c9: (Money)
In economics and politics, there's a school of thought that (simplified) says that if the government spends a big pile of money, it can help lessen the effects of a recession, and may in fact have a larger impact than some other options (like just cutting taxes). This theory has been around a long time, but I don't know it well, and I also don't know how true it is. See, some people think it's true, and others don't. Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynesian_revolution

Needless to say, since it's in politics it makes everyone stupid and insane when discussing the topic. Fair warning for your future inquiries and research.

Former Ontario Premier Bob Rae tried to spend his way out of a recession in 1990, with what I understand to be poor results. (I was only 15 and didn't pay attention at the time). Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent a bundle after the 2008 recession hit -- the "Economic Action Plan" had signs up in every neighbourhood for two years -- and US President Barack Obama spent 3/4 of a trillion dollars (I think) in the US at the same time.

Currently, Canada (which started from a better place) has pretty good economic indicators and unemployment rates, and the US (which weathered most of the financial collapse that was a bit part of the recession) is in the doldrums. I've heard clear, cogent arguments that say it's all Obama's fault -- why didn't he just leave it alone, or cut taxes further, or use a magic wand or whatever -- and I've heard clear, cogent arguments that this would be worse if the spending hadn't happened, and that in fact the spending was too low. (Obama wanted higher spending originally, but apparently to appease the right wing in the US he included far more tax cuts and reduced spending than the left wing suggested was appropriate)

Anyway. All of that as background to say this: WTF? Is Keynesian economics a fraud (as I've heard) or useful (as I've heard and to be honest seems to make more sense to my non-economist brain so far) ?  Since anti-Keynesians often also claim tax cuts solve all problems (which I know to be false*), I've tended to put less stock in their opinions on this topic**.

Last night (after I went to bed, so this is my morning rant on it) Andrew Coyne of Maclean's Magazine linked to an article in the (known-to-be) right-wing op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. It irked me because it made claims (and had a few "Obama is evil"-style claims with no supporting evidence. I thought I'd write up my concerns since Twitter isn't really built for complex concepts and debates. I tweeted:
  • @c_9: Frustrating piece: overly partisan, makes claims without evidence. 4 Reasons Keynesians Keep Getting It Wrong bit.ly/vP43eB
  • @c_9@acoyne can you recommend any less-partisan reading that shows evidence instead of just claiming things to be true? Both sides of Keynesian debate claim they are right in every paragraph - how does one learn the truth? Would love to learn some facts on this.
He replied:
  • @acoyne:  He's Allan Meltzer! He don't need no steenkin' evidence!
  • @acoyne:  It is a frustrating debate. I'll see if I I've saved any particularly compelling articles, but it's generally bits & pieces here &there
  • @acoyne:  Problem is the debate went dormant for about 20 years. Keynes was pretty thoroughly out of odour when I was in grad school...Then fin'l crisis hits, and suddenly everyone's a Keynesian, without a lot of thought, in my view.
  • @acoyne:  Rather, a mix of a) Keynesians seizing the moment, b) others shrugging "we have to try something, c) opponents grown rusty.
A few more helpful exchanges expanded my understanding a bit.
  • @c_9: Thanks for anything you find. I find your writing & Krugman's both compelling, hard to reconcile. Meltzer I found a partisan crank.
  • @c_9: I don't claim expertise at ALL in this, but isn't this something Krugman has spent career thinking about?
  • @acoyne: Not exactly: his Nobel was for trade theory. And lots of others, who've spent their lives thinking about it on opposite side... Including Nobel prize winners. Bob Barro, Tom Sargent, Bob Lucas, Tyler Cowen, Gary Becker, John Cochraine, John Taylor, etc etc
  • @jm_mcgrath: One note: Krugman came to his neo-Keynesianism *by way of* his work on trade, thanks to 97 Asian Crisis. Not mutually exclusive
  • @c_9: Thx for other names to watch for. Are they also tax-cuts-only? Using "Obamacare" & misleading about tax cuts disqualified AHM for me.
  • @acoyne: They'd be skeptical that deficits had any effect, more inclined to rely on monetary policy for stabiilzation. Actually Lucas is famously skeptical that even monetary stimulus has any effect: see "rational expectations," "Lucas critique" etc. Barro is probably the most cited economist alive. I mean in academic journals.
  • @phillipblancher: Unfortunately!
  • @MikePMoffatt: 2nd, after Andrei Shleifer. http://ideas.repec.org/top/top.person.nbcites.html
  • @c_9: My (again, limited) understanding is that monetary policy not good enough with rates already at 0 in US. What would they do now?
  • @acoyne: Monetary policy has many more tools than just interest rates: see "quantitative easing." Another thing forgotten in recent years.

Frustrating and confusing. If I find (or I am sent) any useful and non-partisan articles on this, I'll add them here.

Late addition thanks to @iglikalvanova:



* I say "know to be false" so I really should have evidence to support this. Here you go! http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1692027,00.html

** People whose opinions I discount in this area include Andrew Coyne, guest star of this post. He often takes potshots at Krugman but this was the first time I managed to find content in his complaints. On other topics I still find him very insightful and helpful to read.
c9: (Money)
Curious about the recently announced US federal budget? Here's an awesome graph which will help explain it to you!
c9: (Money)
Prayer is needed for the global economy, apparently.

Prayer that will take place on Wall Street in New York City.

Prayer to a golden bull statue. I'm not kidding. Some of you who escaped the religious upbringing might not spot this right away, but all us Sunday-school kids recognize this scene.



This is the sort of thing that always ends badly in the bible.
c9: (economist-cover)
1. The displayed usericon.

2. Q. What's the capital of Iceland?

    A. $3.50
c9: (Contrails)
Judging by the current trend in oil prices, your cheap airfares are about to disappear for good. Salon's Ask The Pilot has more.

In short: jet fuel costs more than anything else airlines pay for, and it's way past the feasible business model range. Jet fuel was 86 cents per gallon in 2003, but is around $6 today. Let's say you fly a 767 with 300 seats across the Atlantic on a 5-hour flight. That plane could burn 50,000 pounds of jet fuel, or almost 8000 gallons. At the current $6/gallon, that's $160 per passenger. One way. Then the airline has to pay for the plane, the crew, the landing fees, and food, the toilet paper, and so on and so on. (note: all specs approximate)

I'm glad I'm earning lots of points this year, because I sure won't be next year.

Note: numbers updated based on different estimates I found.

Another note: I found more numbers here, so I think the numbers could be as high as $400 per person, one way, in the above example.
c9: (Escalator)
  • Ripping CDs into iTunes is taking forever. Man! I'm glad I finally have my various bits of technology arranged in a reasonable way to make it worth doing, but 300+ CDs is a big project. And no, I'm not ripping to 320kbps .ogg or anything, just boring 160 MP3. So far I don't care enough about fidelity I guess.
  • Seriously, WTF is with duvet covers? Are we not meant to have duvet and cover fit together and stay that way?!
  • A good friend had a crappy week last week, and I hope he's doing OK.
  • We have a new tree in our front yard! It's like 5 feet high, so hopefully it will do better than the little 1 foot high one that didn't survive the winter.
  • So much travel for work these days. Ottawa on Monday (one night), Saint John (!) on the following Monday (two nights), then Calgary the day after I get back for one night, then Vancouver the Tuesday after that for one night... eeek! Mississauga for a week in May, Edmonton for a week in June. I'm still enjoying it, mostly because I know it will all settle down soon and I'll look like a cost-centre to the company again until the fall.
  • Now that I'm teaching again I'm remembering the things that drove me batty about teaching... the loss of control and the disconnect from the rest of the company will be weird. I've gotten used to knowing everyone and having answers to every question, but now we've got lots of new faces around the office and I have no idea who they are.
  • I'm going to see Puppetry of the Penis on Saturday. I only know a tiny bit about it (the obvious bit I guess).
  • I'm running out of things to say, and the gas and water bills are staring at me. Make them stop staring.
c9: (Toronto)
Toronto, in case you're unaware, is a bit screwed at the moment. The city has been overspending and undersaving for several years, has no reserves left, and really needs to change things. They started that last year with new land transfer and licensing taxes, but many people feel that they "should put their house in order first", essentially that they should be doing fine and not wasting money on anything the speaker disagrees with before levying new taxes. There's an argument to be made, and my general position is that yes there is waste, but the waste would only cover about 3% of the hole they've got, so we need to move faster.

In any event, this morning's Globe & Mail tells us that the Mayor will announce a balanced budget for council to consider today. This is awesome. It's one thing to complain that the city needs more help from the province and is in danger of bankruptcy, but it's completely another to complain when you've balanced the budget and can show the specific areas that are still out of reach or hurting your municipality. Just like balancing the federal budget, this will allow for huge gains in future as we grow within our means. Hopefully there won't be as much pain as in Canada in 93-97, but it's necessary.

For reference, Toronto's budget (I think) and population are both greater than all four Atlantic provinces combined. The city faces very different challenges than both a province or a more average-sized city, so getting their sh*t together is a very good thing.

(If I'm still living in East York in 2010 I am so running for city council and beating our current councillor and big negative norbert Case Ootes. :-)
c9: (House on Fire)
Finally! The bathroom is complete. I am pleased. Now we just need all new towels and facecloths so it looks a little more swanky. 'Cause obviously, everyone is judging us.

I give you... a bathroom!

(before purchase, February 2007)
(bathroom today)
(two weeks ago)(today)
(today)(today)
c9: (Money)
Observant readers will remember that my credit card number was used to try and buy laptops in Edmonton last year, even though I wasn't in Edmonton. CIBC's fraud protection team noticed, denied the transactions, cancelled my card, and called me all in the same day. Good work!

Well this week, someone else got my card number, but it was local. They went on a multi-hundred-dollar shopping spree at The Bay right beside my work, and then at Talbot's. These are not really my type of store. But being local, it didn't trigger the fraud squad, so when I noticed it this afternoon I called them and cancelled my card.

So now another new Visa number to memorize (or not, since that would be smarter, but of course that won't work). I always write in big letters on my card "ASK FOR ID" but sadly most people don't. Sadder still, apparently The Bay and Talbot's are willing to type in card numbers rather than swipe them. Morons.

I need a Frappuccino to make me feel better.
c9: (Money)
Welcome, friends. Once again here at Channel-9, we set out to bring you the stories that matter. The stories that you don't get anywhere else. The stories that are almost entirely not made up.

Tonight, we'll meet a young (Cut to couple: "yes we're still young. Write down young!") couple in East York ("No, say Toronto. East York is so passé. Is that Case Ootes over there? Duck!") who recently moved to the city, and wanted a way to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon.

First, they rode the streetcar to Little Italy, only to find that almost everything was closed. Not just normal closed, but kind of The Quiet Earth closed. There was a church with a SOLD sign on it, and a notice on the door about the city cutting the power to the entire neighbourhood for most of the day.

Next, lunch at a little bakery that was in fact Portuguese. Really European too, in that "interesting approach to the concept of customer service" kind of way. Yummy cakes.

Next, a walk to Bloor and Bathurst to work off perhaps 3% of the cakes. Why Bloor and Bathurst? What can be found on this fascinating corner? Why, Honest Ed's of course!  Honest Ed's is a Toronto ... ummm... the normal word here would be institution, but that should maybe be used in the mental institution sense.  Perhaps landmark. That's safe and neutral. It hardly begins to convey this, though:



No, this is not Las Vegas.  This is also not the whole thing. This is perhaps 25% of the place. No seriously. It's so big we got dehydrated, and not just because of the really-dry, "leftovers bin at Zellers" atmosphere. It made Vinny's knees hurt. I ended up buying a fun t-shirt for $6 which you may see in a later photo.
 
Ed Mirvish, owner of Honest Ed's, is someone I rapidly learned about in his store today. It seems he pretty much owned Toronto for much of the last 59 years. I found a newspaper ad for a new restaurant he opened like 20 years ago, and it listed five other restaurants -- plus the Royal Alexandria Theatre of course -- that he'd opened previously. Wikipedia doesn't mention them, so they may be all gone now. Maybe I'll research them on a day off sometime.

His theatre experience led him to meet many actors, famous and non. The store is wallpapered with framed, signed photos from the many many names, big and small. There were dozens and dozens I didn't recognize, and many that I did. Frank Schuster was stuck in the basement, so god knows how the ranking was determined.

I'm not really sure what my point was in all of this. Clearly it was in fact describable, but I'm done now. Hope all are well.
c9: (House on Fire)
I think I just replaced the original flapper in our toilet. Instead of just doing what I wanted when I was removing it, it sloughed off several layers of rubber onto my hands. And the replacement flapper didn't even fix the damn leak! Doesn't seem worse, at least.

Hopefully it'll be stable for a while. We can't afford the $90 + plumber cost (minus the City of Toronto $60 rebate) right now. Or at any time between right now and 2009.

So many of my frustrations right now lead back to the root cause of "not enough money on my paycheque". This inevitably leads me to think about going back to teaching on contract, since I could -- could -- make a good chunk more than I make now. But the stuff I can teach is the same stuff taught by so many others, so I wouldn't be able to have much reliability in my income. *sigh*

Maybe I could take up prostitution.
c9: (Default)
When we moved, I switched our Bell service completely over as-is to the new place. We're getting a pretty good deal, so I figured what the heck.

Bell didn't show up when they promised, so I wasn't here. The electrician let them in, and Bell's technician decided that our wiring was too old, and he put in a new demarcation box (where the line enters the house). He also wired up one jack only. In the basement. So we could only hook up our phone, internet, etc downstairs. I called Bell to get the scoop on new jacks, and was told they cost $99 for one, and $55 for each one thereafter. Holy cannoli! While I was trying to schedule the technician to come back, my cordless phone started to beep because the battery was low. I warned the agent that I'd have to call back, and asked what ticket number I should quote. He said "it'll just be another minute." And then I went dead. So I didn't call back, and fumed instead.

Then Vincent reminded me that the various phone/internet/TV companies in Canada are engaged in a huge war right now, since number portability* just started. So I called Rogers, and they got me a great deal that would have saved us almost $100 in the first four months -- primarily due to one thing: Bell charges you through the nose for new jacks, and Rogers charges just $10 a pop. Crazy!

I signed on to the Rogers deal for phone, long distance, and internet. I determined though that we would eventually be paying more, and the savings would be eaten up unless we switched back. So this morning I called Bell and asked if there was some way to fix this situation because "I really like working with Bell and would prefer to stick with our current setup."**

They cut me a new deal that involved a 50% discount on the new jacks (still pricey really) plus a discount on our internet if we sign a 24-month contract. I ran the numbers*** and figured that we will still be saving money -- both in the short term and the long term. As long as Bell doesn't pull any surprises. But sheesh!

So anyway, we should have more than one phone jack next week. Finally!


* Number Portability means that Canadians can now change phone companies but keep their phone number. This was seen as a barrier to competition, since people like to keep their phone number.
** Not entirely a lie: Rogers blocks unencrypted BitTorrent traffic, while Bell doesn't. Woo!
*** Can I just say how royally fucked it is that I needed to create a big spreadsheet just to figure out which deal is better for us? I mean, I understand why they make it complicated, but for [profile] petele's sake! (teehee)
c9: (Money)
As I've complained already, houses are expensive, etc etc. I need to more carefully track my money than I have in the past, and I'm looking for suggestions on what tools / approaches you fantastically intelligent friends of mine use.

Basically, the spreadsheet method I use will demand too much effort for too little return. I'd like to track two accounts containing about 4-5 piles of money each. As we spend money on (for example) the electricity bill, I want to track how that pile of electricity bill money is changing.

I may just build an insane spreadsheet, but I figure there's gotta be a better way. Is there?
c9: (House on Fire)
Selling a place and buying another place is super stressful. I don't recommend it.

I feel like our mortgage broker, our mortgage provider, and our two separate lawyers, all want information at the same time, even when that information is serially linked to other information we don't have yet but is also required. Proof that we have the money from the condo to buy the house, yet we're buying the house first (which is normal and common). Proof that we have insurance on the house we don't own yet, despite the insurer requiring electrical work, and the electrician requiring money we won't have until we finish with the condo, which doesn't happen until after we get the house, which means we need the insurance beforehand.

...and on and on it goes like that. Each problem is solvable, but they each individually and together make we want to jump out the GD window.

When we move home again, we are SO renting for the first segment of our time home. This cannot be worth the stress in the short term.
c9: (House on Fire)
I trust you all studied up using that link amongst the pictures of the house, and you now know all sorts of details about why knob and tube is bad.

Can somebody remind me?

I just had an electrician walk around the house and he discovered that there is far more K&T than we thought. It's all over. And it needs to go. Does anything on this list scare anybody or set off any alarms?

New 100 Amp panel with 32/64 circuit capacity ... $1100.00

Rewire all main floor lights and switches,
Rewire living room receptables,
Rewire two kitchen counter plugs (20 Amp T-slot GFIs),
Rewire side door light switch,
Rewire front door light switch,
Refrigerator plug installed and wired,
Rewire furnace circuit,
Wire and install three basement lights ... $2850.00

E.S.A. Inspection ... $250.00

I mean, the price scares me, but not a huge amount. I wish this place had been updated before we bought it, but at least we know that we have a big sellable improvement to boast when we sell down the road.
c9: (Cam Laughing)
In the 20 hours between our offer being submitted and accepted, there were two other offers on the house. In the following 24 hours, there were 25 calls. The other realtor wishes he'd held off so as to get above asking price. Cam & Vinny 1, rest of the universe 0.

One other place we seriously considered for a while was a large 3-bedroom, 2-kitchen rowhouse near the GO Train tracks. It was listed at $239,000 and sold for $281,000 with six offers competing. Cam & Vinny 2, rest of the universe 0.
c9: (Default)
Paul Wells posted some interesting numbers on tuition recently. Unfortunately the original article that triggered it is gone in the new Maclean's revamp, but the data is all out there with statscan.

What's better: higher tuition, or lower tuition? Why?

This is a no-brainer for the "typical" left-wing (or right-wing) person. Especially when they're young and still freshly wounded from tuition rates. However there's an interesting puzzle here: Quebec has the lowest tuition and the lowest university participation rate. Nova Scotia has the highest tuition and the highest rate of university participation.

Hmmm.
c9: (Default)
Turns out there was no debate -- when I ran the numbers, I qualified for the full bonus. Woo! Papa's gettin' a new pair of shoesOUT OF DEBT SLIGHTLY SOONER.
c9: (Default)
My previous boss gave me a bonus sometimes when I did not technically deserve it, according to the document that ostensibly described my bonus requirements. I wasn't way off, I just didn't actually meet the requirement stated.

As mentioned previously, I suspect it was partly to give me an under-the-radar raise.

My new boss has asked me to evaluate myself, as I mentioned, according to those same criteria.

[Poll #914176]

Bonii

Jan. 25th, 2007 04:36 pm
c9: (Explosion)
[Boss' office. Day. Boss is thinking about ten things at once. Boss is examining the comp plan my previous boss created for me.]

Boss: "So what the hell is up with your comp plan?"
Cam: "Yeah, I don't remember. I think Kim wrote is as a way to give me a raise without giving me a raise."
Boss: "OK." (long pause) "Do you know what her assumptions were on this part?" (points to section B)
Cam: "I can explain the mechanics, but she did all these calculations herself."
Boss: (long pause)
Cam: (long pause)
Boss: "OK. I want you to do two things. Write me an email and tell me how much of a bonus you think you deserve, and tell me why."

[Scene.]


...ummm.... Eeep!

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