"Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn't have it in the beginning" - Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Post-Recession Urban Density and the Destruction of individual wealth

Ominous, isn't it?  I want to preface this by saying that these are in no way backed or referenced by, or to, scientific data or literature.  They are mearly thoughts from my own observations.

Urban Density: wonderful, isn't it?  Although you might end up with a few hundred of your closest friends living around you, a sense of vibrancy and culture is formed with the emergence of urban density.  That's the positive.

Pre-2008, there was a frenzy in housing markets.  Lots of people worked construction because there were lots of jobs and it paid well.  There were countless developments popping up with pre-sales that would sell out in a matter of hours (old Woodward building, for example).  Many of these people were 'investors' and looking to make a quick buck on the turnaround appreciation that would have evolved in the time it took to build.  Because, after all if it sells out that fast it must be high in demand, even in the future.  Not surprisingly, developers, builders and the municipalities love growth of that nature.  Heck, who wouldn't!  It lines the pockets of the companies, and the coffers of the municipalities with permit fees and taxes.

Then the turnaround: the Recession.  The Big 'R'.  The party was over.  All those deposits sitting on developements that had yet to be completed, some just left behind while the clients walked away.  Other developers decided to take big discounts on the original listing prices.  But how many of those initial 'investors' put enough money down to account for a potential drop in housing prices?

This is where the destruction of wealth comes in.  Those people that had enough for 5%, 10%, maybe more, to put down on a condo or townhouse are in for a ride and not because of their own fault.

There are a couple of ways to get out of recession - spend your way out or tighten up and lay off people.  By continuing to build you are keeping people employed which saves EI from paying out, and other social benefits or programs being overwhelmed with people, as well as producing funds for the municipalities to help with the debt they are carrying.

The big negative to continuing to build (in this case high density - condos/townhouses) is that at a point there is oversupply.  The supply and demand curves are one of the first things you learn in basic economics and at some point in life we are all subjected to that theory.  But, apparently lack of sales, decreasing prices, and longer listings on MLS is not an indication to municipalities that there is no need to hand out new build permits for more high density housing.  With oversupply comes suppressed housing prices, suppressed rental rates as there is more choice, and as a result you have people that are into negative equity territory as well as rental properties that can't turn a monthly rental to cover the mortgage.

It's a vicious cycle that is on the verge of a precipice of a big hole.  We live in a time where there are constant 'restructuring' events at companies and layoffs.  To add to that, the federal government just announced plans to put in place next year which will see EI recipients being limited in the time they have to find employment either in their sector or previous earning power.  What this will do is create pockets of high density urban housing with owners that cannot afford to sell their place, cannot afford to rent it, and may then not be able to meet their obligations should a perfect storm hit with unemployment/underemployment.  The burden of having more people on EI or in social programs, which spending instead of tightening up was intended to avoid, would then be a reality but this time there would be much more debt and poor credit than previously.

And how to the banks fair in all this?  Well, say a developer gets a building loan from Mr. Banker pre-2008 but that development lost money, the developer went into receivership (any Lanford developers come to mind?) and the bank then lost money.  So, same thing again post-recession the banks are lending to developers that have taken their building permits from the city and are going to build at lower costs than pre-2008, thereby reducing the sale price of homes.  But the prices don't account for oversupply so these places sit, depreciate, and the bank may again take a hit.

Everything has an equilibrium and whether we like it or not that even ground will be reached at some point.  Let's hope the landing isn't as hard as it's playing out to be.

**Again, this is not substantiated by anything other than my own thoughts**

Friday, February 10, 2012


Educated, uneducated, it takes all kinds. Being a hypocrite might not be too apparent to some people because they don`t mean to be. Maybe they are a follower and see that a trend or movement is happening that they want to get behind...without thinking of how it may reflect on them. How does hypocracy affect credibility? How can a person place TRUST and value an opinion if the person they are placing that in turns the other cheek and exhibits another personal view?

Lately the two NEWEST pipeline debates have been going through the media over and over. Obviously everybody is entitled to an opinion. An informed, educated opinion. An opinion where both sides are accounted for, the pros and cons weighed up, and a realistic picture drawn of whether the benefits outweigh any possible negatives. To this I would like to add that I am dismayed that there hasn't been a word said about the natural gas pipeline that Fortis BC is planning on builind in southern BC...you know, just to show that views are cast with an even hand. Strange.

I am a geologist. I have worked in the mining and exploration industry and now I work in the oil and gas sector. What bothers me THE MOST is peers that work in either industry suddenly becoming anti-resource while working in the resource sector!!! How does the exploration, production, and shipping or oil differ from mining gold, copper, silver, lead, zinc, etc? How many holes are drilled to define a mineral resrouce? If you want to advocate against the jobs, one of which you hold, then please find a different career.

For those that do not bother too much about history, it might be worthwhile to note that for centuries we as a human race have exported our product, and imported others. It has created and driven world economies. So, before boycotting something because of a principle (valid or otherwise), maybe suggest or help to find alternatives.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A kid in a candy shop

2 blog posts back-to-back!? No way!? This is to all those out there that enjoy gluten-free, as a choice or out of necessity. It's a reminder that we have it really good in Victoria compared to a decade ago, or 2 decades ago.

As a child my mother had to order WEEKS of bread and treats (I say that liberally as 'treats' were limited back then) in advance for my younger sister and I. We are both coeliacs and have been for years - since we were young children. Back in the UK in the '90's I remember coming home to an order of a few boxes of goods that we had to deep freeze to prevent spoiling. Oh the joys of deep freeze - a way to prevent spoiling but you get that free oh-so-lovely freezer burn taste added after weeks of sitting there. The 'treats' that we got were ridiculously expensive sausage rolls, and fruit turnovers. Not many, mind you, because they were not cheap. It was hard to ration ourselves so to have them last all those weeks before we placed another order. Bearing in mind that all this food came from England, and we lived in Scotland. That gives you an idea of how hard it was to get gluten-free food back then. Finding GF pasta was even a chore!

Today, we can all walk into a shop and see increasing amounts of GF food at our disposal on a daily basis. It's a great thing and a wonderful step forward for everybody that is either Coeliac or on a GF diet because of intolerance or personal choice. There is a BIG difference between intolerance and being diagnosed Coeliac, by the way. Some are unaware, or there is a misconception that they are the same. There is also a misconception among many that Coeliac Disease can go away. Well, it is an auto-immune disease and is life-long.

In Victoria there are so many resources for people on a GF diet:

Origin Bakery at the Stadacona Centre (Oak Bay junction), Sante GF Cafe (Between Hillside and Bay on Quadra), GF Pizza at Oregano's (Fairfield Village), GF Pizza at Ali-Baba's, GF Pizza at The Joint (Warf Street), GF Burgers at Jackalope Bistro (On Yates by the cinema).

These are just a few. You can go into Save-on-Foods now and buy Udi's brand bread, pizza bases, cookies, muffins, bagels. This brand is probably the best one I have tasted so far, for pre-packaged mass-produced GF foods. You can buy it at Market on Yates also, but for some reason they freeze all their product.

I'm hoping to find as many resources and places to get GF foods in the city I am moving to. For me, I get a real sense of happiness to see that there is a GF alternative or substitute to a food that I would otherwise be unable to enjoy on a evening out. That smile on my face comes from all those years of not having the treats and foods at such a convenient disposal that everybody takes for granted. I'm like a kid in a candy shop!

Patterns and recognition

Far be it from the human race to see and register a pattern for future reference. We are generally inept at preventing ourselves from making the same mistakes over and over. I say this after a recent (within the last 9 months) on-and-off conversation I have had with advisors regarding the money markets.

This is a box of random shapes is it not? Children understand this. Heck, even adults understand this. So, why do we teach children to play and understand these shapes - recognition - if it does not have value later in life?

I woke up this morning to see the TSX Composite Index hit a new 52-week low within the fist 2 hours of trading. I lay there thinking to myself, 'I knew it'. Reality is that nobody really KNOWS, but those that forecast market outlooks can give a general idea of what may happen. Back in January when the TSX was hovering around and over 14,000 points, I had mentioned that I thought it was due for a correction. That idea was knocked down and I was told that the Canadian equity market was only going to get stronger through the year. WRONG. In June, that forecast by the same person had changed dramatically.

For me, this short-lived downturn in markets is a great thing as it provides A LOT of opportunity to get in on some good companies at low prices. I am not an advisor, far from it in fact, but I am following my gut as it has steered me in a good direction so far. Looking at a lot of charts this morning there is a consistent pullback in stock prices until the last day or two. Just by drawing basic lines on a chart I can see that there are new lower lows, and new lower highs, which technical indicator teaching would suggest a selling point. However, a dramatic break through that extrapolated line is what is going on with most stocks. What I see is trigger-happy people are selling and all the stop-losses that investors place to protect themselves are hitting, propelling stocks downward. I think there is at least a dollar or more correction on the upside to be had in the short term for many TSX stocks that will account for those stop-losses.

Markets lately are so volatile that it is hard to get a good grip on what is happening. I am looking at both short term and long term trading, and both have different strategies. While long term is more related to the fundamentals of cash flow and dividend payments, with modest growth, short term trading - for me - is based on daily ranges and volume. In the short term, I don't care about the fundamentals. What matters more is market sentiment.

Like I said, this blog is going to be random now! Time to get hyped up of caffeine and do some organising.

**Note that none of what I am writing about is advice or even remotely based on anything other than my own opinion. Please do not take any of this for word and go spend your life savings playing on the stock market without soliciting advice from a real advisor**

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What's been going on?

I think the last time I posted on this was about a year ago. Things have changed significantly since then.

I left the notion of becoming the best I could be as an elite athlete (in BC at least) with a bitter taste in my mouth. Starting out on this path, I found it difficult to place the trust of what I saw as my goals and future in another person. That wained, and I soon gained the confidence to place more and more trust in the people that were essentially guiding me towards my goals. I say 'guiding' because it is a two-way street for both communication and trust. Nobody is perfect and never will be. We can still have expectations. What I learned last year is that I was trusting the wrong person. All of the work through the winter months that I saw great gains with just dwindled away. I watched as all of my plans for racing went by the wayside because of the same problems and there was little help nor good advice from where I really needed it. In hindsight, it shows a lack of experience. One can attribute that to whomever they like. I was upset as I was basically disowned as an athlete by the same person that I had trusted all along. All of this added up to a terrible feeling about my presence in the sport and my future in it. Lessons from experiences are what make us better and stronger at what we do. So, for those lessons I am thankful.

Although I am not pushing on towards the same goals I was over a year ago, I still have a passion for sport; I always have. Without sports as a kid, all the way up through university, I would not have met some of my close friends, I would not have seen some of the places I have seen, nor would I have had the sense of excitement and joy that you get from competing and leaving it all out there. I would not have seen many beautiful sunrises that I would otherwise would have no idea even occurred. Next year I will make a return to some racing and I will show that I am the best in the class I will compete in. In the meantime, I am working back in a profession that I am passionate about, I have a wonderful and beautiful girlfriend (whom I would likey not have met if it were not for sports), and I have opportunities that will take me further in life.

I hope to use this blog for random updates not only related to sport, but other things that intrigue me such as finance, travel, and what is going on in the world we live in. It won't be another year before I post again, hopefully.

To the people that have supported me, listened to me, and taken the time to read this blog I say a big thank you.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nationals report

This is a loooonnng post, sorry if it’s a little boring!

So after my third and final race of the year I have some searching to do. This year has not followed the path that I was hoping it would. I have not only raced less than I had hoped to, but I did not reach my goals.

For the most part, things had been going really well in cycling throughout the year, running was improving (until an injury at the end of April), and swimming was fairly stagnant. As of about the middle of June I started to notice changes in my energy levels on the bike in particular. It frustrated me to no end and on some workouts I was so annoyed with it that I just about threw the bike. I missed Coteau-du-Lac at the end of June because training was not going well, and then the same thing for San Francisco in July. I then missed a week-long training camp in the middle of July.

What happened is not documented in bloodwork and so therefore apparently unknown to some degree - I hit a wall, not literally. It was extremely frustrating to be told that it was mental and that sort of criticism was not beneficial. For the entire month of July I was pretty much sleeping 11-12 hours a night and then waking up dead tired. I would miss workouts or go to a workout and have to drop out early. It felt as though as soon as my heart rate was elevated I was done, nothing left in the tank. So, I ended up taking about 2 weeks almost completely off. By the beginning of August I really had to make a decision on whether I was racing Kelowna or not. In hindsight I still think I made the best choice to do it. For the 3 weeks leading up to Kelowna I started with 1 workout a day and gradually managed to get 2 done a day. I still found that big days would leave me exhausted for about 2 days after.

I raced the sprint at Sooke, which went as poorly as it could have gone. I had a very flat bike with no energy to climb through the rollers and subsequently I placed 7th or 8th. This race was to see where I was at in terms of my recovery from being so exhausted for so many weeks, and to see where my fitness lay.

So coming into nationals I was well aware that I was not there to be competitive at the level I had hoped for, but really my goal was to get out the swim and onto the bike, and then from the bike to the run, and from the run to the finish. It was interesting to see the nervous faces on some of the men around me. It reminded me of how I was last year, but this time around I was ready to get out there and have fun! I had number 35 and so had a decent start position, a good start, and then faded back to a sluggish swim. The run from swim exit to transition was tough, mentally and physically, because I knew that I would have to stay with the other guys getting onto the bike, but my body was rebelling and guys started flying by me. Onto the bike I didn’t get into my shoes until I was up with 3 or 4 other guys, but I really struggled to find any strength on the hill and was dropped immediately. I was unable to help on the bike and was passed by others that got out the swim minutes back of me. I tried to hold it off, but on my 4th lap the motorbike caught me and pulled me out the race.

Watching the lead group go by was tough as I felt deflated knowing that for another year I had a DNF to my name. At the same time, I know that I gave every ounce of energy that I had and it wasn’t enough. Last year I psyched myself out the race and it frustrated me. Between not being 100% again and not being as fit as I should have been, there was nothing left in the tank. However, the added corners this year on the bike course were a lot of fun and I found myself taking more risks than I would normally just to try to stay away from the bright lights of the motorbike.

I have been given really helpful advice from a lot of people. I was told by somebody that I “deserve better” as he had seen the progress I was making on the bike earlier in the year. I know that with the progress I made in the early months of this year, I could have had a good race and to hear that validated by an impartial individual was extremely gratifying and gave me a little more drive to get back to Victoria and figure the next few months out.

For now, it’s time to get back on track and find that consistency in training again. I am pretty excited to do some cyclocross racing and cross-country racing this fall – just making training fun. I think nationals are back in Kelowna next year – 3rd time’s a charm, right?

Full results from this weekend found here. If you look at the swim times of those that finished and mine, you'll see that if I had the strength on the bike then it likely would not have been a DNF finish! I can't wait for next year so that I can smile crossing that finish line :)