Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I participated in my first ever Kickstarter project.  By coincidence it is, by now, the single most successful Kickstarter project.  The idea behind Kickstart is driven by cloud sourcing; where ideas go to the "cloud" to fund their ideas.

This one is for a watch that talks to your iPhone.  See here

Spring is really early!

Up here in the Great White North (Canada) spring is a May affaire (usually), there are even sayings that outline that until may you should stay bundled up.  I have seen major snow storms in mid April, so a month ago we got 26c and yesterday too.  Even mor unusual is the Laurentians when I have a cottage, and were last weekend the lake was completely free of ice... Usually we have to wait until mid May for the ice to go away.

Spring was at least 3 weeks early

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Car Economy

I've posted before about the fact that for more than a year now I have been living without a car, and loving it!  This morning I was reading an article in The Atlantic Cities citing JD Powers (the car evaluation company) about how young people were no buying the "American Dream"of buying a house in the "burb" with two cars and 2.5 kids.  Rather they were looking at living in areas were walking (or cycling) was a transit option. On a personal note the first generation of my friends' children are now of driving age (scary) but a surprisingly large number seem uninterested (many failing to even obtain driving licenses).  The JD Powers' analysis seem to show that young adults see cars as a tool rather than a status symbole.

One article (especially in a specialized publication that seem to favor mixed development housing etc) does not a trend make, although JD Powers does add weight to the argument.  As a 50 year old who lived for many years abroad (and who bought his first car when he was 33) I am in somewhat of an outlier, and my view of cars has always been as a tool (although I did really liked my ancient Mercedes 300 SEL, but it drove like a pig).  But this is an important trend.

Obviously technology helps, from video conferencing (Skype) to on-line shopping (Amazon and others) make cars far less important - as a friend told me (in the US) he ordered a ladder on Amazon, it was delivered the next day via UPS (I know, I know it sounds ridiculous).  Moreover young people have worse credit score and fewer financial ressources in a market that shows that housing is not a one way bet, and can even act as a anchor stoping them from taking on better paying jobs.

Equally important is the growth of car sales in the US ( a substantial economic industry).  Ever since the   car industry began churning out Model Ts, and excluding the war, the overall North American market has been growing -- increasing its market penetration.  This trend is now over, with a penetration of around 98% of the current population (98% of those who may want a car own a car) the overall growth of the car stock is complete (aside for population growth drivers) which means that future North American sales are driven by replacement of aging stock.  That creates a zero sum game for manufacturers which will in the medium term will drive down (already tight) margins.  

Add this factor to the trend in young Americans and you can see future trouble for the car industry

BTW I rented a Dodge Journey this weekend, not exactly a great vehicle.  It was alright I guess, I like the easy setup for the bluetooth (that allowed my iphone music to play in the stereo system), but the driving experience left a lot to desire, first whenever you try to pass another car on a country road the front wheel drive system woud not really compensate for torque so that the steering would pull  (a lot) to the left.  Although a new vehicle (less than 6,000km) it was already starting to "creak like a taxi".  On the bright side the driving position was comfortable.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back to Greece and Exit from the Euro Zone -- When there is simply no more money!

Everyone is now focusing on Spain and/or Portugal now as the "next domino" to fall, but in fact the "solved problem" that is Greece keeps on rearing its ugly little head. Last week the European commission published a 195 page paper detailing most of these facts (the second economic adjustment programme for Greece, march 2012).  Pay special attention to page 55 (where most of the juice lay).

In mid March the Greek government was so broke that it raided the bank account of the 6 largest Greek University, a public utility and other government controlled entities; the result now the six universities have to close because they cheques (like salaries) have begun to bounce -- the accounts were emptied to the tune of Euro 1.7 billion, so that the Greek government could make whole a sovereign owned bond payment.   

The reason is that although Greece was scheduled to receive Euro 74 billion on March 20th it only got Euro 7.5 billion.  Not entirely clear why this occurred, but one thing for sure, there will be no further payment til June (when the next instalment is due).  BTW the bulk of the Euro 7.5 billion it did get went to pay of ECB loans (in full).

Easter is on our doorstep, Greek universities are having (over the last few days) extraordinary meeting to decided if they will shut down (I don't see any other solution).  We have an automatic four day holiday in Greece, add a day or two and Greece could be out of the Euro by April 9th.  Sure I could be exaggerating, but it remains that when the government raids the cash accounts of universities to pay of bond holders they've got to be close to the end.  There is simply no more cash available...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bully Rated "G" in Canada Rated "R" in the US

Go figure!  How can the same movie be rated G in Canada and rated R in the US.  Clearly something is wrong.  First off, the movie is a "pull no punch documentary about bullying"  the language is "frank" and the imagery is difficult.  The thematic is particularly troubling since it deals with something we have all at the very least all seen (or worse suffered).

For some reason a frank analysis of a huge problem for children in North America -- maybe cathartic to children suffering from bullying and may even make those who "tax" think hard about their action is seen as something unacceptable for American children to see.

Sad and amazing