What I'm Reading
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Sunday, December 31. 2006
You may have noticed a lack of updates recently, but luckily there's a story about why. In mid-December, I got an e-mail from one of the staff at the church asking if I could help run the sound system for a New Year's Eve event that was happening. I thought, okay, a small show, that'd be fine. It'd probably be a two evening commitment at most; one night for a band to reherse, and one night for the actual show. So, we left it at that, and I thought I'd have this lovely week off from work.
This is the only time of the year where I actually take holidays for rest. You can ask anyone at work, and they'll tell you that the only time I take a holiday is if I have to study for exams, and that's not much of a holiday at all. After four years at my work, I have accumulated a crapload of vacation days and overtime hours. I could take almost 2 months off to burn through all those vacation days.
Anyway, after Christmas, I get an e-mail about the rehersal times, and a list of the bands that were coming in. Turns out there's going to be five different bands playing at the New Year's Eve event. That means that most bands want rehersal times with the sound guy, and time to setup their gear. This has snowballed into a really big event which I have been drafted into. One band coming in consists of professionals who has record deals with Time Warner for crying out loud.
So, I have been doing sound stuff on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. This is by no means a small commitment, and it is all volunteer work. I even had to skip part of a birthday party to give one of the groups some stage time.
You'd think that people would appreciate it that I was giving up all this time to help setup the stage, and give people rehersal time. Most of the bands that I have worked with this week have been great, except one. Saturday's band was a nightmare. Their leader liked to micromanage everything, so they'd play four bars of music, and he'd stop to criticize his band members. Repeat this about a hundred times. In two hours, they got through only four songs I think. Morale was fairly low, and people were getting ticked off.
Anyway, their rehersal time was scheduled for Saturday between 6pm-9pm. At 9:40pm, I politely asked how much longer they were going to be, and the music lead said they had all night still. I said, no you don't, the agreement was 6pm-9pm, and I have already given you an extra 40 minutes. The guy then goes, "Pfft, you Pentecostals and your rules." I think this guy just dissed my entire church denomination. This really ticked me off. I have been here the last few days working countless hours for free, and this guy has the nerve to complain. If their band stopped arguing, they would have gotten through a lot more music. This guy was absolutely out of line. In either case, I told him that he had until 10pm, and I was kicking everyone out.
It's kind of annoying when people don't appreciate your work. I could have been at a birthday party this week. I could be spending New Year's Eve with friends. I could have done a lot of things this week, but I answered to the call of duty.
I was pretty close to burning out this week, until I watched an inspiring interview with Senator Obama. The interview was discussing what was wrong with America today, and the senator said that society rewarded those who are rich, those who are famous, but not those that work hard. He said people today are far too concerned about themselves, and how do things benefit themselves; there needs to be a new effort to focus on serving, ask yourself, are you a useful member person? Does serving other people come first?
This interview reminded me of Kennedy's famous quote, "ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."
So, that has helped me. Anyway, I have to get ready for a 12 hour show for tonight. I'm going to need a vacation after this vacation.
Pardon my rant, I'm a bit tired, a bit bruised, and a bit lonely. Now I remember why I didn't choose sound engineer as my primary professional.
Wednesday, December 27. 2006
I thought it'd be nice to review the year that was 2006. I went through my blog articles for the year, and I'm going to highlight a few of my favourite entries.
Quarter 1 - January - March
Canadians kicked off the year with politicians fighting a bitter winter election. The Liberals were fighting to stay in control as they were plagued by the sponsorship scandal. They were lead by Paul Martin. Traditional Liberal voters were fleeing both to the left to the NDP, and to the right, to the Conservatives. Ultimately, the Conservatives won a minority government, with a surprising gain in Quebec which crushed the hopes of a Bloc Quebecois sweep. Paul Martin stepped down as party leader as a result.
Also around this time is when the popular Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO), World of Warcraft really came into its own. Practically everyone at the office was playing the darn thing. The game had 6 million subscribers which effectively doubled the size of the MMO market, which made the thing insanely successful. Vivendi owns the game, and they're a big diversified corporation; they have a movie division, music division, etc. World of Warcraft accounted for 50% of Vivendi's revenue. In either case, I think I'm going to scream if I hear anyone else talk about WoW and how they picked up a +2 stamina mace.
Quarter 2 - April - June
The second quarter of the year was rather interesting for the stock market. Tim Horton's launched its IPO which meant that the company was now trading on the stock market. The shares priced at $23/share and skyrocketed to $37/share before settling back to $30/share. I put in a buy order that morning for $25/share, but I couldn't get any because there were too many buyers.
May marked a major decline in the stock market as commodities such as copper, zinc, aluminum, oil, etc were moving rapidly up due to huge demand and short supply. The U.S. Federal Reserve had to stop commodities from spiraling out of control, and inflation getting out of hand because the economy was growing too fast. So they begain tapping the breaks on the economy by raising interest rates. When rates go up, stock markets go down. I saw much of my portfolio go down, but I was still in there buying and taking advantage of the sale.
During this time, I also got quite a few people interested in investing. A lot of people were asking me about financial things, and it was really rewarding to help them out. It was during this time that I started a Virtual Stock Exchange game, The International Bank of Chan Fund, which gave people a chance to try out the stock market before jumping into the real thing. It also allowed spectators to see what strategies were working.
In May, we also moved into new offices at work. The new Computer Science and Engineering building was complete after huge delays. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful work space.
Quarter 3 - July - September
In the summer, we saw a war erupt between Israel and Lebanon. The whole incident was sparked over an unprovoked Hezbbollah border raid against the Israelis. They attacked the border and abducted Israeli soldiers. The Israelis responded by launching a naval blockade and an air war. Hezbollah responded by firing hundreds of rockets at Israel every day. Finally, the Israelis launched a ground invasion into Lebanon in a bid to create a buffer zone between the two countries, in an attempt to stop the rocket attacks. In the end, neither side managed to score a decisive victory.
At church, we also got some badly needed reinforcements. We got a new youth pastor, and later on, a new Children's ministry director. All of the children and youth ministries were relaunched in the Fall, and it has been quite successful.
The summer finished with Adam & Sarah's wedding reception. Boy was that a lot of work. I have to say though, every summer, 2-3 people from my PCS grad class typically get married. As far as I know, there were no marriages and I'm a bit disappointed. This is because we typically take the groom out paintballing, and I didn't get to play paintball once this year. Things better pick up for 2007! My trigger finger's getting itchy A lot of people respond with, Chan, why don't you contribute and get married? Lets just say I'm missing a few important prerequisities, and it's not camouflage.
On the academic front, I finished all of my courses for my Master's Program. I wrote my last exam ever, and it was a good feeling. What a finish that was too, I finished with one heck of a GPA. It was a good way to top off the transcript.
Quarter 4 - October - December
We kicked off October with Battlestar Galactica season 3, and what a season it has been. I honestly can't stop ranting and raving about how good it is. Entertainment Weekly calls Battlestar Galactica, the best show on TV that you'll never see. This is because while it is a great show, most people are turned off immediately by the fact that it's a science fiction show. Give it a chance!
October also marked the return of the bulls to the stock market. All that buying in the markets during the horrible summer has really paid off. Buy low, sell high! One of the biggest stories from the stock market for the year is probably Google's acquisition of YouTube for $1.6 billion. Google Bears became an endangered species when Google's stock price moved from $420/share to $500/share in a relatively short amount of time. This is one of Jim Cramer's best stock picks for me this year. Thank you Mr. Cramer.
In November, we saw the defeat of the Republicans in both the congress and senate as voters have become frustrated with the war in Iraq. President Bush was forced to change the course, and gave Donald Rumsfeld the boot. Hopefully fresh perspective from a new secretary of defence can help stabilize the situation in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group has given the President a list of recommendations of what to do. It has said that a pullout would be catastrophic, so America has to stay. So if the concensus is that America has to stay, they have to now figure out how to put the country back together.
By early December, I had finished writing my Master's thesis, and it is currently being reviewed by my academic committee. Pending any catastrophic shortcomings of my paper, we will be set for a Master's defence in January 2007, and that will conclude this chapter of my life.
So, that's a quick review of the year. Here's to a happy new year. Opportunity awaits us all. Good hunting.
Saturday, December 23. 2006
Tonight was our annual Christmas Dinner with friends at Adam and Sarah's place. The event just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. Last year we were cooking for five people. This year we were cooking for nine guests. Heck, we even had a pastor there who could bless the food; blessed food just tastes that much better.
I predict by next year, we will be serving 15 guests, and if so, Adam and Sarah, you're going to need to find an even bigger place to live in.
Anyway, this event is always fun especially since I love to cook. Here's the menu that Adam, Sarah, and I created:
Turkey Breast with Traditional Stuffing
Poutine Style Gravy
Baked Butter Dill Carrots
Pan-Fried Tofu with a Chili Garlic Sauce
Steamed Brussel Sprouts
Whipped Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Fresh Baked Apple Pie
Following dinner, we opened our stockings. Then onto the big presents. It always seems that there's a chocolate tasting course to the meal every year since everyone gets a crapload of chocolate. I personally scored three boxes of chocolates, and a bunch of miscellaneous candies and gum. Mmmmm.... miscellaneous candy.
I also got shirts from Adam, Sarah, and Bethany. This is part of their bid to gradually replace my entire wardrobe. Keep up the good work guys . You guys should be part of the "What Not To Wear" crew.
This year, I got everyone a bunch of party-style board games since they're always popular. A lot of research went into finding the right ones. Two of the board games were exceptionally hard to find in Canada because they were imports. My shipment of games almost didn't come in, but that's a story for another day.
Anyway, it was a great evening of dining, joy, and games. Thanks again to Adam and Sarah for hosting the events. I'm sure you guys had a fun time doing the dishes.
Thursday, December 21. 2006
I saw this amusing video piece from Anderson Cooper 360 last night on CNN, so here it is, Donald Trump VS Rosie O'Donnell. This ones for you Myron, and your beloved Mr. Cooper. Roll the tape!
Tuesday, December 19. 2006
Every December, something very magical and special happens when the holiday season arrives, and the snow starts to fall. Crazy people try to neuter Christmas because they are offended by it. This is political correctness at its worst.
The latest in the Christmas wars is from a Toronto judge ordering the removal of Christmas trees from her courthouse:
A Toronto judge has ordered a Christmas tree out of a downtown provincial courthouse lobby, saying it's not an appropriate symbol to non-Christians.
The move by Justice Marion Cohen has upset staff, some of whom call the decision stupid and insulting.
Cohen says she understands the small tree has stood in the lobby at 311 Jarvis St. for years during the Christmas season, but in a letter to employees says non-Christians are "confronted" with the artificial decoration, which makes them feel "they are not part of this institution.''
The judge, who oversees administration at the courthouse, said it's inappropriate that a Christian symbol is the first thing visitors see when they enter the building.
It's interesting that leaders of other faiths have responded and have come to the defence of Christmas. A National Post article entitled, "Muslim Leader Defends Christmas Tree," has this to say:
"It's so stupid, I'm at a loss for words," said Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.
"The judge should take a trip to the rest of the world. Christmas is celebrated by Muslims in many countries -- they should ban political correctness, not Christmas trees.
"If people are offended [by a Christmas tree], I'm glad they're offended," he added.
"I think it indicates a serious mental disorder when people want to bring down other people's happiness."
The group issued a news release calling on Muslims to "celebrate Christmas with their Christian cousins and light up Christmas trees to send a message to the Ontario judge that she is wrong on all counts."
"Hindus would be highly upset if another group infringed on our right to put up Hindu symbols in public," said Ron Banerjee, spokesman for the Hindu Conference of Canada.
Honestly, what sounds more inclusive, understanding, and tolerant in a multicultural country like Canada? Leaders from various faith groups telling people to celebrate Christmas with their Christian cousins? Or having a judge banning Christmas trees because non-Christians may be offended?
The judge should consider visiting other countries. Try going to the Middle East and telling them that you're offended by Ramadan; therefore, people should not celebrate it. Try going to Israel and saying you're offended by Passover. People will think you're crazy.
Continue reading "Christmas Killjoys"
Monday, December 18. 2006
Pardon my lack of updates recently. It has been a very busy week with a lot of Christmas related activities. To illustrate how busy I was, I even missed watching Battlestar Galactica on the weekend.
Anyway, last week I had the wonderful opportunity of trying to obtain a passport. For those who don't know, after January 23, 2007, the Americans are requiring Canadians to have pasports if they are travelling by air to States. As a result, the passport office has been experiencing a surge of passport applications; they saw a 33% increase in passport applications in November alone. So, people are trying to get passports ahead of this January deadline.
The passport office opened at 8:30am, so I thought if I got there early, I wouldn't have to wait long. How very wrong I was. I got there at 8:45am, and there was already a line that had formed onto the street. There were probably 24 people in front of me. Lucky me, I was also standing outside in super windy weather as we were in the midst of the worst storm in a decade. When I got in line, the security guard informed me that it was a 2 hour wait from this point on.
A security guard was keeping watch of the passport wait line because they didn't want people cutting in line. The guards controlled the elevators that led to the passport office which was on the 5th floor, and that was the only way to get up. I guess they needed guards because tensions run very high when people wait in line for a super long time. At least my wait in line wasn't too bad because there were two couples behind me talking about their world travels, and all of the exotic places they had been to. The conversation was fairly interesting as they discussed the cultural differences that they experienced.
By 10:30am, I finally made it inside the building to the lobby, and was first in line for the elevator. At least the lobby was heated. There was much joy when the security guard finally pointed to me, and I was in the elevator. Easy street from here now! Ding, the elevator doors open, and I'm greeted with yet another line. Sigh. We had to wait in yet another line to get our passport applications pre-screened. After that, we had to pick up a number, and wait in queue for a representative to help us. At least we got to sit down while waiting though.
I picked up my number, and it read A39, and they were serving A19. Sigh. I was finally served at 11:15am, and it took 10 minutes to get my application sorted out and submitted.
Moral of the story is, if you're applying for a passport, bring plenty of warm clothes and patience.
Just a few useful facts. Before January 23rd, 2007, you're still able to travel to the States by air as long as you have two pieces of valid ID, like a birth certificate and drivers license. If you're applying for a passport, make sure you bring/send your original birth certificate. They don't take photocopies of it, and a lot of people were turned away, or returning because they didn't have the original. It'll save you a lot of frustration and time.
Another tip is to send your application by mail if possible. It takes a little longer for them to process, but if you're not in a rush, then this is the best way to do it. You avoid the lines all together.
Thursday, December 14. 2006
Today we had sweet market action for the bulls. The Toronto Stock Exchange was up 111 points, and it broke through 13,000 points today. All of the American exchanges were up big as well. To celebrate, here's some financial advice from Family Guy:
AMD (computer chip maker) jumped +12% today as well. In the last three months, the bears had pushed the stock price from $27 to $20. The stock price got slaughtered because AMD bought ATI, a computer graphics chip maker, and Wall Street didn't like the acquisition. They didn't understand why AMD had bought it, and the deal cost a lot of money, and AMD had to increase their debt load to pull off the purchase.
For people who did their homework on the stock, opportunity was definitely knocking today. In October, AMD had a conference call with investors, and they announced AMD Fusion which are chips that combine CPUs and graphics technology from ATI. They said they would discuss the details in December during an analyst day meeting. Well, today was analyst day, and AMD wowed investors with their presentation on AMD Fusion. Furthermore, they said that the company's growth would be double the industry average, and that the ATI acquisition went really well. You can find out more about AMD Fusion in this article entitled, "The Outlook on AMD's Fusion Plans."
Anyway, I managed to pick up shares of AMD yesterday before the huge jump in price. I was a bit hesistant in buying at first because the stock had been moving down day after day. But I thought to myself, enough is enough, people have been too negative on AMD, and I'm calling a bottom right here. Ironically, it was Patrick who said he was thinking about buying more AMD, which made me finally commit to the purchase.
As for the International Bank of Chan Fund challenge, things have changed dramatically. We all started with $10,000 to invest, and about three weeks ago, cwing hit it big with some Chinese internet stock. He went all-in, and the stock jumped 40% in value in one day. A few more momentum stock purchases later landed cwing in first place with $17,000. However, the danger about constantly buying momentum stocks is that they can move down just as fast. You get it wrong once, and you could lost 40% in a day.
I spent most of last month in 4th place, and it didn't look like anyone could catch cwing. So, I instituted the "Go Big or Go Home" strategy. I drastically rearranged my portfolio in an attempt to catch cwing since I had nothing to lose. This meant way more risk, and diversification was chucked out the window. Yesterday, I moved a bunch of cash into AMD, and it paid off nicely today. Here are the current standings after my change in strategy:
What I want to show is that you don't need to go after crazy high-risk exotic stocks to make a decent return. Almost every stock in my portfolio are large well-established companies that you probably recognize. AMD, Electronic Arts, EB Games, Google, etc. are all household names that can make you some money.
Anyway, there's 18 days left in the competition, and I need to try and hold the lead. I might switch to capital preservation mode which means locking in my profits and not losing any more money, and hope people don't catch up.
Standard disclaimer: This does not constitute as financial advice. The statements made in this article are merely the opinion of the author. Please seek a professional financial advisor for your investment decisions.
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"A bad peace is even worse than war."
--Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (56 - 117), Roman Senator
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