Friday, 23 December 2011

2011 almost over

Well, I'm sitting here at my desk at 8:00 am on the 23rd of December, and the farthest thing from my mind is work.  I hope the city is aware as I look at everyone elses computer screen that its really hard to try to force people to work so close to xmas.  For example, I'm spending my last few hours searching for good options for Jen's next new vehicle.  My neighbour here is just random googling.  2 ladies to my left are trying to extend their conversation to the quiting bell.  It's all very comical, but at the same time, no surprise. 

For me, 2011 was an up and down year.  I sold my first place (a condo).  It was a place I worked really hard on, renovating everything from the kitchen, the floors, and paint.  It was a crazy learning curve.  Made a lot of mistakes along the way, but in the end, how could I be disappointed in the profit I got.

It was also my first home bought with my first (and last) fiance.  This was scary and intriguing at the same time.  We bought a foreclosure because we saw value that would have never been in reach for us at the time.  Again, it took sweat equity to get the place to where we wanted it, but currently, it looks as though our neighbourhood is booming, so our built in equity was accomplished:)  We also lucked out with our neighbours who are currently celebrating Hanukkah, very nice family.  Our dog loves the off leash park 2 blocks away, and both our commutes are under 15 minutes with rush hour never a concern.  If it wasn't for the fact we share 1 wall (infill) and have a small backyard, this could be a long term home.

Our kitchen
This year was also the first time I had my truck stolen...followed by a second truck stolen 2 months later.  Apparently there must of been someone in the area scoping out all the Tacoma's.  This was basically a 6-7 month headache that is JUST now resolving itself.  I had to buy a fancy new alarm, something my pocketbooks did not appreciate.

My second truck that was stolen
In April, I started a new career path, getting away from the consulting business in the oil industry, instead working for the city.  I truly hated working for engineers.  So with the city, I became a stormwater tech, which allowed for me to be home on a consistent basis and work outside near the rivers.  This was greatly needed as we had a little dog to care for and a large home to attend to. Also, someone needed to be around when Jen was on one of her crazy week long calls.  The micromanaging was the hardest hurdle in my job to get over.

Jen passed ALL her tests needed and is now a full fledged GI doc.  This was a long process for the both of us (longer for her I know...14 years for her, 4 years for me).  She worked crazy hours all year with extra call, but it "paid" off in the end.  The skies are the limit now and she is now actively talking with several groups to cement down a long lasting career.

Getting primed for the Vegas strip
This year we travelled a few times.  We visited Jen's dad in Phoenix for a full week.  We golfed 4 rounds (which buggered up my knee), and did a bunch of shopping.  We went to Vegas with our friends in May.  This one was not as fun as the other dozen or so times we had gone, but it was still a good time.  We did a road trip to Seattle which was a blast!  We stayed at the Sheraton downtown.  This would of normally cost us over $220/night, but because we gambled on hotwire.com, we scored 4 nights there for $180/night.  We saw a mariners game, walked the town, and went to several wineries.  Our last few days were spent on the hippy island of Hornby Island.  Here we met with our friends Heather, Rob, Dan, and Sheri.  We camped, did more local wineries, and relaxed.  Well worth the 3 ferries to get there lol.
The mariners game...8th row
Hornby Island
This year was also consumed by our wedding planning.  Wow what a headache.  The invitations alone were a battle.  We currently have a wedding planner in Maui who is overseeing all our vendor scheduling.  We are over budget by $4,000.  Not only that, but when we invited 120 or so guests, we were expecting maybe 50 at best...we are now at 65!  At any rate, it will be a great party and hopefully we will be able to capture all of them with our photographer Jenna who is part of Jen's family (cousin).

This xmas I will be leaving in 2 hours from work to Edmonton.  As we speak, Jen is packing my truck so we can get away as soon as I arrive.  We will be spending 3 nights with Jen's dad and Jen's step mom's family.  After that, we will be driving to Prince Albert to spend a few days with my family...have my birthday at a bowling alley which is slowly turning into a tradition.  I hope to also take Jen on the quad on the trails behind our house...maybe have a campfire.  Then we will make the long drive back and HOPEFULLY ski...pending on my stupid knees!

After that, 2012 will arrive, and most likely I will be doing little to nothing to celebrate its arrival.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

My Second trip to Phoenix

I have just returned from Phoenix with Jen a week ago and had a great time shooting 4 rounds of golf and seeing Jens family again.  A week of +23 degree weather, pristine conditioned golf courses, and excellent hospitality, what more could a guy ask for.
Phoenix is location in the Mojave desert, no beaches, no lush tropical rain forest, no real tourist attractions other then the golf courses.  So what does this baron land offer that has so many Canadian expats coming down for the winter other then the obvious...year round heat.  It took a few days to really see this, but after immersing ourselves in the community, it became more and more apparent...impressive service that paid attention to all the details.

Canadians are found everywhere here...especially the golf courses after October.  Jen and I accompanied Roland (her dad) for a round at his country club "Las Sendas" the first morning.  These types of courses are the ones that are build within a community where the majority of players currently inhabit, and so Roland bought into this one...mainly for the ease of accessibility, and long term savings.  Beautifully mass produced homes line this course, hugging every fairway...adding a hint of intimidation to every shot.  Conditions were IDEAL.  For a members discount, Jen and I were able to play for $60 each...normally $100+ in Alberta for quality this high.  Every hole, every green, were painstakingly maintained and landscaped...the sand raked (basically anything not on the fairway), the cacti maintained, greens as fast as a carpet.  It was awesome...and tough lol.  I only hit one house;)  The course was 6850 yards long (not the tips), making it quite tough.   When arriving at the clubhouse, we saw why people came to Phoenix.  Complimentary valet, they load your clubs into your car and cart, free driving range offered, free tees, GPS on every cart.  Service that apparently is the norm here...which we slowly became to realise throughout the week.  At the end of the day, we all shot below average, but enjoyed the +21 weather and all the 5 star service anyone could ask for for only $60:)
That night we were exhausted!  We decided to stay in with Nakita and watch a movie. 

Next morning we awoke to find Roland had booked us a round at the beautiful WeKaPa Resort.  With a coupon card, we were gratefully able to golf for $69, discounted from the $120 sticker price...score!  This course was situated on a nearby native reserve 20 minutes north of Mesa (Phoenix).  Jen and I really looked forward to this round because we had golfed desert courses before, but never outside of the city with no houses along the fairways.  Ferne (Rolands wife) was unable to join us again due to a nasty cough, so it was just the 3 of us again.  Immediately the level of quality jumped out.  We had our car unloaded and parked for us again, our carts were loaded onto the carts and parked for us in front of the complimentary driving range.  The range looked over a beautiful desert valley.  Here we hacked away, trying to sync our swings...too no avail.  This course was amazing!  Completely different then what you would see in Mesa. Every tee box seemed to have a view of the massive mountain valley.  We saw a red cardinal on the first hole...pretty cool.  Every hole was littered with cottontail rabbits, hummingbirds, or quails.  We all were having a shitty game again, but after 9 holes, I treated everyone to a hot dog or hamburger (because Roland had paid for our round) and everything was back on track.  For $14, we were able to get 2 massive hot dogs, 1 thick burger, all with their buns grilled, and 3 complimentary bags of chips...awesome.  After the round, we were completely exhausted.  Cartpath only rules had caught up to us.  We seemed to always be hitting our balls on the opposite side of the path, and seeing how hilly the course was, resulted in A LOT of walking lol.  A day off in golfing was in order.
WeKaPa

Las Sendas clubhouse
Las Sendas hole 18
Las Sendas
Jen began to plan out her black Friday shopping the next morning.  We went to Santan Shopping Centre to scope out any future deals.  At nights we worked on the "Girl with the dragon Tattoo" trilogy.  One night, Roland and Ferne treated us to happy hour at a popular pub.  Margaritas and appys hit the spot.  Wish we would of stayed longer, but drinking and driving was not condoned, so we headed back after all of us had 2 rounds...except Roland who only had 1.

Thursday was a relaxing day after a quick round of golf at Camelback Resort with Ferne.  The course is a well known and is well established in Scottsdale.  The condition was ok, but overall, was our least favourite (even though it cost $70 each after 35% off).  I shot a decent round finally, and right when we finished, it tried to rain.  Luckily we were under shelter enjoying lunch overlooking holes 9 and 18. 

After arriving back at the house, little did I know, Jen was orchestrating an attack on the shopping malls for black Friday...starting at midnight at Macy's.  I reluctantly gave in thinking there was a slight chance I too could find a deal to make it all worth while.  Jen sifted out all the relevant flyer's.  Around 9pm, we "attempted" a nap before our departure at 11:30pm to the Santan shopping complex. 
WeKaPa
WeKaPa with Red Mountain in background

par 5
Friday arrived, and we drove the 20 minute commute to the desired shopping centre.  We were a bit early for Macy's, so decided to peek into Walmart to see the activity...WELL...we could not believe our eyes.  It was basically hundreds of lower income families lined down the aisles with shopping carts piled with toys.  The more annoying point I found was the deals were not impressive at all.  Some had walkie-talkies.  This worried me as I started to think we were wasting our time.  We got the hell out of there and headed to Macy's.  Macy's was a bit less frantic, but picture 90% of the consumer base being women, wide eyed as they all rushed towards the purses and shoes.  Jen was right in there... for the shoes lol.  I found nothing and within 5 minutes, found myself waiting with all the other guy suckers peering from afar.  Jen got her "no heel" boots and one pair of heels...and soon after we got the hell out of there.  I was a bit more grumpy and tired, but new a bed was waiting for me.

Next morning around 7am, Ferne woke us to remind Jen it was time to head to the big mall..."The Fashion Mall".  This mall is located in Scottsdale, and is the more well known one in all of Phoenix.  We were expecting huge lines, so we left around 7:15 am and arrived around 7:45am...apparently early enough to find a good parking spot.  When we walked into the mall, it was clear our hallowed parking spot was mearly average as there were no lines anywhere.  No hustle and bustle, no panicked women, nothing.  The only real deal found was at Ambercrombie & Fintch...50% off everything, but in typical fashion (in my case), nothing fit me.  I then went to G-Star to find the prices higher then Canada.  Then I went to Dillard's to find no shoes in my size.  I was getting quite pissed off at this point and just wanted to end this gong show.  I ended up buying 6 pairs of Hugo underwear for $40 at Macy's...at least it was something lol.  After several hrs, we left and went to another nearby mall that ended up being a complete waste of time, so home we went.

I napped on the pool deck while Jen went back out with her dad in his Porsche to look for a TV stand at Best Buy.  I couldn't imagine what many thought; seeing a young girl with an older man in a new 911 Porsche turbo...mid life crisis?...but in reality obviously it wasn't. 

That night was a very special night.  In celebration of Ferns B-day and Jen passing her test, we fine-dined it at a place called "City Hall"...and in typical fashion, were blown away with the service provided.  As per usual, someone parked our car.  Every head waiter had 2 following them.  Our plates were dished out in front of us. Drinks were prepared in front of us.  Sparking water was assumed.  Every little detail you could think of was provided, and impressed ALL of us.  We had lobster mashed potato's, steak, mushrooms, and peas, and all were perfect in execution.  we left feeling the price paid was well worth the experience...with leftovers to boot;)

Next morning before our flight back to the great white north, Roland booked us a round at Golden Valley Resort...one of the top ranked courses in Arizona.  It was basically a course that went up one mountain valley, around, and back down.  The condition was impeccable, and lived up to its hype.  Because of the supper paid for by Roland the night before, Jen and I insisted paying $100 each for the round  (not sure if this even covered the cost of the round).  I again actually shot an OK round.  My knees at this point though were starting to really hurt with all the torquing on them with my crazy swing.  4 rounds in 6 days was apparently my limit.  Awesome way to end the week!  We drove home, packed and sore, and off we were back to -10 weather in Calgary.
Golden Valley

So why do people holiday in an ocean-less city of 3 million people?  Well, in short, its for the 340 days of sun, being able to buy a beautiful 4 bedroom home for 1/4 the price of Calgary, and receive A++ service everywhere you go....something that is lacking in today's standards.  I feel we are expected to tip more and more while receiving less service.  It was refreshing to see the opposite in Phoenix!

Friday, 18 November 2011

A warping mind

(old post)

Ive always been raised in the mindset that police, government, security...all of it, was put into place for our best interest.  I remember when I was a little kid, I would see the RCMP in their old Ford Taurus cars, ALWAYS rocking the conservative mustache working the street.  It seemed to me they did the job for one reason....respect; definitely not for the money by the looks of it lol.

I remember in my elementary school years, my dad had dabbled in the policing industry as a conservation officer for 20 years, so I did have a very small inside perspective when it came to officiating.  I remember the pay being horrible (senior officer getting under $40,000/year).  I remembered the countless times we had to move (every 3 years!)  It was especially hard in grade 8, moving from Humboldt to Moose Jaw....just before high school.  The point to make here is, we had to abide by the law to a T...and what I mean here is, when we hunted, we properly stored our guns, we followed every no trespassing sign, we asked farmers for access, we dressed fully in orange, we looked for a wounded deer to sun down if need be, and so on....practice what you preach.

Later on in my years (oh...about 12ish?), I began to rebel a bit.  I was caught stealing a golf ball from Sears...definitely not one of my proudest moments.  What I DO remember well though was the respect given by both parties.  I was raised to address the officer and security guard as sir.  When I sat down in the small room waiting for them to escort me to my parents restaurant, I remembered the nice conversation I had with the RCMP and security guard.  They spoke quite aloof, but in a respectful way.  They new I learned my lesson, and offered me tips on how I could best manage this situation.  This was a first and last offense by me...Why, because I didn't want to be embarrassed like that again...to my folks, to the officers, to anyone.

You may now see I'm actually getting somewhere here lol

1) I'm going to do what I do best and generalize a bit here with respects to our current "Occupy" movement.  Lets be honest, the majority of protesters in these camps are edging on the hippy end.  I also suspect the majority don't approve of our politics either.  I'm even going to wander out on a ledge and suggest many dislike our police service (and yes, this is almost a fact as I've first hand heard the shouts with my own ears).  Slogans such as "military state", "facetious",  "pigs", "corrupt"... Ive heard them all.  It should be no secret that I disapprove protesting in general...and I'm sure the majority of my friends (not the really close ones) disagree with me on this.  Like seriously, if you are within several blocks of ANY riot, you SHOULD expect the full extent of the law on you.  Its not like they don't warn you.  Despite what you may think, they are doing their job!  They are putting themselves into harms way because its for the greater good of the city.  I am sooooo tired of people claiming too much force was used at a riot, or they were pushed to the ground when they spat at an officer.  Personally, not once have I felt my rights were abused....probably because I'm not always testing the extent to which they were written to.  Don't get me wrong, you are free to exhibit your charter of rights and preach your crap, but when its done on public land (Occupy)...and its slowly destroying the parks...and safety is becoming an issue (with fires in tents, drug overdoses, cold temperatures, and and and)...get the fu%k out of there...and if not, be moved by means of the full force of the law. 

The above perspective is how I see our Police force in general....for the greater good!  Below is a hypocritical side note haha (don't get confused though, this is a completely different side issue)...

2) a) You may or may not have heard that I have personally had 2 Toyota Tacoma's stolen in front of my house in the past 6 months.  Insurance was a bitch...a long process that was never made easy (TD Meloche, just throwing that out there).  The first one was a shock.  I filed a police report.  I never heard back till it was found AFTER my claim had gone through.  My $41,000 newly bought truck lasted 2 months!  Again, stolen in front of my house, no broken glass, no skid marks, nothing.  This one currently still has not been found.  Now, Jen and I feel we have been targeted, or someone is scoping the area out.  Unfortunately, we have not received any advice, news, anything with these 2 bizarre thefts from the police.  We are hesitant to park any vehicle in front now. 
b) Last month, I had gone to a house warming trip up in Edmonton over the weekend.  That Saturday night around 2am (after several beers), I was missing dozens of calls being made by Jen.  She was alone in our new house with Nakita.  I guess late at night, Jen heard voices along the house.  She then heard someone trying to get into the front door.  Understandably, she was quite scared.  Once they started to pound on the door, it was the final straw.  She called 911 and told them what was happening.  In the morning, Jen talked to the neighbors and learned they had their garage broken into.  The only reason ours wasn't was because our handle on our gate door was broken (dumb luck).  Jen never did hear back from the police.  So much for 911 priority. 
c) Literally several days after the 911 incident, I was driving Jen and I to the rental store to pick up a rental due to my stolen truck.  Wouldn't you know it, a police officer caught us speeding down a hill.  He gave us the ticket...no discounts.  He asked if I wanted the payment details explained because he had to get back to catching more people.  Jen was PISSED...and let him know it lol.  Not only did we feel we were caught right in an unfair speed zone change, but the way the officer was in a hurry to catch someone else after basically taking $125 out of our pocket did not sit well with us.  They were so quick to take our money with no compassion, but could not come by our house during a possible break and enter. 

This gets me to my final point....finally....

Respect on both sides are lacking.  I was very polite to the police officer; unfortunately it seemed he was more concerned in racking up fine totals instead of doing what was intended, keeping the area safe, letting the "culprit" know we are on the same side, but to make a point at the same time.  If he would of taken several km off the ticket, those measly few dollars would of made the world to me...ahhh but alas.  I received a speeding ticket 8 months ago (I know, seems like I speed a lot lol, but  first 2 in 4 years).  The officer had chew in his mouth while taking $115 out of my pocket...disrespectful.  What ever happened to the tall and stiff older mustache men stopping us, feeling bad for us, and either warning us or rounding the ticket down. 


The respect is down and it almost makes me begin to consider "hatting" the police...BUT....I'm at least intelligent enough to understand that at least I know my own well being and safety is good....great, especially compared to the majority of the places in the world.  Its a job that is still lowering the murder rates, cleaning up the streets, and so forth.  They just need to understand that the smaller simpler details are being missed.  

Ah, gotta love my conflicting blogs...Ive been quite pissed off at the police lately, but I still don't hate them, don't think they are corrupt, and feel they should use all the force needed....when needed, they just need manners lol.

Tough to take anyone seriously looking like that.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Dividends

First, take a look at this website...


http://www.topyields.nl/Top-dividend-yields-of-TSX60.php



I love dividends!  Why... because no matter how bad the market does (well, for the most part), the stock will pay you a % every 4 months.  For instance, I bought TransAlta because like many large dividend stocks, they're a leader in their sector....so Im quite confident in 50 years, they should at LEAST still be kicking around.  They also pay me 5% quarterly!  So basically any time I see the market dip...I buy more at a discount.  Unfortunately at the moment (and this will sound funny), the stock has been hovering around $1 higher then when I bought it.  Solution, sit on it!  Take your money every 4 months till either it drops to a new 52 week low (buy more), or when it increases to a new 1-2 year high...sell.  On top of this...all is done in my TFSA....SO NO TAX!  Easy peasy:)

Now banks would be an obvious safe haven to collect high dividends.  Canadian banks are some of the most stable banks in the world.  The only problem with this is...they are soooo expensive; like $60 per share.  So as a result, these stocks will be contributed to slowly , every time the market dips, you buy 10 or so, then plan for 20-30 years or so of holding this.

Now some will say they don't jump into dividend stocks right away because these stocks tend to not grow as aggressively...based primarily on their investment to their shareholders....in dividends.  Is some cases,this can be true, BUT, if you wait long enough and keep your wits in check, this should not be the case IN THE LONG HAUL.  For example, the 2009 great recession, everyone was selling their stocks because they thought the sky was falling, when in reality, some of the biggest profits were made as a result by anyone who was buying.  Like the cliche says, buy low, sell high;)

When looking at dividend stocks, I have only a hand full of rules I follow before I buy.

  • It needs to earn more then 2%
  • It needs to be a company I know, and understand at least "slightly"
  • I need to at least want to use the product at some point if the opportunity arose.  
  • and not let myself buy when they are high.  Wait for an obvious blimp in the 52 week trend.
  • Has to be Canadian
For example, Shoppers Drug Mart.  This stock is my top one, WHY?... because they give me 2.5%, they are building ferociously in trendy neighborhoods, and they are sub-developing a separate cosmetic store in malls (Jen loves these).  Not only that, I bought when the stock was crashing based around the prescription mess in Ontario.  I will only sell this when the stock hits $38-40/share.  Its currently at 34:)

Don't get me wrong, I don't just buy based on dividends.  The earthquake in Japan ROCKED uranium stocks; the economy wasn't confident in its future stability.  I disagree.  The stock went from $40 to $28 in literally 1 week. I bought it at $25.  It later dropped further after several hick-ups to $18!  I bought a bit more averaging my total around $23/share.  It is currently at $20.  Personally, I hope it drops a bit more so when I buy next year, I can buy a large sum...because I believe uranium is not done, and should be at least worth $30/share, where I plan to sell it.  My last point on this subject...I bought Cameco...the leader in the uranium sector.  This makes it a bit more stable and long term.  I can hold it longer till I see the trends I want.  

I also use and bought Aeroplan.  They pay 5% dividend...and Im up on this, but lately I've been using them less, my interest is dropping, so I will sell when I get the percent I want...no timeline here.

Last, Suncor has been good to me.  Good dividend payer, and a leader in the oilsands.  I sold half of my stocks when it was at $41...I bought it at $30...not bad:)  Unfortunately, this is not a long hold for me, so when it hits the 40s again (give it a year?)...I will sell and move on.






Numbers...they are a fun thing haha.  Im sure the 2-3 people reading this are bored out of their mind...as I have said, my friends tend to not be interested in this sort of thing.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Hotel standards and public services

Jen and I just got back from the Rimrock this weekend after celebrating her successful completion of the GI exam in Ottawa.  I chose this place because normally we would go to the Banff springs for a random nighter, but I always had heard Rimrock was comparable, less prestigious, but larger rooms, with all the frills you'd expect at the Fairmont Louise or Springs.  Id just like to note that we usually only go to these expensive hotels if we wanted to just experience the hotel, the dining options, and enjoy drinks with a wonderful feel and view.  After experiencing all the 5 star resorts in the Banff area, half a dozen mid level hotels in the area, and several budget hotels in the area, I had one of those clarifying moments with respects to hotels and the services they provide.

BUDGET:  This was the majority in my early years as a ski bum, and sometimes still in Revelstoke or Golden.  These are your typical motels, where you are able to park in front of your door for free, where sometimes you'd have the fumes waft inside your room.  The offices are usually attached to the owners living room, and the keys are the old fashion style with a big hanger on them.

  • PROS - Cheap!  Like under $100/night cheap.  You can pile people in with no questions asked....heck throw a dog in as well.  They are usually near downtown for easy access.  They have a party atmosphere.  Internet is free, parking is free.  They even offer discounted lift passes.  Lots of pros for being at the bottom of the heap eh?
  • NEGS - Well, first, cleanliness is not ideal.  Usually you will find a minimum of 1 long hair in the shower from the previous occupant.  You always double check the sheets, making sure all is good.  Everything is stuck in the 80's...the flower print sheets, yellow curtains, old tub with a bit of rust near the drain, and of course, a 15 inch tube TV.  The hot tub is usually 10% spilled beer, with less then ideal water quality conditions.  Early in the morning its noisy, people packing up for skiing before 7am, big trucks idling with many yelling to each other to hurry up.  There are no amenities such as a spa, restaurant, bar, etc.  Hot tub is usually the big attraction here.  Basically, what you see is what you get.


MID RANGE: These places are usually newer, or recently updated.  They are roughly 3-5 stories, and compete near other hotel chains.  They are fiercely in battle with their rivals.  These chains are usually very well known, and found right across the country.  Examples include Holiday Inn, Ramada, Super 8, Quality Inn, Travelodge, Best Western, and some Hiltons (some border 5 star).  Cost range from $110-$180 on average.

  • PROS - You know what your expecting before even entering the building.  If you've seen one, the rest will be very similar...they basically all have new duvet sheets, small LCD TV's, good shampoo and coffee options, and good showers (which is a big deal to me).  The parking is 99% of the time free.  There is usually a complimentary continental breakfast.  Internet is free.  They usually have a small pool and hot tub, and a small gym.  There are rarely any hidden fees.  Deals can be found using search engines.  Best bang for the buck!
  • NEGS - Location is average, usually not ideal.  The restaurant is also average....maybe a Perkins or Humpty's.  Kids are usually wrecking the mood in the hot tub...which is usually full.  The feel in these hotels is average... basically get in, enjoy, get out.  The elevators are slower than most (ok ok, Im reaching lol).  I honestly cannot think of any others.




5 STAR:  These hotels are usually large, stores within stores.  You'll have your convenience store, jewelry store, bars, more then one restaurant, spas, and more.  The location is usually somewhere with significance.  These places can be old with lasting appeal, or glamorous like many of the vegas resorts.  They are found at tourist attractions, or downtown within metropolitan cities.  Costs can range from $200-10000/night.

  • PROS - What can I say, luxury.  You will have your up to date trendy shampoos, the latest starbucks coffee.  Counters in the bathroom will obviously be granite.  The TV will be a minimum of 42 inches.  They will offer many options for restaurants (high budget to mid budget), several bars, spas which are connected to a full service pool area.  They offer valet and room service.  Like Jen and I in Banff this week, you really don't need to leave the hotel if you don't want to.  The food should be excellent.  Service SHOULD BE top notch...after all, you are paying double for what a mid range is.   The view from the room should be at least decent...either high up, looking into the city, looking over a mountain valley, or down any famous "strip".  Room service should be meticulous, and 50% of the time, "turn down service" should be provided.  
  • NEGS - There is a slight chance service will not meet expectations, which in turn, will suck even more because you now just blew hundreds per night just to basically sleep.  Status sometimes trumps service...if you look young, or not filthy rich, you may not get that table near the window, or be serviced in that first minute.  The cost of food, tipping, not to mention internet, parking, etc can add up FAST...like seriously, you pay all this money, and that does not include internet or parking.  Do they not know I can just use my iphone for internet instead of paying $20/night, or park down the street instead of the $25/night they offer.  Dogs are rarely allowed.  Basically, it doesn't take much at all for the cost to be a big waste of money if just one little thing goes wrong.  


In Summary, best bang for buck is the MID RANGE!  They fight for your service, everything is new, and they are accountable for their shortcomings.

Worst bang for buck CAN be the 5 star, but not always.  I personally find they feel like they can charge what ever they want because they know the egos of their customers wont dispute it, but if everything goes as planned, then it can be a night to remember!

Our recent 1 random night at the Rimrock...
Looking out into the valley

4th round of drinks? Jen tried a few Martini's

Big dessert, pretty good!

Our French waiter rocked!!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Hippies

Ohhh Hippies.  Why oh why do hippies get under my skin.  It perplexes me.  I understand they mean well in this world; they have "good intentions", but still, something is off.  Now... me even talking about this subject is risky because a large portion of my friends fit partially in this group;  some because my background education evolves around the environment, and some because my outdoor hobbies are hot spots for your quintessential granola lover.  Hiking, skiing, camping...well basically anything outdoors tends to be shared with someone with hemp.  So back to the big question...why does this bother me?

Well I guess the first thing is...they mean well, but their "good intentions" block all sensible facts.

Example 1)  Oil sands are bad, use wind and solar.  
Ok, um, lets look into this with a rational 360 view.  Oil is not ideal, this is obvious even to the big wigs working in the towers in downtown Calgary, BUT several things come into play here.  Oil upgrading is advancing at a staggering rate.  I know, I've seen and studied this with my own eyes.  Tailing ponds once were thought to exist for centuries....a few years ago it was decades...now its years!  This is positive movement.  Even after saying this, I still want to look at anything that would suggest progress.

 The hippies throw out the term renewable energy...such as wind, solar, and so forth.  If they look deep into all the little intricacies, and I mean deeper then looking at the green grass and pretty fans twirling, they will see several issues.  Wind power has been in the news alot lately.  Not only is it known to kill song birds, and messing up the local bat population, it is now making the local human population sick....hmmm.  The cost for 1 generator is high, and powers 200 households give or take.  You start piling up these wind farms, we will see new issues....not to mention the chemicals used to construct 1 blade is not ideal.   Don't get me wrong, I'm not writing wind off, its a positive moral for many and does contribute to the grid, but come on, we will never live off wind and sun alone for a loooong time.  Last and Im sure least on the hippy radar... it takes ideal locations, ideal government, and large companies to make a decent income off this.  Look at any renewable based stock....I personally have because I once thought this was the next boom.  Well, the reality is profit is tough to be had here, and many of these stocks are not good buys.

HIPPIES MAY KNOW FACTS ON ENVIRONMENTAL TOPICS, BUT UNTIL THEY START LOOKING AT IT FROM ALL PERSPECTIVES, THEY WONT HAVE A STRONG UNDERSTANDING OF IT.
HOW DO YOU THINK BIO-FUEL CAME ABOUT.  HOWS THE PUBLIC OPINION ON THAT NOW!??

Hmmm, I seemed to have rambled a bit longer then planned on wind.  I wont get into the details with regards to sun, hydro, geo, etc, but I have points on each.  Hydro floods, sun is not efficient and the photocells have their issues, geo is expensive, and so on and so forth.

I guess hippies like to make you aware what your doing wrong as well.  They may not like the meat your eating because its not ethical, or not like golf because of the water used, or dislike Alberta because we like money, or making money period because its a wasted foot print, or or or.   I've heard it all.  Again, it all sounds good, but I'll take any recommendations from a well educated well rounded individual working their ass off looking at all perspectives, not a 20-30 something hippy yet to see any sort of consequences sitting out in the park protesting against the rich like the occupy movement.  Have you seen photos of these bums?  Mec equipment, hemp and dreaded everything, drums, bongos, all that hippy shit.  Ugh, how can anyone take them serious!

Wow, sidetracked again lol.

My final words...renewable energy, ethical foods, low impact living all are commendable, and at some miniscule level, is making progress, but working within the system and seeing all options presently available is the only way your voice will and should be heard.   Don't judge people who live lavishly.  Those same people may have contributed 100x more to a "green" organization compared to your bush lifestyle contribution.  Its hard to make a REAL difference when your "living off the land" in the sticks.  Don't hate oil, but in the same breath, know that there is a process in progress in reducing emissions, and increasing efficiently.

Again, I apologize on the rambling.  I'm writing this late, my opinion is crazy strong with respects to this,  and Im sure some of my points are not fully explained or completed.


We are living in the future now.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Decade of the douche bag

What will you remember about the last 10 years?  Will it be the battle between iphone and blackberry, the recession, the boom of  Coach and Michael Kor (lol), or many other small events that may stick out for you?  For me, it was obvious...the rise of the douche bag, or douche for short.
Now what brought this condition on?  Well, it was a multitude of things, image, status, media.
Social media ran rampant, and as a result, people started to watch others more intently; but for some odd reason, certain styles started to evolve.  These styles were not found in beauty magazines, nor were they pushed on people in any way.  These styles just randomly evolved to what they are today.

First, the definition of douche bag (for men):  Someone reeking of effort, following trends they may have seen and believed was socially accepted.  Attitude and loud arrogance play a significant role.  You can only be a douche if you are truly not aware of it.  Some common characteristics are deep tans, greasy spiked hair almost formed into a mohawk, diamond ear studs, shirts that are to small, popped collars, UFC shirts while walking with a tough strut.  

Let me indulge in this a little further with key symbols that helped grow this culture...

A) AFFLICTION - This trend boomed about 3-4 years ago.  UFC grew so fast, Saturdays were fight night, GSP was loved by all Canadians.  It was a true form of fighting; but some how people (especially in Calgary) took this to another level.  They started wearing affliction shirts.  If your not familiar with these, they are very loud shirts, trendy, but aggressive looking.  Its a company that sponsors many high end fighters.  Douche bags started wearing these....but what set them apart was, they started to believe they were tougher and cooler.  They wore them a size to small just so everyone could see their muscles.  They picked fights or instigated them because they felt they "knew" fighting.  Ahh, the affliction douche.

B) Ambercrombie & Finch - This trend has several angles.  A&F is/was a popular american clothing company that over-charged on average looking cloths (cotton polo for $90).  It was the top of their pyramid...American eagle at the bottom, and Hollister in the middle.  This alone didn't put you in douche territory.  It was when people started to pop the collar...this was the start of much more.  From here, the gold chain was accessorized, and finally, the crew cut was introduced...a safe mohawk that was still trendy, but daring at the same time.  Put this all together with a cocky attitude and a fake baked tan...you got yourself a douche;)  This can be confirmed from the show "Jersey Shore"...the definition of douche bags.  Its been stated on T.V that these 20-30 some year olds are douche bags...so I cant be that off.

C)  Rig Pig Douche - Now don't get me wrong, working on the rigs is not douchy.  Heck, I've tried to get on them for a quick buck, and some do very well doing this.  The problem lies (for me lol) when their ego needs to be exhibited in a particular manner.  The one obvious one is the big diesel truck with a 6+ inch lift kit on it.  Not only that, they feel the need to fill their entire back window with some type of generic sticker...like Red Bull, or Hurley.  They also add on the 22 inch rims, the mud grappler grip tires, and shinny silver rims.  They always feel the need to gun it on the accelerator at every light.  They generally have some sort of trimmed beard, and of course tattoos.  Its screaming...hey look at me, Im bad ass.  Seen many of these in Ft Mac and Grande Prairie.

D) Obvious Trend Follower -  Now don't get me wrong, any of these following products I mention does not make you a douche, but if you put a few of them together, and about 1 year after they had come out on mainstream...your well on your way.  Brands such as Ed Hardy, Yankees hat, shirts that have Diesel written large on the front, and so forth.  Its basically someone spending a lot of money on purr hype alone.  I never did understand the $60 t-shirt.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Occupy Calgary, government, and Canada in general

I've been posting on Lonely Planet for about a year, giving travel advise on Canada, Thailand, and the US in general.  Recently the topic of "Occupy" came up.  One guy in particular (busman7), spewed so much crap on how Canada's capitalism was the worst in the world, our heathcare sucked, and so on and so forth.

Against Jens interest, here are a few phrases from his website...


  • When times were good, before capitalism ran amok, we in the middleclass were too busy living the dream to pay attention to the increase in the simple serpent sector, where more & more, of these nonproductive citizens, waddled up to the trough to slurp the life blood from the economy. The top tier also formed little fiefdoms where trod over the rights of the taxpayers who paid their bloated salaries. The rich were making too much money (and still are) to care, those too lazy to work were well looked after on welfare to worry & of course the politicians were busy lining their pockets to care what was happening.
  • Some/most lived their lives as wage slaves doing the bidding of others but receive some form of pension to augment the pittance the simple serpents deem adequate for productive members of society. They may even also have savings that bring next to nil interest in a bank account or they can gamble on the, elite controlled, stock/bond markets.
  • Yep it’s a great society we, in the west, have let the government simple serpents fashion for us.

As you can see, guys like this are not a positive contribution to society....hmmm, this kinda reminds me of... OCCUPY.  What you have is a bunch of bums in their 20s-40s loitering in public spaces because the feel they were wronged.  They feel the rich are greedy, the poor are forgotten.  What you have is people who feel they are in a unique situation...when really, this has been going on for centuries.  Dont hate the rich.  First, look into the mirror, then judge.

It takes elbow grease, long nights studying, 2 jobs, trial and error, and so forth, to have any chance of getting ahead.  It is waaaay too easy blaming the government.  Think about it; these leaches are squatting on weekdays...they are not working....which as a result, wont be able to afford rent.  ALL my friends are doing fine, why, because they are all normal citizens contributing to society.  Some work for themselves, some for unions, some for oil companies, but all do what it takes to get by, and even prosper.  They don't fight for clean heroin injection sites, they don't fight for better welfare, or better credit card rates.  

2 groups come under fire for our "apparent" sad times...Banks and the PC government.

A)  Banks (I will agree) have several bloated salaries in every organization, BUT, crazy enough, our powerful evil banks here in Canada (some of the best in the world) helped our country and others get out of our last recession.  Unlike the US and Europe, we came out of it very rosy (compared to the rest of the world).  We all should be happy our money is as stable as it is.  When you see something work for DECADES....why not join them, I did.  I bought their stocks and enjoy a healthy dividend every quarter.  Why fight it like the occupy morons.

B)  PC's.  Il make this quick.  One of the better governments I've seen in a long time.  Gun registry...gone, Senators...soon to be gone, murder rates, falling.  No one else had the balls to do this, but its the right choice, just not clear to some of these urban folk.  They put our economy first...and from that, everything else follows.  We then will have the funds for the environment (where current progress is quite impressive), the infrastructure, the arts (yawn), and so forth.

People, we are in good times, not oppressive times.  There is potential to make money out there, if you look.  So get off your lawn chair, step away from your $20 organic granola, and dream big, because its not all doom and gloom as made out by these oppressive douches...hmmm, that reminds me....

Test Test, first ever blog haha


Just trying this out.  Just trying to find a place to vent, to express myself without pissing off people who don't want to hear it.  I'm sure IL only get a handful reading my future posts, but at least my muzzle will be monitored;)

WARNING!WARNING!  There is a 95% chance you will disagree with many of my opinions, post if you may, but if you know me, I'm very passionate on my ideals;)