Posts Tagged ‘money’


Posted: October 22, 2010 in Life
Tags: , , , ,

He browsed a lot.  Which is why they called him the Browser.

The Browser liked to look at properties online.  Big, expensive places – mansions with swimming pools.  He even browsed Tiger Williams’ mansion, and lamented the fact that Tiger would probably lose it in the divorce.

He loved browsing for cars too, and found one that he really liked.  He knew that, living in the big city, with the great public transit system, he didn’t need a car.  Not really.  But still, there was that convertible two-seater Mazda that just blew his mind.  It was only around $25K and it had low mileage.  Granted, it was a four year old car, and the warranty was probably done but still, it was a very attractive piece of machinery.

The Browser thought about a lot of things.  His mind was in constant turmoil, turning over this idea and that one.  He had a lot of dreams but, because he thought about so much, all the time, he rarely actually took the time to start and finish one.   He blamed all of this on being in debt.

The Browser had a long history.  He grew up in relative poverty, always hungry.  And he later got a good paying job, and got married.  And then the marriage turned to an absolute disaster.  A hell on earth, from which (at the time) he felt there was no reprise.  His religion didn’t allow him to divorce, and so it took a number of years of emotional torture until he finally realized that divorce happens in the heart long before it happens in a court room.  It was at that point he felt morally justified in dotting the final legal “i”.

It was this that finally forced him to look at the entire structural dogma to which he had dedicated his life.   And it was this that allowed him the freedom to exit from it, no longer to be shackled to the expectations of religion or religious people.   He kept his love for God, and jettisoned the baggage that religion wanted to add to it.

And then, he lived again in relative poverty, since so much of his paycheque now went to his non-working ex-wife.  By financial necessity, he lived in a small apartment on the second floor of an old downtown building, and lived in quiet desperation as he noticed the apartments around him eventually becoming occupied by druggies and drug dealers. 

His ex-wife eventually remarried, and agreed to let him off the hook for alimony.  This was an exhibition of wonderful generosity on her part since legal precedence in Canada dictated that remarriage did not generally absolve the ex-husband of alimony.  This action on her part was what allowed him to move out of the now drug-infested building he lived in. 

So he moved to the Big City, into a wonderfully large and sun-bright apartment.  He revelled in it, utterly amazed by the change in his circumstances.

The Browser had a lot to be thankful for:  his paycheque was his own (except for what he owed); he had a good paying job with decent retirement benefits; he had access to everything he needed, and in fact, he needed for nothing.  Materially anyway.  

Yet, he was unsettled.   Unhappy at times.   

The Browser’s dreams were big:  he wanted to travel, and to write books, and to get back into various arts.  And to visit loved ones on the far coast of the country.   He truly believed that spending eight hours a day doing anything other than what he dreamt, was eight wasted hours.  He grew to resent the loss of that time.   His dissatisfaction was gut-wrenchingly deep at times.  So much so that he could hardly stand it.  If only he had enough money, he could completely change his circumstances.  He could pay off his debts, move to where his loved ones were, start travelling full time and do everything else that he really wanted to do.

He tried not to think about his increasing disappointment.  He knew it would drive him mad.  Still, every so often, a dark thought about his situation would force its way into his awareness, and, because he agreed so much with it, he would spiral into a miasma of unsettled angst.

Early one evening, he went to the store to pick up some salad and milk.  He decided to pop by the lottery booth and check his numbers from the previous day’s lottery.

The proprietor took his ticket and nodded to him.   The Browser stood there waiting, and totally lost in thought, as usual.


The Browser’s thought broke off and he looked up into the startled face of the Asian gentleman.


“Sir, you’ll have to take this ticket down the lottery headquarters”

The Browser still didn’t get it.  “Uh, why?”

“Sir, you’ve won it.  The big prize.”

“I did?”

“Yes sir!  Congratulations!”

“Thanks!”    The Browser was suddenly grinning.

His mind was all over the place.

Later that same week, after speaking with a lawyer and an accountant, he took the ticket to lottery headquarters.  There, they took his smiling picture, and he took his prize and left.

And, after sharing some of his wealth with his family, and with a few charities, he did the following:

He quit his job.

He moved.

He changed his name.

He bought the Mazda.

He bought a house.

He bought a ticket to Ireland.

He jumped on a plane and, after clearing customs, he made his way to a hotel in Dublin.

After dumping his suitcase and putting everything away, he sat in a chair in a dark corner of his room.

Eyes glittering, he sat there, looking at the bed, the dresser, the TV set.

Something was still not right.   The room seemed dark.

Or maybe it wasn’t the room.

He was stuck.

After receiving a prompt in an email message today, I’ve elected to respond here in this blog. Please feel free to do the same.

In fact, I kind of insist on it.

Don’t make me whip out a can of thousand-yard googily stare on you.

So…what would you say to your 16-year old self?

Well, here are some things I’d say to myself at 16:


“Son, that 28-year old married babe isn’t interested in your chaste Christian friendship. Turn the lights on, boy! She’s got something else in mind. (Maybe her feeding you Southern Comfort late at night while she giggled and laughed at your jokes while making coy suggestions should have been your first clue.)”


“Dude – ride the bike, or walk and enjoy the scenery. You can’t do both. If you try, you’ll end up having an accident when you ogle that girl. Trust me, the embarrassment is worse than the pain.”


“Um – look. I know your hormones are racing and you really want to have the babes pay attention to you, but I gotta tell you: checkered pants are not the way to go. You look like a fooking dork. Gnome sayin’?”


“See a doctor about your inability to pay attention. This is treatable.”


“That girl you saw at that Christian crusade? The one you complimented? You know the one I mean. You said her dress looked pretty. Yeah. That one. Lose her phone number.”


“You’re right to be concerned about being an alcoholic, because your dad is. I can tell you that you’re not, though. Just be aware of your intake at all times and you’ll be fine. If you ever feel you need it – then stop.”


“Look, I know it’s a chintzy job at a library and it doesn’t pay all that well. Still – pretend that 10% of your pay doesn’t exist. Put it in a saving’s account. Make a habit of it.”


“There are all kinds of people who want you to think exactly the way they do. There’s peer pressure, and there’s dad pressure and there’s pulpit pressure. Don’t give into any of it. Think for yourself. Trust nothing they say until it can be tested so that you know it’s true for yourself.”


“You know how you fart around every morning and end up leaving so late that you have to run to school? Well ….the late thing? Not good. The running thing? Awesome. Keep it up and make a habit of it.”


“Remember when the math teacher was making corny jokes, so you folded up a paper airplane and you launched it at him such that it flew perfectly right at him and parted his hair? Remember how his face turned red and he laughed with the rest of the class? That was awesome. Do more stuff like that.”


“Don’t be so quick on wanting to settle down with one girl. Date as many girls as you can – just so that you can get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. You can’t know this until you’re out there.”


“Also – make a promise to yourself that you won’t get married until you’re at least twenty-five, ok?”


Finally – and this important son, so pay attention here – make sure you write down three things:

1) Microsoft 2) Apple 3) Google

Even though that last thing sounds ridiculous, it’s going to be important someday. Watch the news, and when their stock goes live, open up that piggy bank and spend like a drunken sailor – buy up as much of all three stocks as you can. Especially Apple, because at the beginning it’s going to be cheap. Very cheap. But by the time you get older, it’s going to get extremely expensive, and you’ll do well.

Trust me.




Posted: April 12, 2010 in Life
Tags: , , ,

I don’t know why it is – maybe it’s because of last year’s market slowdown, or maybe it’s because our Canadian dollar has been all over the map in the last few years – but lately I’ve taken a keen interest in the economy, and regularly read the Financial Post, and I watch the currencies market.

Anyway, last week I found myself attending a meeting after work that I would normally never even think about.  It was my credit union’s annual general meeting (known as AGMs).  It was, as you can expect, pretty f**king boring, really.  They talked about balancing the books and they bragged about how they managed to tread water while banks in the U.S. were losing their shirts and running to the government for bailouts.  Seems to me their bragging was well-earned, even though the entire banking structure in Canada is fairly conservative to begin with, and so wasn’t subject to the same risks to which the banks in the U.S. were exposed.

I went, primarily because I’m still keenly interested in the technology side.  The idea of having phones that you can use as banking swipe cards seems slightly orgasmic to me.  I’m in love with the idea of a reduction in the steps it takes to purchase something.  I look forward to the day when lineups anywhere – banks, movie theatres, cashier lineups – will be a thing of the past.  Something that our children’s children will look back at and say “gee Grandpa – you mean you had to actually *wait* to pay for something?”

How ironic is it that I have a problem holding on to money?   And the fact that my discretionary spending is spent on technology?

And how further ironic is it that one of my most prized technological possessions – my $500 Shure earphones – was lost while attending this banking meeting?

Yet still, this fascination with the economy continues to maintain my ADD interest.  Along with technology, women, movies, and whatever else crosses the home plate of my wayward consciousness every day.  

Not cars though.  Automobiles may look nice but, in a busy city like Toronto (which the transit system covers like a close-meshed spiderweb, with frequent service to pretty much any place you want to go) that’s their only appeal.  I’ve checked it out a few times:  the time it takes to travel by car from my place to the furthest southern spot in Toronto is far greater than the same route taken by overground and underground transit.  With the car, you’re paying for: the car itself,  maintenance, parking, insurance and of course you can’t go anywhere without gas.  All of that amounts to about a zillion dollars a month.  A monthly transit pass: $100.00.  Seems a no-brainer, and I haven’t owned a car for years.

There’s just simply no advantage to having a car, that I can see.  It just costs too much.

Outside of the city, it’s a different story.  There are always car rental places.

It’s amazing to me that I can be so wise when it comes to cars, but so foolish sometimes when it comes to other high-priced items.   Is it really necessary to pay $300.00 per month to my cable company?   Granted, there’s a lot of coverage with that (which includes internet and my iPhone plan) but really, do I watch more than three channels per month?  Answer: no.

Plus I’ve got technology out the ying-yang.   Even so, I still find myself checking out Macbook Pro laptops and even Macbook Air, while there is contemplation of the new iPads that will come to Canada very soon.

Maybe there’s a lack of balance going on here.  A need for focus that can’t come except by external means.   Maybe I need an engineer to devise a mini-taser device that zaps me if I drag out my wallet for anything other than true necessities.

 There are no excuses.  Not really.  Doesn’t mean I won’t dream some up.

“Well it’s Ok that I use money on technology.  Some people drink or gamble their paycheques away.”

Which is true, but it doesn’t mean there’s carte blanche just to spend like there’s no tomorrow. 

“It’s probably depression.  Some people shop, you know.  Isn’t that what you’re doing?.”

There’s merit to that too.  I do feel better for a little while after buying something.  Yesterday I purchased a $300 Bose speaker system for my computer.  The sound is amazing.  The dearth of cash is not.   How long this good feeling will last is anyone’s guess.  My best guess:  not long.

Maybe if  I took a course on economics.  That would tie up some time so I couldn’t go out spending money.

Which reminds me:  it’s late afternoon and I haven’t been out for my coffee break yet.   Time to head to Starbucks.  I’m sure there’s change around here somewhere that I can use to buy a nice little $5.00 coffee…..