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Archive for March, 2008

Banned food

Since I have been here in Seattle, and starting from the beginning of 2008, I have begun to compile a list of banned food and restaurants where I will not go to.  There’s enough of them that I have to actually have a list.

  1. Red Robin – every time I have been to this place, the service has been lousy.  I like the food but not the service.  They never refill my glass of water.  I have to always get by on one.  This happens whenever I go there.  But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the last time I went.  My friend and I experienced terrible service, but afterwards the food made me queasy.  Bad service + food that makes me sick = no return.
  2. Priht’s Indian food – I like Indian food.  A lot.  I’m hooked on it.  But two weeks ago myself and a friend went to an Indian place but we didn’t like the food.  Actually, I thought it was okay.  Well, maybe the level below okay.  He didn’t care for it at all.  It was nothing to write home about and apparently it was the best thing on the menu.  That means there is no incentive to come back.
  3. The Korean place I went to last week – Last Monday, my co-worker wanted to go for lunch to a Korean place, so I agreed.  Now, back at the Forks in Winnipeg, there is a Korean place in the food court.  I really like it.  However, at this place I had the gazpacho, soup served cold.  I hated it.  It was not good.  Perhaps other stuff on the menu is fine but this place has soured my appetite for it so it, too, has made my list of banned restaurants.
  4. Milkshakes – this one is the biggest disappointments.  I really like milkshakes but they consistently don’t agree with me.  In July 2005, I had a milkshake from the Forks and afterwards didn’t feel so great.  Consuming milkshakes since then has been spotty, at best.  Sometimes I’m sick, sometimes not.  However, yesterday when bowling I had another milkshake and later on my stomach did not agree with it.  In fact, it continued to this morning.  It was definitely the milkshake in this case.  This means I have to ban them from my diet because I can’t take the queasiness. 

That’s all of them for the time being.  I’m sure as time passes that I will be adding more.  As you can see, however, all of my listings are justified.

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Tonight, myself and a bunch of friends went bowling.  It’s been a while since I last went.  I’m not a great bowler, I’m actually quite mediocre.  I don’t really stand out at all.  I’m particularly bad and I am not particularly good.

We went 10-pin bowling.  Now, while I may be okay at 5-pin I recall that I am weak at 10-pin.  The first time I ever went 10-pin I really struggled.  The balls are larger and when I throw them they really tend to carry for me in either direction.  Again, at that first time, I threw 8 gutter balls in a row before I finally hit something.  It’s because I kept throwing and my follow through always pulled in one direction (usually left).  That memory is still implanted in my head.  Since then I have improved somewhat.

Whenever I bowl it is always my goal to get as many points as there are points available in a frame.  So, in 5-pin I always shoot for a score of 150 and in 10-pin I shoot for a score of 100.  I’m proud to say that in both games I played, I achieved my goal both times.  I got almost the same score as well, only differing by 3 points.  I’m consistent if nothing else.

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I have a lot of co-workers from foreign countries.  In fact, in my division, I’d say that maybe 1 in 5 people are white.  Maybe 1 in 10 are white North Americans (ie, born in Canada or the US).  That means that there are a lot of people whose native language is not English.

Unlike university, almost everyone speaks English pretty well.  The thing is that they must have learned British English because quite often I am asked a strange question.  Co-workers ask me for my location of residence.  The question is phrased this way:

"Where do you stay?"

The first time I heard that, I was like "Where do I… what?"  The question they are asking me is "Where do you live?" except they substituted the word stay for live.  You see, to me, the term "stay" implies temporary residence.  If a friend came to town and I wanted to know where his hotel was or if he/she were staying with friends I would ask "Where are you staying?"  Plus, I’d also use the present tense by applying the -ing to the end of the word.

So, when I was asked where I stay, it was as if I was being asked what my temporary place of residence was because I was only planning to remain here for a short time.  Plus, also consider stay vs staying.  The grammar doesn’t quite work.  Using the -ing for stay is reflexive: I am staying over there.  I would never say "I stay over there."  Technically, I guess both are proper use of the terms but the second sounds awkward.  The non -ing form of the verb is more of a command.  "Stay here!" or "You stay there" or "Stay at the Super-8 motel!"  It is non-reflexive and that’s what also confused me.

However, now that I have learned what "where do you stay means" I can answer the question without having to pause and think about it.

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As some of you know, the US economy is in a tailspin.  Bears are wandering into the streets, eating people whole!  So, in their wisdom, Congress decided to pass an economic stimulus package.  Taxpayers would be getting back up to $600 per person, $1200 per couple, from the government.  The idea is that we should all spend this money and stimulate the economy.

Even though this theory is wrong-headed, I don’t mind getting back $600 from the gov’t.  After all, it’s my money anyways.  The gov’t is simply giving it back to me.  The US dollar may be collapsing but since I am now a US taxpayer, I was looking forward to getting back some money.

Of course, there are some caveats to this.  Not every taxpayer is eligible for a refund.  I figured that was reasonable, people who don’t pay taxes are excluded.  The following are not eligible:

  • You don’t file a 2007 tax return.
  • Your net income tax liability is zero and your qualifying income is less than $3,000.
  • You can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return. For example, this would include a child or student who can be claimed on a parent’s return.
  • You do not have a valid Social Security Number.

I suppose these are all reasonable, but there’s one more.

  • You are a nonresident alien.

Gah!  What?  Are you serious?

I’m on a TN Visa.  This means that I am considered a nonresident of the United States because my work visa is temporary.  A TN visa means that I have temporary intent to reside in the US and therefore I am not a resident.  This means that I am ineligible for the tax payout!  What the heck?

I paid a lot of taxes in the US last year.  This year, too.  I have to tell you that I am not happy at all that I won’t be seeing any of my money simply because my visa renders me ineligible.  Boo-urns.

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I recently started looking at some head-to-head polls between the three main competitors for presidency of the United States.  Here are my thoughts.

  • I still believe that Obama will defeat Hillary for the nomination, but he will not be declared the winner until much later in the year.  He can’t get enough delegates in order to sew up the nomination until perhaps the Democratic National Convention.
  • What has surprised me is that in head-to-head polls, while McCain and Hillary are still tied, McCain is beating Obama.  This is a reversal from only a couple of weeks ago.
  • The remarks of Obama’s pastor at his church are hurting him worse than I thought they would.  My guess is that white Americans are now uneasy that Obama attended a church where the pastor called the majority of white Americans a bunch of racists.  If his pastor said this, and Obama went there for 20 years, does he think the same thing?

I had resigned myself to the inevitability that Obama was going to win.  Now it appears he may not.  My stomach can’t take this volatility.

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Following up from my previous post, I’ve been in a dilemma on where to put my money.  Stocks?  Bonds?  Commodities?

I finally decided to take some action.  There is a bank out there known as Everbank that sells foreign currency.  They sell foreign CDs (Certificates of Deposit) that pay rates of interest tied to that country’s interest rates.  US and Canadian CDs pay between 1-2%, not exactly great.  However, countries like Australia and New Zealand pay higher rates, 5% and 6% respectively.  So, knowing what I know, one strategy I have decided to employ is buying a CD in New Zealand dollars paying 6%.  This is a fixed rate of return better than anything here in the US.  If the US dollar declines more, then it is an added bonus.  How do I know that the dollar will decline?  I don’t.  But, the theory is that if the US keeps dropping its interest rates and the New Zealand central bank keeps theirs high, then the US dollar should continue to go down in value.

I was looking at playing commodities by buying either an Oil/Gold/Wheat ETF DBC, or a gold mining ETF GDX, consisting of mining companies.  However, I was holding off on buying it because I thought that gold and oil was a little extended.  By this, it had gone straight up without a correction.  Well, the correction started this week and at this point I am patting myself on the back for waiting to get into them (while kicking myself for not selling all my other positions which are tanking).  Gold is down about 10% from its high in only 4 days.  It does worry me in that New Zealand is tied to gold and this could negatively affect my strategy.

Finally, the other part of my strategy are bonds.  There are a bunch of bond ETFs that I wish I had my money in.  Bonds pay a dividend and they move inversely to stocks (or at least they have since last summer).  One day I’ll buy some and keep a small part of my cash in there.  It’s all part of a proper strategy of diversification.

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Biting the bullet

Man…

Readers of this blog will know I am unhappy with my brokerage account, TD Waterhouse.  I have been planning to switch for a while but have been unable to because I have a joint account.  Switching from a joint account to a single account is an ordeal.

I recently opened an account with TD Ameritrade.  That’s the US brokerage while TD Waterhouse is the Canadian one.  You would think it’s basically the same thing, but no.  Switching from TD Waterhouse to TD Ameritrade is like switching from TD Waterhouse to Scottrade, ie, there’s no difference.  Of course, I didn’t know this before.  I phoned up TD Waterhouse and talked to three different representatives.  If I open an account with you guys, can I roll over my account from TD Waterhouse?  Every rep told me yes.  So, I opened the account and sent in all the paperwork.

I got a phone call this morning.  It was from TD Ameritrade (US).  They said that they can’t roll it over because it’s a joint account going to a single-name account and everyone who said that I could was wrong.  I have to get the other name taken off the account.  Argh!  So I phoned up TD Waterhouse and asked how to do this (I’ve been down this path before but can’t remember what they said) and I have to apply for another TD Waterhouse (Canada) account in my own name and roll it over that way.  In other words, roll it over once and then roll it over again.

Well, I took down the information but here’s what I have to say to this idea: f**k that.  I updated my current address information with them, but my plan is to wait until the first up day on the market and sell everything in my account.  I wanted so badly to hold onto my existing positions to avoid all the fees ($30 x 6 = $180) but I’ve lost way more than that in this current bear market anyway.  I’m then going to withdraw 100% of my funds and put it all into my US accounts here.  I’m going to take a hit, both on fees and in the current market conditions… but it’s worth it.

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