Digging my way out

Snow shifting over the last two days. Two 10kg bags of snow melt and a kilo of salt later and last night there was still a big lump of packed snow and ice on the drive. Then I found out that there’s another tranche incoming of up to six inches overnight. Bloody hell. I’d only just dug us out of the last lot. This is Victoria in British Columbia for heavens sake, not Nunavut above the Arctic circle, reputedly the place where Canadian brass monkeys come from. Fortunately it’s only a Summery two Celsius outside my window at the moment, I can tell because our Hummingbird feeders are no longer frozen. After getting rid of half the two foot deep berm of snow on our deck I’ve elected to leave our deck garden covered because the snow acts as an insulator and stops our delicate little plants freezing completely. It’s even worse at the Great lakes, we’re talking 49.3% ice coverage with Ontario completely frozen, which is not unusual, but the historical data for the last 3 years says we’re in a cold spell as of 2018 & 2019. See Screengrabs below.

Fortunately my best Lemon Tree plants are sitting aloof from all the white stuff on a nice warm window ledge indoors. They will survive. I’m not too sure about the other plants we left outside. Our Hummingbird feeders are being visited by some copper throated and green backed species, so they’re all right.

Back in the old country I see Theresa May has snatched defeat from the slavering jaws of victory, yet again. My wife thinks she’s being very clever and manipulative. I disagree. She’s clearly out of her depth. Her prevarication have cost the UK dearly due to the uncertainty her government has created. Had they just said to the EU “Bye chaps, we’re off at the end of March 2019, toodle pip. Thirty nine billion you say? Don’t hold your breath.” everyone in business would have known where they stood and made provision accordingly. Instead May and cohorts tried to do what their sponsors and lobbyists told them, which was betray the spirit of a democratic vote. She’s still trying to get a last minute deal when that time is long past. The EU wants what it wants and boo sucks to everyone else. Which will be it’s ultimate downfall. The French protests continue, with their ‘leader’ on trial for ‘carrying a stick’ at one of the protest flashpoints. Over in Germany, the AfD are gaining ground. Hungary is still being a real dog in the EU’s manger and let’s just not talk about Italy. Overall, things do not look good for the EU. When the UK leaves, the implosion of the EU will accelerate. Trade will continue and the world will still turn. A lot of worthless mouths will have to relearn some job skills. Or starve.

Youngest reports that it’s been snowing in the great metrollops, but not much else. She’s too busy sorting the legal fallout from other people’s foolishness. Oh well, all makes work for the working lawyer to do I suppose. She’ll never be short of remuneration.

Then there are the reported five thousand children who went ‘on strike’ to ‘save the planet’. Manipulated by activist teachers no doubt. In reality their ‘strike’ probably increased emissions by forcing the held up traffic they created to idle their engines. This is why the voting age should not be lowered. Children should be allowed their childhood, not used as pawns for the ideologically blinkered and fanatic.

Not that the activists actually look at what’s really happening in the big wild world (See above screengrabs). They live in their own bubble realities of victimhood and delusion and when the worst happens are not equipped to survive. Those of us who pay attention simply douse the outside lights, barricade our doors and ensure the larder is full. The howling activist mobs can freeze and starve. They are the authors of their own undoing.

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Another snow day

…Well it would be, if, as I have stated before I needed to commute. We’ve had about six inches drifting to twelve on our deck over the last forty eight hours. Not a hell of a lot, but enough for a snowman. Seaplanes are taking off, but some from the mid-Island are turning back. We’re catching it worse than Vancouver, but I hear a number of School Districts have put out a ‘Snow Day’ message, so the local kids will have to amuse themselves elsewhere.

Update: Seaplanes are grounded and the Ferries to Vancouver have cancelled sailings until the weather lifts.

Notwithstanding, I have refreshed two of our Hummingbird feeders and hope they stay unfrozen for a few hours. At least one of our local birds has been zooming around looking for some sustenance, so we provided. It’s amusing to watch the antics of our Hummingbird population, even in the snow.

We do what we can, although it’s been me who braves the semi-blizzard conditions, stamping through a foot of snow out on the deck, wondering how many of our plants will survive this cold snap. Fingers, eyes nostrils and teeth crossed, our more perennial plants will survive, although it’s hard to tell with them under over six inches of snow over the tops of the plant pots.

Even at lunchtime it’s minus two Celsius out there. Which is a bit parky, to use the vernacular. If anyone is stupid enough to say; “Oo, this cold is all because of global warming.” in my presence they will be mocked unmercifully. Such regurgitation of garbage is sound evidence of a room temperature IQ. No, I’ll amend that, it’s indicative of subzero cerebral activity. The polar temperature was minus thirty two last I checked (One of the recording stations in Northern Nunavut) which is average for this time of year. To me it seems like the weather is getting colder. Shorter, hotter Summers and longer, colder Winters overall.

There’s an opinion piece about ‘Fake News’ in the FT by Tony Hall, Director General of the Bullshit Broadcasting Corporation, which I thought was a bit rich. In his op-ed Hall complains that ‘Democratic’ values are at risk. Well actually I agree. Democracy is always at threat, from biased news particularly, no matter it’s source. The BBC is notorious for omitting salient details, pushing a narrative and misrepresenting people with unfashionable views. As far as I’m concerned it could disappear tomorrow and I wouldn’t notice. The only thing I’d miss would be the Radio comedy shows it used to put out. Had the management team left that alone I wouldn’t have minded so much, but now it’s all biased Fark and Churnalism and I don’t really care. As for the jokers who decided to turn veteran Sci-fi show Dr Who into a preach-fest of lefty talking points, there goes that franchise. The fans were not impressed with season 11. Will there be a 12? Don’t care. We stopped watching mainstream TV over a decade ago and have never looked back. Well I haven’t, but Mrs S gets a bit nostalgic for it occasionally.

I know there’s a body of opinion that portrays people who turn off the TV and cut the Cable Umbilical as ignorant and ill-informed, but that is far from the case. It forces you to look for the story behind the story and take no-ones say so at face value. Most ‘news’ I find is little better than outrage-bait designed to increase your blood pressure. For the big media organisations there’s always a scapegoat or a witch to urge the mob onto. So for me the national news media has little facility. Apart from reporting on a Tsunami hitting downtown Victoria, or a big Earthquake but we’d have all been underwater or under the rubble for hours by the time reports hit the mainstream. This is why the ‘News’ is by it’s very nature ‘Olds’ and there’s way too much of it which is little better than half-baked opinion pieces. You might say “Ha-hah! Just like this blog post! Gotcha you old fraud!” To which I would reply; “True, but at least this blog doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not.” As the travelling judge said to the hotel receptionist, I rest my case.

Bloody hell. I’ve just looked outside on the deck. The snow has thoroughly filled my foot-deep footprints from earlier. Glad I’ve got no face to face appointments this week.

The truth is out there….

“…but lies are in your head.” To quote the late Sainted St Terence of the Pratchett. I’ve been reading last weeks Sunday Times, which is one of the Sunday amusements I allow myself because so many of the stories are so different from their clickbait headlines. Especially the various BREXIT hit pieces. Look chaps, even HMRC has got its act together and has issued no-deal BREXIT guidelines. Which echo what I’ve been saying all along; Don’t panic.

In the event of leaving on WTO terms a.k.a. ‘No deal’ or ‘crashing out’ (What hyperbole) little will change. Apart from the EU being GBP39 billion out of pocket and suddenly realising they’re really, really in far more trouble than dear old no-deal blighty will ever be. The value of sterling may well rise significantly against the Euro. Which should please a few expat pensioners, but not the exporters, who have been reaping the benefits of the artificially depressed pound.

Those UK businesses with the foresight to do so have already laid their plans for a no-deal scenario instead of endlessly whining that it ‘snot fair. Like the senior EU bureaucrats. Honestly, as Mrs S has repeatedly observed, these failed politicians really have no idea how to negotiate. They’ve had first dibs at a favourable trade deal for two whole years yet have simply considered the UK like an errant child having a tantrum.

Anyway, we’re going over to see the results first hand. I’ve finalised the details of Autumn’s London trip. Flights and accommodation paid for and we’ll be mostly meandering around the Smoke on foot. Just taking the time out to see the sights. I may even revisit whatever that bar is called at at the Shard. Fun fact; did you know that the 31st floor Gents Lavatory only has waist high urinal pedestals in front of a plate glass window? Do not use if you suffer from vertigo, but the view is bloody spectacular on a nice sunny day.

Summer break will be a series of mini road trips around BC. Maybe a short sojourn over the border to see how our southern cousins are faring.

In the meantime it’s still snowing here and temperatures are regularly minus five Celsius. At least by our outside thermometer. The weather is scheduled to continue in this vein for another forty-eight hours. As you can see in the picture I took from my kitchen window.

Roll on Spring. Another two months of Winter to go.

Localised cooling

We’ve had yet another bout of snow last night. Nothing much, it just looks worse than it is. A couple more inches. Still, it’s been rather chilly of late, with the outside thermometer dipping well below zero Celsius most days. Not double digit low, but getting there. But hey, it’s Winter. Nothing really out of the ordinary for this time of year. Maybe a tad chillier, but then we haven’t been getting the sixty below recently experienced in Minneapolis and the Midwest USA. I think we may have hit minus ten Celsius last night if you factor in the wind chill from a Pacific storm that plonked itself unceremoniously on the region just after midnight.

Have just had the mixed pleasure of spending five figures of my own money on stocks and shares. An act which brings the shared assets of Mrs S and I closer to the magical seven figure mark. Which is quite good. We’ve effectively doubled the amount we both started with, which is nice. Far better than property and far less risky. To me, buildings are just non-realisable assets, or as I like to call them ‘dead money’. I’ve been a landlord and quite frankly the only way you really make money is capital gain over a ten year term (Don’t even think about the repair and maintenance costs). We’re not quite due a 1991 or 2008 event where property prices take a massive hit, leaving many with what is called ‘negative equity’ for five or more years, where the value of the property is less than the outstanding loan to pay for it. Our cousins down south refer to this financial state as ‘underwater’. A state I am taking great pains never to be caught in. Others have, and they have my sympathy. It’s easy to be smug when you’re doing well, but I’ve lived too long and hard to remember that the only difference between me and a poorer person is paying careful attention to my finances, squirrelling my gains away and not going crazy when lady luck is (Very rarely) generous. Yes I’m dull, but better dull than destitute.

There’s an interesting story bubbling up about the Trudeau regime intervening in a court case (SNC Lavallin). See Conservative MP’s little video below. If what she says is true then the suckers of Liberal Party corruption are firmly wrapped around the pillars of power in Ottawa. Not only that but it already looks like all the lobbying and crony capitalism has paid off. The company in question is already off the hook. However, the Trudeau Government may have taken it’s place. They were seen tanking the backhander. Mind you, if they run true to form, the right judge will be appointed and the case against Trudeau et al will disappear. Such is Ottawa politics under the current administration.

Here’s the National Post take on the situation;

Fortunately none of the companies I have put money into have any links with SNC, so I’ll just invest in more popcorn futures. Well I would if the power didn’t keep going off. Fortunately we had the foresight to invest a few pennies on a camping gas stove so we can have a cup of tea when out in the middle of nowhere on road trips. Well this is Canada and we do have a lot of nowhere to be in the middle of. Having dug it out of the closet I christened said piece of kit this morning when the power was out for twelve hours. Reminder to self; must get a manual coffee grinder because Winter is not only coming, it’s right here and it will test the best of us. And I will not be deprived of my fresh ground coffee.

Otherwise, Bacon; check. Flour; check. Water; check. Coffee; Yep. Tea; plenty. Salt, spices, a freezer full of provisions and a few cans of baked beans, just in case. One should always have a few cans. Just in case the power goes off for more than three days, which if the gales come again, is more than likely.

Snowflakes falling

What can I say, we’ve had snow here on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Not a great deal, not enough to trigger a ‘snow day’, just a strinkling for decoration. No biggie. Just make sure you have your cold weather tyres on and turn up as usual. Well I would if my desk required a commute. Which it doesn’t. Which at the moment is nice. The only downside is that you have to be really careful about how many hours you work. It is very easy sometimes to work over seventy hours a week if things get a bit hectic. Fortunately work is quieter at present and the powers that be less demanding. Maybe they’re hibernating? No matter, I just keep my head down and graft until my scheduled tasks are done and decline any further workload. On the grounds that I’ve got enough to do already. Besides, my ambitions have shifted away from being purely employment focused. It’s safer that way.

One thing occurred to me while I was watching a fine snow fall Sunday and Monday was all the talk of Martial Law floating around circa a no-deal BREXIT. It’s almost as if Theresa May et al are looking for a way to not deliver, which I personally wouldn’t put past her and her remainer cohorts. There’s an air of not so quiet desperation about the remoaner faction. It’s like they’re planning to act like a spoiled six year old on the losing side of a game, who runs away with the ball so no-one else can play any more. I have this awful suspicion they’re going to welsh on the British people, or try to provoke a violent reaction so they have an excuse to keep the UK firmly in the EU’s clutches, because actually getting on with running a country is such hard work don’cha know. Not that the alternative is any better. All Labour ever achieved for the UK was ‘managed decline’ and the Tories (and the country) need another Thatcher. Or at least something or someone the economically productive can feel secure about, because when they feel good the money flows, investment rises and unemployment drops. Which is good for everyone but extreme lefties in academia and those in the public sector.

Having worked in both public and private sector institutions I’ve come to prefer the private. Working for the public sector puts too many constraints on you as a person, far more so than in a large corporate. The work may be much easier in the public sector, but where’s the fun in that? Where’s the challenge, the adrenaline rush?

This worker has seized his own means of production like we all should and has learned ways of moving his resources rapidly, just in case the jealous beast of big government casts envious eyes upon that small fiscal redoubt he has built outside of the banking system. Because even banks can fail. Yes they may have all the money, but as in the case of BNP Paribas, the biggest French bank by market capitalisation, has had to retrench recently. Trading losses forced it to make cuts of almost half a billion quid. This is symptomatic of a general malaise across European investment banking. Nothing for customers to freak out about yet, but certainly a sign that the uncertainly about BREXIT and unrest throughout Europe is being felt further along the European financial food chain. A clean break would be far less painful. I’m moving my money out of continental Europe until the dust settles in five or ten years time. Covenant-lite loans will be Europe’s next downfall. The Euro is already down and has further to go. Which will be good when the big money finds a new safe haven in Sterling and the US Dollar.

While contemplating the above I took a time out to inspect our little Winter deck garden, I was amused to see our Snowdrops and Crocuses have punched their way through a thin crust of ice and snow to provide a little colour other than white everywhere. When the clouds part, the Crocuses have their petals spread wide in a huge YAAAY! to great the thin warmth of a Winter sun. Life is perennial like that. There might be snow and rain, but there will always be the odd flash of sunlight to lighten the gloom. Those are the moments to live for.

What else? Oh yes, never mind his state of the union triumph, Trump has by executive order escalated the trade war against Canada. Is it being reported? Not so much. Very little. In fact a crucial detail completely slipped under my radar. The FT missed it completely, despite the the relevant executive order being on the official White House web site. Canadian companies being given the big shut out from the USA? By the way, Obama did exactly the same thing back in 09, but our then PM Stephen Harper, had enough savvy to negotiate a Canadian exemption. Trudeau’s incompetent bunch of snowflakes are too focussed on feel-good virtue signalling than doing what’s right for employment in the great diverse North. He was even caught slagging off Canadian blue collar workers last year. If he wins the 2019 Federal election I’ll know something is amiss because he is not a popular figure right now. Only a concerted bought and paid for media assault can help him. What’s that Sooty? He’s given taxpayer dollar to that cause already? Well stap me vitals. Who would have thought?

Anyway, it looks like being a lively discussion on Friday when I finalise my buying picks. There may even be a significant opportunity. Canadian pipeline companies are looking interesting because they have just upped their prices at contract renewal time. This is because Trudeau’s Feds won’t let them build any more pipelines, a move which paradoxically means higher dividends for no additional infrastructure costs. True, the price of the shares won’t go anywhere fast, but the way my tax sheltered investments are structured, I automatically reinvest any share dividends, increasing holdings and thus boosting the income from a relatively limited outlay. Despite all the deluded wibbling about ‘renewable energy’, there is no ‘low emission’ power generation technology mature enough, apart from Hydro-Electric or Nuclear (both ideologically unpopular with the Greens, Liberals and NDP) to cover the energy needs of Canada’s growing population. In spite of what all the talking head prophets of doom say, ‘Fossil’ fuels aren’t going to run out any time soon.

At least the Lemon Trees are doing well

January has come and gone and my Lemon tree plants are sprouting new leaves on the windowsill of my office. What else? I’ve also just spent my yearly holiday allowance on a trip to Londinium this Autumn. Mrs S and I want to see all the non-events that will characterise the UK leaving the EU.

Otherwise life at Chez Sticker is plagued by glitches. A whole shedload of the wretched things. Nothing insuperable, just minor bits of grit in life’s ointment. Banks that won’t do what they’re told. Stuff which should happen in forty eight hours takes a week to ten days to set up. Which is a bit tricky when you’re under the gun and on a tight deadline. I’m having to postpone investments because of them. Which is a pain. I was hoping to get a tranche of cash moved to invest before the stock market rose too high. The Canadian tax man (Nice chaps – when you have good accountants) you see has given me a more generous allowance for investments for last year and this and I want to take advantage of the loophole before March 1st when the opportunity disappears. Then there’s the extra payments to HMRC to ensure my UK pension is nicely topped up.

One minor irritation is having to postpone closing an offshore account because of a policy rule change. A complication because the money sent to HMRC from that account has to clear before I can do the necessary. This is mildly annoying. Of course any differential will only be pennies, but nurtured carefully how those pennies mount up.

Turns out I have a knack for shifting money around. Who knew? All those years working my arse off for a living when I should have followed my true calling in international finance. Although my calculus is sometimes questionable, I can usually convert between currencies in my head pretty well and I’m making a more than modest amount each year off my stocks and shares. Better than all the pension funds and other investment vehicles I’ve put money into over the years. Nothing spectacular, just solid, steady tax-sheltered growth over the medium to long term. All nice and legal. Even if it is hard work from time to time. I could retire tomorrow but I’m not going to. Deferring payment means a better hedge against inflation and besides, I’d only get bored.

On the BREXIT front The Financial Times is still very Remoaner and becoming rather irritating to the point where I may well be cancelling my subscription. I want news, information, not opinion dressed up as so-called ‘facts’ to support a pro-EU aganda. My increasing infuriation is driven by the imperative that in investment, good and timely information is everything. Without that information the news media has no real facility.

So what’s going on out in Interwebland? Lots of interesting stuff. As my last remaining reader is probably aware, there’s been a lot of screaming and yelling over ‘Fake news’ over the last three years. Then, more recently there’s been a lot of tearing of hair and sackcloth and ashes over ‘journalists’ being fired from various left of centre media outlets. Now these two phenomena might seem unconnected, but what might have slipped under the radar is the cessation of funding to counter ‘foreign propaganda’ begun during the Obama administration under the Portman-Murphy sponsored ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act’. Like with Trudeau’s extra funding for CBC and other like minded media outlets introduced in 2018. All the money under the respective legislation has been strongly suspected of going to media outlets that toe a specific party line. Or in the case of the USA, did go.

Listen to a more well-informed commentator’s view below explaining the ‘Learn to code‘ meme doing the rounds, where alphabet soup commentators have been paid very well while spreading misinformation to support their ’cause’. All the time insinuating that right of centre and centrist Youtubers and bloggers are little better than pro-Russian propaganda ‘bots. Let me explain; for years, said journo’s have slyly mocked ordinary working people who lost their jobs. Now the boot is on the other foot.

Mass media redundancies? Couldn’t happen to nicer people.

Only a couple more months to Spring. I have the feeling April 1st is going to be really interesting this year. At least for all the prophets of doom.

Update:  Speaking of doom, is it finally ‘game over’ for the Maduro regime in Venezuela?  If so, what will replace it?  All rather academic as the answers to those questions are for the Venezuelan people and no-one else.