholic, but you also make time for fun
As long as it's high energy and competitive, you're interested
You have the perfect personality for business and atheltic success

GM exec said to regret employee discount

General Motors' wildly popular employee discount program was a regrettable mistake and will not be offered again, the company's top sales and marketing executive said in an interview published yesterday. Even though the automaker posted record sales during the promotion, Mark LaNeve, vp for GM North American vehicle sales and marketing, said he regretted the campaign, which ran from June through September of last year. "Hindsight being 20/20, I probably wouldn't have done it," he told the Wall Street Journal online edition. The promotion, which offered deep discount to car buyers, was soon mimicked by rivals Ford and DaimlerChrysler when they rolled out their own programs in July. Sales at GM plunged 26% in October after the discount program ended, according to the paper. Ahead of next week's Detroit auto show, LaNeve told the Journal that GM plans on pursuing an "aggressive" tact on lowering prices, and doing a better job of promoting the quality of its products. "In some ways we are turning back the clock," LaNeve was quoted as saying. "The Japanese made their mark by making good products at a lower price. So to some extent, we are going to underprice them." GM, which is facing speculation it may file for bankruptcy and an eroding share of the auto market, is set to launch 19 new products this year, according to the Journal, which will include a mix of full-size and smaller SUVs as well as pickup trucks. GM officials have repeatedly denied that the troubled automaker will file for bankruptcy.
(CNN 060105)

Hmm...I seem to recall stating these exact same things a few months ago. The North American car companies went the wrong route completely by introducing these sales programs on their bigger vehicles. Now the entire North American market perceives cars produced by GM and Ford to be cheap gas-guzzlers. It will take more than a few economic cycles for these perceptions in the market to change. I'm not sure if GM and Ford have learned their lessons yet. They will want to compete on price, so I don't think the attitude that their products are 'cheap' will be going away anytime soon.

02 January 2006

New Years pics - the carnage in images

The party was completely insane, as you can witness below. To those of you that were supposed to make it but didn't, YOUR LOSS!

Alanis and Reid have pointy birthday thingies...

Birthday bunch

10 seconds to midnight...

5 seconds to midnight...

2 seconds to midnight...

Ten seconds later...

Just a little festive....that crap was all over the place - only the beginning of the mess.

Jody & Joe

Dance, bitches!

Brian, Cheryl-Lee, Ryan, Toni

Help us Jebus!

Joe and Janice -- Joe, please compose yourself!

Brian, Terri, Diane, neighbor Mike - I wonder if Brian remembers things at this point in the evening?

Later in the evening, Jerry's missing his tie, fyi.

What was left behind...8am. Go the hell home, people!

I left out the prayer room pics for fear of reprisal, but they do make good blackmail fodder, so be afraid, be very afraid! Just kidding.