Posts Tagged ‘The London Free Press’

Today’s weather forecast in The London Free Press.

Today's weather forecast is guaranteed accurate come rain or come shine.

Today's weather forecast is guaranteed accurate come rain or come shine.


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I’ve been buying stock since I was a boy. I used to save the money earned from my paper route and, when I had enough, use it to buy a few shares of Bell Telephone.

It has been five decades since I was a youthful investor and I may have the name of the stock wrong but I sold my Ma Bell at one point to buy Pacific Pete, a junior oil stock. I did this on the urging of my uncle and against the advice of my knowledgeable stock broker.

I made a tidy profit and plowed my winnings back into Bell – the widows and orphans stock. I held that stock until my mid-twenties when I cashed out to raise the down payment on my first home.

In the early to mid-eighties I again did just fine playing in the market. It was a bull market and I read that one could simply throw darts at a stock list and make money. I think they were right.

Recalling my earlier good luck with the oil patch, I bought a stock called Britoil. It traded in the $3 to $5 range and paid a very nice dividend. I bought on the dips. I also bought Apple computer with the belief that their innovative laser printers would be profit generators for the young company. These stocks and others did very well.

I was out of the market before the infamous Black Monday crash of 1987 occurred. I partially credit an early charting program that came on a 400K disk and ran on my Mac for my prescient move to the sidelines. After the crash, I ran lots of tests of that program and it seems it was more luck than logic that had saved me.

As I have mentioned in other posts, I got back into the market when my wife retired. This move forced us to confront the idea of retirement and ask ourselves, “How do we use our RSP to fund our retirement?”

Saving for retirement had been easy. Just put in a chunk of money every year. But, spending that money is another matter. Take too big a chunk out every year, add the bad luck of living too long or suffering through a market collapse and you run out of those annual chunks of money.

I worked out a quick allocation model with about 40% of our money in bonds (XSB), 30% in Canadian stocks (XMD and BTH.UN were favoured), 12% U.S. equities, 12% International equities (taking care to steer clear of Russia), and the remaining change in cash. We had some TD Monthly Income fund but it was folded into our bond and Canadian stock investment allocations. I was back in the market.

I tried to talk with business folk at The London Free Press where I worked about BTH.UN but they had no interest. After Jim Flaherty’s Halloween Surprise all anyone would say was, “I told you so.” I had been foolish and had paid the price. I could get no one to discuss income trusts with me – it was just, “Take your lumps. Sell and move on.”

I didn’t sell. BTH.UN slowly crawled back. It even surpassed the price at which I had originally bought this Barclays ETF based on the top 100 Canadian income trusts. It had paid better than nine percent over the time I had owned it and I managed to move on without suffering a huge loss. I took no lumps.

So much for the great expertise of the business pages boys.

Which brings us to today and a little discussion of yesterday’s blog featuring my silly benchmarks. I call them silly because I don’t want anyone to be lead astray. That said, I find them curiously interesting.

If you had bought into the Canadian banks two months ago when they were at their lows, you could sell a hefty chunk of your investment and take a vacation. I bought some, but not enough for a vacation. The advice I was give by some retirees has so far performed very well. Now to see if that advice continues to succeed or if it disappoints like my old charting program.

Each one of my little fun portfolios has its roots in stuff that I have heard but which is often out of mainstream thinking. There are lots of ways to determine how the completely classic approaches are working. The two Russell funds are excellent indicators, or the Financial Post FPX benchmarks.

I openly admit that my personal portfolio is closer to the Russell approach than to the sometimes wild advice I have been given at times. But, just as my BTH.UN showed that income trusts could deliver solid profits and allow you a profitable exit – despite all the advice of the experts – maybe, just maybe, going heavily into Canadian financials a couple of months ago when they may have bottomed would have been a wonderful, dividend paying, move for an old retiree like me.

Rockin’ On

This is the post which inspired the above. How did your investments perform?

This is my post on asset allocation.

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This post has been moved to:

Rockin’ On: the Blog


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Consuming only 0.06 watts when on, I light a hallway with a number of these for less than a quarter a year.

Consuming only 0.06 watts when on, I light a hallway with a number of these for less than a quarter a year.

Newspapers are failing. I know. I worked for one. Just before Christmas a layoff rippled through the Sun Media chain and I took a buyout.

With time on my hands, I read the paper. I groan. I blog, sometimes about newspapers. Newspapers think the Internet is killing them – and they’re right. But there is a complexity to the Internet attack. Newspapers are dying the slow, torturous death of a thousand cuts but sadly they are wielding the knife on themselves.

Newspapers see themselves as information providers but the large chains that own them seem to have no drive to provide a rich mix of information. Slashing staff – reporters, photographers, editors – is not the way to better coverage.

Take Earth Hour, the one hour in the year that the world falls in sync with me and turns off non-essential lights. Earth Hour is hailed as stunningly successful but it leaves me disappointed. At the end of the Earth Hour the lights come back on.

Earth Hour leaves me with a raft of questions and I am sure that the folk I worked with at the paper are also asking these questions. For instance: does a drop in power consumption translate into energy-savings?

According to the Canadian Press article carried by The London Free Press, Toronto recorded a 15.1% power drop and provincially there was a 6% for the fifteen minutes between 8:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. These were referred to as energy-saving numbers. Are they?

Maybe I am wrong but I find it difficult to believe that our energy plants have the ability to respond immediately to a record drop in demand. My guess is that the plants simply keep on cranking out the power and it then goes unused.

What makes it more difficult to believe the plants could have been prepared was that Manitoba actually had a small spike in consumption after the start of Earth Hour. British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia all reported a mere 1% drop in power consumption.

It is possible that no energy is saved, and worse, there may be a net increase in energy usage. But not to worry, Earth Hour is not about saving energy. It is a billiant campaign for the World Wildlife Fund of Australia by the bright lights of the Leo Burnett ad agency.

Leslie Aun, vice president of public relations for the WWF told the Phoenix New Times last year, “The purpose of the event was not to save money or power. It’s a symbolic event.” Unfortunately, symbolism is not always environmentally-friendly.

Keith Stewart of the World Wildlife Fund-Canada, says, “It’s fun to see how much electricity demand drops.” Ah yes, such fun. And with what exactly do a lot of the participants replace their off-for-an-hour compact fluorescent lamps (CFL): candles.

I guess it is also fun to see how much we can enlarge our carbon footprint by turning off our modern, high-tech lighting. Check out this blog: Physical Insights: An independent scientist’s observations . . .

This blogger writes, “The widespread practice of misguided eco-Luddites turning off their lights for Earth Hour and burning candles as a source of light is grossly misguided and actually contributes to increased carbon dioxide emissions.”

Is the blogger right? Is the newspaper right? This round goes to the blogger. Why? Presentation. It is clear the blogger has spent more time and invested more thought into the topic.

As I wrote yesterday, it is time to rethink Earth Hour. Asking households and businesses to take non-essential lights and other electrical appliances off the grid for an hour and only an hour does not show committment.

If these are truly non-essential uses, and our globe is truly facing a global disaster caused by carbon emissions, then let’s save spaceship Earth. Keep the damn stuff turned off – otherwise, what’s the point?

Postscript: to those at the paper where I once worked. Considering the hollowed out shell of a newroom in which you now work, the quality of the newspaper you are still turning out is amazing.

I can just imagine how the newroom looked on Sunday night, empty desk beside empty desk, with just a couple of reporters, one photographer working the picture desk, and a few editors, everyone working to release the Monday morning edition on deadline. There would be no time for very much newsgathering.

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Kadie Ward, Director of Marketing & Communications at the London Chamber of Commerce, writes in today’s The London Free Press about the city’s new placemaking initiative. Placemaking? Oh, it’s another buzzword of New Urbanism – a buzzword all on its own.

She tells us the city has discovered that high-quality public spaces, variety, diversity, and distinct character are the important elements to building a successful community.

Wow! Did the city pay for this eureka moment?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating poor-quality public spaces, lack of diversity and yadda yadda yadda. What riles me is the way concepts like placemaking quickly become an us against them concept. Ward writes, “older neighbourhoods, like the core, optimize these traits . . .”

But she cannot stop there. She must take the mandatory swipe at the suburbs – and this is where I get my back up. I lived in downtown London – I lived there for more than a decade. I now live in Byron, in the newer part of the southwest London suburb.

I can assure Ward that I became more of a walk-a-billy, not less of one, with my move to Byron. When I need groceries, I walk to the A&P. When I needed snow tires, I left my car at the shop for the day and walked home. When I met a friend for lunch recently, I walked to the Cafe Milagros. Wine? Beer? I walk.

I have not one but two library branches within walking distance of my Byron home – and yes, I do walk to them. A month ago, I put on my ski mask and ski gloves, pulled my toque down over my ears and walked to the library.

Speaking of skiing – there is a ski hill within walking distance of my home. If tobogganing or sledding is more your style, take my toboggan and walk across my court – more on that later. One of the best sledding hills in London is right at my door.

Now, the court – despised in so much anti-suburbia writing – the court in front of my home has been a mind-expander for me. When I
moved here, I would have said it was a silly thing to have in front of one’s home.

Now, I see it as similar to the neighbourhood piazzas I enjoyed so much on my visits to Italy. My wife and I love to sit on our very small, simple concrete porch to enjoy a couple of capacinos with homemade biscotti while taking pleasure from the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood children playing in the court.

If Kadie Ward should happen to read this, please don’t get your knickers in a knot. This is not a defence of suburbia. Suburban development could be better. You will get no argument from me. But, please don’t fling New Urbanist suburban myths about and expect everyone to accept these on face value. I am sure downtown is becoming a more exciting community but there is no need to tear down my London in order to write about yours.

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