Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Wonder....

0 comments many people who've approached me to participate in a pyramid scheme have actually become millionaires or billionaires, or even semi-wealthy?

In the last few years, I have been solicited by many people wanting me to join or invest money in their multi-level-marketing scams: Quixtar, Network 21, World Financial Group, Primerica, and Vector Marketing, just to name a few.

Every "offer" I received came with promises of receiving passive income up to $10K/month, gaining additional time to spend with loved ones, and being able to "quit your day job." I wonder how many of these folks no longer have to work their "day jobs." I wonder how many of them are so stinkin' rich that they can afford to live on their "passive incomes" alone, or even yield some sort of profit in excess of $100 each month. I wonder how many of these people actually find themselves spending more time with their family each week, as opposed to spending all of their evenings and weekends trying to build their downlines.

This week, I have noticed "Quixtar" commercials cropping up like weeds on CTV. It has annoyed me to no end, particularly since I am not unaware of the lawsuits and FTC complaints surrounding this company, which has been called both a cult and a scam.

Is our society so saturated with naive folks or greedy individuals that these companies see a population of untapped potential to sucker into their scams? Who doesn't use Google or the Internet these days?!? Who doesn't bother to apply critical thinking skills or do due diligence?!?

I am baffled; words escape me. If those who've approached me have somehow found their way to the money tree without too much effort or bridge-burning, then all the more power to them. Hubbs and I are able to tuck away a good chunk of change and live well and love our day jobs and spend evenings and weekends together without being involved in any of these silly pyramids, so we'll just keep sticking to old fashioned hard work to build our nest eggs, thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Renting and Bulls and Bears, Oh My!

Recently I've been thinking. With the move looming overhead, and the closing of a metaphoric chapter of my life upcoming, there is much cause for reflection on these last few years.

One of the things I've been reflective about has been our decision to rent rather than buy. In the "bull" market of E-town a couple of years ago, many of our friends tried to persuade Hubbs and I to purchase a home. The rationale was that we could, prior to a move, build up some equity and make some money before heading to Vancouver. Rather than "waste our money" with renting, we could have applied those monthly payments (along with our savings) towards a mortgage on our own home for a year or two, building sufficient profit on our property to pad our bank accounts for a move.

Of course, this advice was given a year or two ago, when home prices were reaching record-highs in E-town, and the oil industry was booming such that real estate was being snatched up within days (sometimes even hours) of listing, and demand far exceeded supply. People in general were becoming greedy at this seemingly prosperous point in time, borrowing equity from their homes to invest in additional properties, or constantly upgrading their homes and flipping for profit. You might even call these folks "pigs" in their earnest grab for quick and easy profit.

Of course, quite soon into these discussions with friends, I discovered myself to be a bit of a "bear." Whereas they focused on the then-current economic conditions, I chose to look at longer-term forecasts. Even in my ignorance about real estate and economics, I could foresee that the massive hikes in housing prices and economic upturns would be short-lived, and in short order supply would exceed demand again. They thought I was being overly-cautious. They laughed at our decision to rent. As it turns out, I was right.

Had we followed the advice of these well-intentioned others, Hubbs and I would be stuck right now with a property that would no longer be worth as
much as what we would have paid for it when we bought it a mere year or two ago. We would need to eat the difference, and try to sell our home (at a loss) just so that we could move. We would therefore be unable to move when we wanted to, as the relocation would have to be tied to the sale of our home. The market is pretty saturated with listings right now, oil production has slowed to a crawl, and some people we know have been listed since the spring (with continuous drops in pricing) without even any lookers, much less takers.

In hindsight, it paid off for us to be a bear (or maybe a "chicken") and to wait it out these last few years without buying in. In the ebb and flow of economics, certain realities exist. A long term real estate investment will always yield positive returns provided one waits long enough; this is a universal truth. An economy will always swing back and forth between bear and bull; this is also a reality, although the duration of each respective term is relative to other social and economic factors at play in a given area. However, for us and our dream to eventually move to Vancouver, it seemed foolish to jump on the proverbial bandwagon for the relatively short-term, and pour all of our savings into a real estate market that was especially volatile and unpredictable in our area.

So to all those who thought we were being foolish in dumping all our money into rent rather than a mortgage, I guess I can finally say, "I told you so." Because we chose to rent, we are now free to move whenever we want, and our assets are not tied up in a mortgage. We are not facing the stress of having our home be valued at less than what we purchased it for, and we don't have to worry about trying to unload our property before we can go.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Go Canada!


I know you doubted. I got a bit worried myself. But now, in this last leg of the Olympics, the best of Canada are showing up and showing off their athleticism. We're getting multiple medals a day, and though we won't ever have as much metal as China or the U.S., we're holding our own and our athletes are representing us well on the international stage.

I am officially a bonafide Olympic junkie now. When I get up in the morning, the TV goes on to the Canadian Olympics channel (CBC) until the coverage stops for the afternoon. Then, at 4:00 pm, my TV switches back to the channel as coverage begins again. I find myself loudly cheering for the athletes representing the true north strong and free, and I also find myself secretly jinxing those who are competing against our sportsmen.

Shameful, non? What can I say? I'm not fanatical about football. I don't get all nuts over hockey. I don't even follow basketball or baseball. Indulge me my one couch potato moment every 4 years, won't you?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yes, Yes We Are

We are finally headed west, to the land of milk and honey, the "promised land" where we belong.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Am Afraid....

...of many things. I just came across this website listing various phobias, and decided to go down the list. Who knew I was such a fraidy-cat?

Achluophobia- Fear of darkness.

Aeroacrophobia- Fear of open high places.

Coulrophobia- Fear of clowns.

Dermatophobia- Fear of skin lesions.

Herpetophobia- Fear of reptiles or creepy, crawly things.

Musophobia or Muriphobia- Fear of mice.

Pediculophobia- Fear of lice.

This doesn't even touch on my fear of all rodent-like animals, all bumpy textures that are clustered together, and holes that are all grouped together (sometimes called the "fear of clusters.").

Friday, August 15, 2008

When Good Enough Isn't Good Enough

As a teacher, I've often had to answer the question, "Is this good enough?" Students ask me this quite often, and every time I am faced with this inquiry, my response is this, "What do you think?" followed by, "The fact that you've even asked me this question already gives you your answer. Is this the best that you can do?" The answer I get is almost always a "No."

The truth is, many adults are guilty of asking this question silently, and of submitting work that is sub-par to what they are capable of producing. Whether the excuse is lack of time or lack of motivation, such rationalization is unacceptable, because the work reflects the worker.

When I mark a stack of projects, I often find assignments without names on them. Without fail, these are almost always the ones that were poorly done or incomplete, sometimes even torn and crumpled, and often submitted late. Was it an oversight on the part of those particular students? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Interestingly enough, the best quality projects, the ones that exceed expectations and blow me away, are always labeled prominently with the name of their respective creators. I can tell that these students took pride in their work, and they wanted everyone to know it.

What we produce reflects what we believe and who we are. If we put our name to something that is done terribly, or that does not meet a basic standard of acceptability owing to our carelessness or slack-ass attitude, what does that say about our character, and our reliability? I personally hold myself to a very high standard. Regardless of whether or not I have agreed with an assignment or a task either in school or on the job, I have never submitted something that I did not complete to the utmost of my ability. The reason for this is simple. I refuse to associate my name with garbage, and I care enough about my responsibilities and my reputation to do my best work at all times. Those who have worked with Hubbs know that he is the same way. It reflects favourably on us and on our integrity when we follow through, the best way that we can, on something that we have been entrusted to do.

Of course, nobody is perfect, and therefore the standard is not an absolute based on the product itself exceeding expectations; few have that talent to excel to that degree. Rather, it is an absolute based on the producer. What is "good enough" is what you have worked to the fullness of your ability to produce, and what you have tried as hard as you can to do. Within those parameters, your character cannot be questioned even if what you yield is not the "best of the best," because it is your best, and you can take pride in that work.

Maybe we can all re-examine that tasks ahead of us, and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Perhaps we can stop asking whether what we've done is good enough, and replace that by asking ourselves what our best is. I believe if everyone did their very best in everything, this world would be a different, far better place.

And I'd get to spend more time in Calgary ;)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cereal Made For Me

Tejanamama asked, so here it is. The two cereals I'm referring to (not sure if you have them in the States) are:
These are two of my favourite cereals. Another one that is yummy is Kelloggs' Just Right.

Nowadays I start the morning off with a bowl of goodness and some skim milk. I may be going through a weird cereal phase (I've been known to go through food phases), but boy does it help curb cravings for other less-healthy foods! :)

He Took The Last Bar!!

He did ask before he took it, of course, and as any good wife should, of course I said yes. However, we're not talking about some plain ol' chocolate bar here. We're talking about the most delicious protein bar that has been made since the history of protein bars.

We're talking about this:

It's the caviar of protein bars. Instead of tasting like chalk or fake chocolate or some other equally disgusting flavour (as most protein bars tend to have), this one actually tastes like a peanut butter chocolate bar. It has this crunchy texture to part of it (think Crispy Crunch), a soft gooey nougat centre (like in an O'Henry!) and a thick palate-sticking layer of peanut butter, all covered by chocolate that actually tastes like chocolate.

And Hubbs has our last bar. I'm thinking I might need to take a little grocery trip today.

**So, when Hubbs came home today, I discovered that he had read this post. Spousal guilt must have set in, or the guy must love me to bits, because he didn't eat the bar. He saved it for me!! I love my Hubbs! :)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mine. All Mine!

My Hubbs is the greatest. He bought me (well, us) a new car. Introducing....
Tada!! It's a 2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6 (that we have yet to name). I got to pick the colours, the model, the make...everything, and I chose to get a black one with "ivory" (more like tan) interior. It looks sharp, and drives smoothly. I'm so excited about all of the nifty features on this top-of-the-line vehicle, especially since Hubbs and I have never owned or regularly driven any vehicle newer than a 1997 Dodge Neon. Yes, pity us. ;)

Now we can finally join the ranks of those who have had power windows/locks, 6-CD changer, a sun/moon roof, and heated seats! Life is good indeed. :)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Breaking Dawn - The Review That Won't Be Happening

**Caution: Spoilers**

On Aug. 2nd, Stephenie Meyer's last Twilight book, Breaking Dawn, was released at midnight parties across the continent. The book has been much-hyped, and truthfully, greatly anticipated by her legions of fans (including myself), to the point of getting a lot of media attention in newspapers, on TV, and on the Web. Comparisons abounded comparing Meyer's success and fan base to that of the Queen, J.K. Rowling. Pre-orders and book sales were anticipated to be in the millions within the first 24 hours of the book's release.

My copy of Breaking Dawn was pre-ordered months ago. It still sits on the bookshelf at my local Chapters store, two days after the release date. For such an all-things-Twilight obsessed, self-professed fan-girl, this is no doubt surprising for some to hear. More surprising still, is the fact that I plan to get a refund on my pre-order the next time I'm able to get to the store. I will not in fact be buying the book, nor reading it at all.

The reason for this is simple. I believe in preserving things at their height of awesomeness. I believe in ending things on a positive note. Much like how an athlete should retire in his prime rather than at the end of his career, when his performance is an embarrassing shadow of its peak, I believe that novels should end at the height of their popularity, leaving the remainder of the story for the reader to complete in their mind. To endeavor to "wrap up" a series is always a dangerous ambition, particularly when the series has a rabid readership of very passionate fans. Only the most talented, the most prepared, and the most courageous (think Rowling, Tolkien, Lewis) can pull off the "final book" in such a way as to leave their readership satisfied.

Meyer is no such author. From all of the spoilers I have read about this 4th novel, both on Amazon and on discussion boards, I already know that to allow myself to read this last book would be to taint and tarnish all that I hold dear in the trilogy. All of the information I have gathered about the novel suggests that it is sub-par to the quality of story that Meyer's fandom has come to expect. Never before have I heard of most of the following acronyms and phrases, and yet these seem to be repeated in the hundreds of voices that are unanimous in their verdict of her latest book:

* OOC (out of character) - referring to every main character Meyer has created in her universe, as they appear in Breaking Dawn
* Epic Fail - referring to her attempt to "wrap up" her storyline, and doing so rather poorly
* Mary-Sue - referring both to the sanitized, Disney-fied "happily ever after" plot line and also the poor characterization of both Bella and Renesmee
* Violation of Canon - referring to the Twilight "operating rules and laws" that Meyer has appeared to break for the purpose of telling her story, even though it is poor practice to break one's own canon
* WTF (self-explanatory)

Other criticisms of the book focus their disgruntlement with the following:

- unrealistic plotline (think "V" the 1980's alien TV series)
- lack of true conflict (Bella gets everything she wants without any sacrifice or compromise)
- lack of action (the epic Volturi vs. Cullen battle does not actually occur, much to the disappointment of many)
- flat characterization and the general unlikeable nature of most of the main characters that readers have come to love
- lack of dialogue to build character relationships
- the disappointing "absence" of Edward and the "epic romance" that has come to characterize the series
- lack of a satisfying "sex scene," or even proper tension-building foreplay between Edward and Bella
- the gratuitous use of gory description in describing the birthing scene
- inconsistent voice in the writing of this book, relative to the other three
- misogynistic, anti-feminist messages and themes underlying the storyline
- bad fan fiction-like naming (e.g. Renesmee Carlie?!?)

...and the list goes on, and on, and on. Search as I might, but the only favourable reviews seem to be coming from those who are so adoringly committed to Meyer that there is a distinct absence of critical thought on their part. These reviews focus on the entertainment value of the book, or on their satisfaction with a fluff-filled "happily ever after" ending, or on the fact that the book does contain a lot of surprising "twists" to the story. Their arguments, when compared to the points offered by the other side, are unconvincing and a little pathetic, to be honest.

So, in order for me to preserve my love for Twilight and the Edward-Bella relationship, I will not be reading the book. In an attempt to protect myself from the bewildering disappointment that has overwhelmed other fans in the last 48 hours, I will choose to abstain from entering into Meyer's fictional universe to watch these beloved characters fall prey to Meyer's weak plot lines and even weaker characterizations. I will instead create my own vision of what happens to Edward and Bella, the Cullens, the wolves, and the Volturi. And I will be grateful for all of the fans who have deterred me from ruining a good thing the way that Meyer has.