Friday 26 March 2010

Health, wellness, and blasphemy

I am feeling very confined. My wife has banished me to the office, forcing me to kill time by writing on this stupid blog. I suppose I could be doing my taxes, but on a Friday night? No. I don't think so. I started drinking three hours ago already.

The "man" is also beating me down. The man being the government of our province. First, they approve a $260 million dollar bird-killing factory, which has caused the me to lose sleep. Poor little feathery creatures. Then, they submitted a budget that spends $5 billion on health care, yet still doesn't cover the experimental treatment for keeping my finger nails from growing so fast. And now, this. Come on, man. Don't make me take off my copper underwear! It gives me the support I need, and only recently broke in to fit me perfectly!


On another note, I shall give you some health advice, because I am an expert. I am an expert because I say I am, and because I have a master's degree*.

Drink. Specifically, drink the following:

A glass of red wine, to lower your cholesterol, followed up by a pint of ale to make your bones strong:
A beer a day could keep brittle bones at bay. That's because beer is rich in silicon, an element that has been linked to bone health. But what type of beer should you drink? ... lighter-coloured beers made from pale malted barley and hops, such as pale ales, are richest in silicon, while low-alcohol beers contain the least, along with stouts, porters and wheat beers.
But don't put away the stout just yet! You need that too to prevent heart attacks.

Feeling good yet? Good. But you're not done: you also need to grab six or more cups of coffee to keep yourself alert and also prevent Parkinson's disease, diabetes and cancer.

That's my typical morning anyways so I should be doing OK, except for those damn fingernails.

*in economics.


If you're into blasphemy, these guys might be for you ... I found out about them here and had to check them out, from curiosity. This music isn't really my bag, but the song gets better as it goes on. You can pick up some influences from Metallica, and Avril Lavigne. That last one might be my imagination.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Budget analysis: ouch

The true test of a leader is how he performs when times get tough. Selinger earns a FAIL.

The new budget forecasts a loss of $555 million for 2009 and budgets for another $545 million deficit for 2010/11, plus additional deficits in the following two years. To put this in perspective, the largest surplus ever budgeted by the NDP in the past 10 years was $175 million. The total of all budgeted (not actual) surpluses over those 10 years is only $812 million. In one fell swoop, we've set our finances back by over a decade.

Also consider this: in every single budget, the forecasted expenditures has been greater than the budgeted expenditures. In other words, the government has overspent every. single. year. That means that the record $13.26 billion in spending in this budget is likely to be higher by this time next year.

The biggest culprit: health care. Health care spending has been accelerating over the past ten years, and no little recession is about to slow it down. Just like my source, err.. the guy I met on the bus, said : it increased by another $300 million over the last budget. It's double what it was in 2001, almost a billion dollars more than Saskatchewan spends, and the system still under-performs. How can that be? Because the solution to everything is to spend money. And if inconvenient balanced budget legislation gets in the way of spending money, the solution to that is simple as well: change it! Let me ask this: what good is legislation if you can simply change it when it gets in your way?

While I'm on a roll asking all these rhetorical questions, here's another one: How are we going to get out of this hole? In previous years, we could count on increasing transfer payments to help us out, but those days are over. Ten years of economic growth, ten years of increasing transfer payments, and we've squandered it all. Now, if we want to reverse this slide, and claw our way back to debt-cutting respectability, there is going to have to be real pain. You can only get so far by nickle-and-diming people with higher user fees. Our personal and corporate taxes are already too high, so expenses are going to have to be cut big time. The bigger these deficits are, the more painful it will be.

Windmill math

Let's see ... I have 15 minutes to kill before I go to work ... What should I do? Relax with a coffee? Read the paper? Masturbate? Oh what the heck, let's do some math!

I see that Manitoba Hydro has finally signed on to a deal to build another wind farm. Is it a good deal? Hard to say because the details were not released. What we know is that Hydro is giving Pattern Energy a 20 year loan for $260m, and that Bob Brennan says that "Hydro stands to make a small profit" on the loan.

Small profit, eh? Ok. Let's suppose then that Hydro is lending them the money at a sweatheart deal of 5% interest -- slightly more than the rate they're paying on a Series 10: 5-Year Fixed Rate Manitoba Hydro bond. $260m amortized over 20 years would require Pattern to make payments back to hydro of about $20.9m each year.
Now: this wind farm is rated at 138 megawatts, but the capacity factor of a wind farm is between 20-40% (source) so we can count on this thing generating about 30% of 138 mW or 41.4 mW. At that rate, in order to cover the cost of the loan, they would have to be able to sell the electricity back to Hydro at at least $0.058 per kW.h. But .. they also have to cover their own $95m investment. If they were to finance that in a similar way, then the break-even price jumps to $0.079 per kW.h. More likely Hydro's buying the power at something like $0.10-0.12 per kW.h because their financing costs are probably higher and they need a profit margin.

I pay $0.0625 per kW.h on my hydro bill each month.

Ahhhhhhh that was fun. Anyhow, just back of the envelope calcs ... there are lots of variables.


how the name "Pattern Energy" came about.
Pattern press release.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Budget Scoop?

The Paper is reporting that cuts are unlikely in the next provincial budget. Wow. Shocker there. However, I have received word that spending for most departments will be more or less frozen. Most, but not all.

A guy on the bus, who's sister-in-law works for the guy who cuts the hair of the ex-girlfriend of Minister Rosann Wowchuck's mechanic tells me that there will once again be a substantial increase in health care spending, despite the proposal to freeze union wages. Something in the neighbourhood of $300 mil. There were many options explored for cutting back and holding the line on health care, but most were rejected due to a lack of political will or fear of voter wrath.

I guess Rosann blurts stuff out while she's getting her weekly tune up. Anyhow, that's what I've heard. I don't know if it's true. I don't know if it's not true.

Healthcare Budget / Forecast / Overspend (all in $millions)
2007 ... 4050 / 4154 / 104
2008 ... 4371 / 4583 / 212
2009 ... 4723 / ? / ?

Funny quirk: when you look in the 2008 budget document, the 2008 health care budget is $4371 mil. When you look in the 2009 budget document, the 2008 health care budget is $4,469 -- almost $100 million more. Ergo, the increase in the budget appears to be $100 million less than it really is. I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation.

Must have something to do with "The 2008/09 Budget numbers originally presented in the 2008 Budget Address have been restated to be consistent with the current presentation for the Government Reporting Entity." or maybe "Numbers may not add due to rounding."

Monday 15 March 2010

Seine: the forgotten river

Winnipeg: where the Red and the Assiniboine meet. The two aquatic giants of the great plains, colliding at the historic Forks; the place where Manitoba was born. Everybody knows about those, but there is a third river in Winnipeg...

The Seine begins who-knows-where south of the city (actually David Watson probably knows where), somehow crosses the floodway, and meaders its way through south east Winnipeg, eventually joining the Red on the North edge of Old St.Boniface. Much of its journey through the city is framed by wooded areas with paved and unpaved paths. In the summer you can canoe on the Seine or fish in the Seine, but it's the winter when I enjoy the river the most. You can walk on it, ski on it, or bike on it. There are smooth patches that you might even consider roller-blading on, if you could find blades with studded wheels.

The last weekend of February was a great weekend for spending time outdoors, so I got off my ass and went for a little bike ride. As I rode down the Seine I saw dozens of other people out with their kids or their dogs or themselves enjoying the spectacular last real weekend of winter. Looking out at my neighbour's grassy yard, it's hard to believe that I took these pictures just a hair over two weeks ago...

At one point, I found old street lamps strung up across the river like Chinese lanterns:

Is that up to code? I don't know, but I'll bet it looks wicked at night.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Peace adhors a vacuum

When the U.S. invaded Iraq and ousted the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein, a power void was created that allowed Al Qaeda to establish a presence in the country, and all sorts of other fanatical nut jobs to build their power base and feed ethnic and religious conflict that is still continuing today. Saddam was a ruthless murderer, but his ruthless rule kept the country in some sort of order in spite of all the different factions, tribes and ethnic groups. When he left, Iraq became a much more dangerous place to live.

The Winnipeg Police have apparently take the lessons-not-learned from Iraq and applied them to the Gang War in Winnipeg. From the Free Press:

Police say a pair of newly arrived gangs are at the centre of the brewing battle as they try to fill the "vacuum" created by a major undercover sting operation dubbed "Project Divide" that ended last December. Police used a career criminal-turned secret agent to infiltrate the Hells Angels, resulting in the arrests of 34 high-ranking members and associates. Police say every member of the Zig Zag Crew, the Hells Angels' so-called puppet club, was put behind bars while only a handful of Hells Angels remain free.
Awwwwwwesommmmme. So good to see the Rock Machine moving into town, with their guns and their bombs.

"So, smart guy", you ask, "what's the solution?" While some may advocate legalization of drugs. If drugs were legal, like alcohol, there would be nothing for the gangs to fight over, except for small-ticket things like prostitution and black-market organs. Though I might support legalization of pot, I have a real hard time advocating the legalization of crack, meth, heroin, and other such things.

Truth is, I don't have an answer. Going after the street dealers will not get rid of drugs. I say legalize and tax pot to take a huge chunk out of the market for illegal drugs, and let the Hells Angels control the rest. Or you can keep fighting gang after gang and paying off informant after informant, while people die in the streets. Maybe after 10 years of battle, the enemy will give up and we will be at peace. Maybe Iraq will elect a representative government that will bring all factions together, and settle into peaceful coexistence. Or maybe not.

Friday 5 March 2010

Afghanistan Film Festival Reminder

Hi. Quick reminder that the first annual Afghanistan Film Festival & Mini Market will be held this Monday, March 8, at the University of Winnipeg. It starts at 4:00, but you don't have to show up right at 4. You can get there later for the second or third movies. DriveGoddess calls the third film, Afghan Star, "a great documentary" ... so there you go.

More information on my previous post or on facebook.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The Jets are coming!

The rumour mill is churning extra hard these days in Winnipeg: engineers and architects inspecting the MTS centre, the Saskatoon Blades checking out new homes, conversations overheard in the Fairmont Hotel lounge, Gary Bettman sightings in town ... That's right boys and girls: the NHL is coming back to Winnipeg!

The current variation of the rumour started last year, as far as I know. There was a Regina sports reporter who heard something, and this post on a Saskatoon blog last October from "Trusty Rusty":

the Atlanta Thrashers people are in Winnipeg looking over the MTS centre with plans to expand seating to 18,000. It gets better.

The rumour also goes that the Moose would move to Saskatoon and then Jack Brodsky would move the Saskatoon Blades to Winnipeg, giving the MTS a NHL/WHL combo like Edmonton and Calgary.
You have to believe him. After all, he is trusty! Now, every internet forum in town is buzzing.

If the rumours are true, there will be an announcement tomorrow (Thursday) -- right after the trade deadline. So ... it is safe to say that we will be hoisting the Stanley Cup in three years, but what will be the team name on the trophy? According to this Toronto Star article, "The NHL earlier this year contacted Canadian regulators to reinforce its trademark on the Winnipeg Jets name." I heard that the "Jets" name was owned by Barry Shenkarow. Somebody else said that the NHL owned it. I have a vague memory of winning the rights to the name in a coin-snatching competition after a night of Yukon Jack and tequila, but try as I might I cannot find the paperwork.

Regardless, even if Chipman can get rights to the name, the name will probably change so that everybody who currently owns Winnipeg Jets gear (approximately 80% of the city) will have to go out and buy new gear. That means that you and I will need to be prepared to provide input into the team name so that we don't end up with some disaster like The Raptors or Mighty Ducks.

With that in mind, I have come up with some preliminary ideas for team names. Vote for your favourite in the comments or suggest your own! Here we go:
  1. The Manitoba Flood
  2. The Winnipeg Level 4 Puck Theives
  3. Winnipeg World Class
  4. The Walleyes
  5. Shakin' All Over in the 'Peg
  6. The Winnipeg Falcons
  7. Hey Everybody, We've Got A Helicopter
  8. The Manitoba Monopolies
  9. The Volts (in honour of our great hydro resource, you see...)
  10. The Voyageurs

    and my personal favourite:

  11. The Burtons!

late addition:

12. The Manitoba Rebellion

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Graphic television ads to annoy viewers

Graphic television ads to target city speeders (free press)

The two commercials show a group of distracted youths and a harried young father speeding before their vehicles crash, leaving them smashed and bloody. In both spots, the sound of crying women can be heard as the commercials close.
Nice. I'm looking forward to that.

These ads will not make me drive any slower. They will not make anyone drive any slower. I, like the vast majority of people, drive a reasonable speed based on the conditions. That may not always be the posted speed limit, but it is a reasonable speed. When you see instances of serious "speed related" crashes, it almost always involves a drunk driver or a stolen car -- as opposed to a "harried young father". Even the example used in the Free Press article is of a drunk driver. That is the real problem -- people driving while hammered, and kids joy-riding in stolen cars.

These ads will be a waste of money. Just my opinion. I've gotta run, though. Late for work!

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