Wednesday, 23 December 2009

No Pesos Allowed


Do Mexicans not like pesos? Or is it just the tour companies who have decided Americans and Canadians are too dimwitted to calculate exchange rates? As a rough guide for either Yankee or Canuck dollars dividing by 10 gives one a fairly rough estimate.  For the mathematically challenged 830 pesos comes fairly close to $83 in either. And by-the-way, considering the number of Canadians flocking to Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, why not also quote in Canadian loonies. Not to forget, most rentals, condo offerings - considerable overstock here with some new places built 5/6 years ago still waiting for the first sucker to come along - and duty free shops also like to  price with the US dollar.
Americans are still under the impression the US greenback remains the sole world currency despite the staggering economy; so they just think everyone and every place should use American dollars even if it just to stoke their egos. Mind you, I can imagine the anger and derision from tourists in San Antonio if the Alamo gift shop requested payment in pesos. Might just be the catalyst for another Mexican-American stand off in Texas, although that big wall being built will likely keep them apart. 
Scope out all the junk in Wal-Mart and local stores, you’ll find the usual Made-in China tags on nearly every item. A couple of years back even the Mexicans were screaming about all the cheap tourist gifts flooding in from Asia. The authorities should get ahead of the game and re-price in yuan to enable the Chinese to buy up all the real estate (no need to alter the tourist junk as they can get it cheaper back home).
Next time in Mexico when I get a price in US dollars, I’ll politely request the amount be expressed in Zimbabwe dollars just to see them scratch their heads.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

One More for the Road


Whenever I read about studies like this - and there are a lot - I wonder how they manage to receive funding in the first place. An application crossing my desk requesting an outrageous sum for salaries, equipment and supplies for the purpose of supplying liquor to fruit flies in order to study their reaction and determine if they possess wonky genes, would be met with belly thumping laughter and total rejection. But who am I to stand in the way of the rush to find ‘The Drunken Gene’ which may save humankind from a descent into a world-wide alcoholic haze? None-the-less, it immediately brought to mind a plethora of questions.


What was the amount of the bar tab?
What are the tests to determine over indulgence in fruit flies?
Is there a legal limit?
Do they play bullshit poker?
Are they participants on Karaoke night?
Do they choose a designated flier?
Are there rules for flying whilst under the influence?
Are their inhibitions lowered and libidos released?
Were any flies harmed during this experiment?
Is there an AA for over imbibing flies?
Any hangover remedies for this species?
Did the study cover treatments at a detox centre?

As to the experimenters.

What was the amount of their bar tab?
Is it boring watching fruit flies tie one on?
Who drank who under the table?
Did you develop lasting relationships with the fruit flies?

While I could go on-and-on, I admit in conclusion that the study does give true meaning to the sobriquet ‘bar flies’!

Photo by Flickr user uberculture under Creative Commons

Friday, 18 December 2009

Not a Teddy Bear.



If watching nature in the raw causes so much upset, may I suggest adventurers with squeamish stomachs forgo their next eco-vacation. As the commentators in this story suggest - the bears are just being bears - and much of this behaviour occurs unseen throughout the Arctic.  Male polar bears are not the only carnivorous mammals to kill cubs - grizzlies and lions, amongst others, also are quick to dispatch  young of their species -  which  allows the females to come into heat for mating, an evolutionary tactic for genetic continuation.
However, in the spirit of goodwill there are possible solutions to reduce this carnage.

  1. Capture all the polar bears, relocate them to cushy zoo habitats and segregate them according to sex and age.
  2. Start a write-in campaign to the Northern Members of Parliament to prevent the slaughter and bring the offenders to justice. (Maybe exile them to Antarctica)
  3. Contact this department to have social workers explain to the male polar bears the error of their ways.
  4. Should the above three approaches fail to rectify the problem, here is the method of last resort. Gather together five or six ‘greenie’ friends and head to Churchill to perform an intervention. Waylay one of the deviant ursine predators, surround him, berate him about his nasty habits. persuade him to renounce future mayhem and convince him to be a leader in the rehabilitation of his species.

Be assured that when employing method number 4, any self-respecting male polar bear will be grateful for your efforts and greatly appreciate that you brought yourselves along as the dinner entrée.

Photo by Flickr user naveg  used under Creative Commons

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Problems Already


Another Earth-like planet found orbiting nearby star. Judging by the description, this new planet could be added to the Copenhagen agenda as global warming – a surface temperature of 200° C estimated – is definitely a problem. Recommended to pack along many cases of sunscreen when visiting. ☺

Bucerias YVR


Another year, another vacation in Mexico - each one a little different, be it city or hotel depending on choices available a week or two in advance - and yet another visit to Vancouver International Airport.
Even after carefully rummaging through their website (getting up-to-date information for security , carry-on bags etc.), almost every time a new annoyance presents itself at the terminal.  At 6:30 am the joint is not jumping, leading one to question the hard and fast rule of showing up 3 hours before flight time. From afar the check-in area has 8/10 people waiting to pick up boarding passes and send their luggage on its way, so this part will be mercifully quick. Oops! Suddenly a new wrinkle thrusts himself into our path just before wending our way through the cute roped off pathways to the agent counter. Apparently, the powers that be have decided one more layer of security needs to be inserted for our safety. An unsmiling rent-a-cop demands to peruse our e-tickets and passports merely to get into the line where we will end up showing our e-ticket and passports to the airline agent! Must have missed all the news stories about the ongoing problems and security risks in the pre check-in zone.
Since almost nothing is open except for coffee joints and the money exchange (more on this later), might just as well head through security to the boarding gates and wait for the restaurants to open up for breakfast. Not so fast! The 3 hour rule does not apply to screening personnel and they will not show up until 7 am or so to perform their duties. A minor annoyance and a 15 minute wait. Once cleared and scanned - cranial cavity is free of contraband or anything valuable - off to explore our penned in relaxation spot for the following 2 ½ hours.
Breakfast - eggs bennie - passes leisurely with many refills of coffee (remember to avail oneself of airport facilities prior to boarding) before wandering aimlessly around the slowly opening stores and pausing to view the new art work at the far end. Since only 200 pesos remained from last years trip, a visit to the money exchange is the next priority to have a bit more on hand for the requisite tipping and greasing once reaching Mexico. However, this booth is closed up tight and remains so even past 9:00 when it is time to board. Since YVR has a beautiful brochure indicating this service is available, maybe they should insist the booth be open along with the rest of the stores or hand off the franchise to a company willing to provide service. As it turns out, the hotel in Mexico provided a far better rate on converting Canadian dollars to pesos so no skin off my nose.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Retry #3

My Poor Broker!

Since the world stock markets began their wide roller coaster rides last fall, I began to use BNN as background noise as I work on various projects. Interesting to catch occasional bits of chatter as the stock tickers in rare moments climb out of the black pits or as usual plummet into the abyss. Despite the wild fluctuations in direction and general agreement among the commentators in the inability to forecast the direction of prices, those all seeing, all knowing huckster salesmen AKA the professional brokers have yet to change their tunes.

Every day still remains a gigantic buy opportunity as ’prices have never been so low since the Great Depression’ and ’the market has nowhere to go but up’. Never a suggestion or hint to dump the dogs and keep cash under the mattress, because of course, that action would rob them of commissions (which they nimble pry out of your wretched hands whether buying or selling or prices up or prices down. Everybody even gets to shell out good money for their bad advice. I’m especially enamored of the constant prompting to engage the power of averaging down. With share values falling so rapidly your average cost declines to almost nothing until the company goes bankrupt. And I suppose if you buy enough shares at no cost, eventually your average price will descend almost to zero.

Now you can sell it and enjoy all your profits!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Retry #2

Poor Shoichi Nakagawa!

Disembark from your government private jet at yet another exotic world location and your hosts whisk you, together with your entourage, away to the creme de la creme of upscale hotel or living quarters.

Have a sumptuous meal accompanied by copious flagons of wine; then retire to the drawing room with snifters of $1000 (US) brandy to divvy up the spoils for the politicos and elites.

Ah! The pampered life of a G7 or G20, or whatever the current number, finance minister or treasury secretary gathering to debate the fate of world trade and economic relationships.

And here I thought that it was perfectly rational to rectify world monetary problems and the course of trade whilst knocking back a few. But then occurs the disgrace of Shoichi mumbling and stumbling around the microphone, embarrassing his country and fellow participants; seemingly painting a less than favourable portrait of the wise money men of the world. Of course, his actions and poor judgment are censured, and his career shattered, while we are assured his behavior represents a complete anomaly at such conferences.

Now that I realize our ’public servants’ may not be falling down drunk on the job, I’m truly worried since I suspected that was the reason for their impaired outlook and hapless performance at anticipating future problems and global directions. How else to explain their delayed reaction to the worldwide economic recession and total incomprehension at the speed of the meltdown.

Maybe they are simply unable to see the forest for the trees.

Meanwhile, I can anticipate Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, or Mark Carney, Bank of Canada Governor, jiggling into another press conference letting us know how much things have worsened in the past 48 hours and the need to constantly revise their positions as they lead from the rear. Over the past three moths the duo have gone from ’the no need to panic and no deficits’ to all out ’ramp up the presses and throw money at the problem until it sinks’.

Oops! Time to grab a pitcher of wine.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Retry #1

Poor Mr. Donald!

Every time unwary investors build up his stock, another market downturn brings him to his knees and yet he can ride away into the sunset without having to hawk his gold bathroom fixtures. Hmmm! A mere 2.4 billion in debt and a scanty 1.74 billion in assets - leaving a paltry 660 million lost from the petty cash box. Hardly enough to retire on. Let’s see: wash the jet once a month instead of once a week, buy red brand caviar in place of the better black label, ask the servants to take a pay cut and work one month a year for free (probably already a term of employment). See, everything is okay.

Interesting that the usual faith in booze, gambling and entertainment as bulwarks during downtimes no longer holds true - just watch Las Vegas - which means the big money may have to go to the mattresses. Wonder if we are due for a quantum shift in the publics approach to life and material values?