Sunday, February 21, 2010


Imagine that you walk into your bank today and ask to withdraw all your money, and they tell you to come back in 7 days. It's not the thing that gives you confidence in where you are placing your hard earned cash.

We'll that's what Citigroup told it's customers in a recent statement:

"Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change."

Later Citi claimed it was a legal formality as a result of changes to FDIC coverage, and it only applies to Texas customers. Ok, sure.

You might say who cares, deposits are covered by FDIC insurance. But Last week four more US banks failed totalling 20 for 2010 (140 for 2009). I guess the FDIC is going to need a bailout too.

One interesting metric. Only 1 in 40 dollars of deposit is in the form of paper cash, the rest is electronic.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pay down or invest

I've been hotly debating with co-workers my strategy of paying down the mortgage versus investing in the stock market. Not surprisingly those with families appear to quietly agree with me. And don't even get me started on that Smith Manoeuvre silliness. Surely if you have $1000 + interest per month to throw into stocks you must also have that much to throw at your mortgage principal.

Sure I know variable rate mortgages are 1.9% but who cares? I say this because, eventually we all have to pay taxes on the gains. Pay now or pay later. At least if you're paying the principal on the mortgage your hacking it down big time. Once you're free and clear, then go crazy on NASDAQ.

I guess it comes down to risk management. Sure, I could find any number of stocks and income trusts that pay 12% dividends, put personally I like to sleep soundly at night knowing I haven't bet my son's inheritance and our home on less of a sure thing. Having said this though, it does not mean that I don't contribute to RSPs and TFSAs (and dabble here and there). Those of excellent savings vehicles for the future and tax shelters. Some wisdom I will be glad to pass down to my son's when it's time is don't believe the hype about "conservative 8% growth until your retired BS". As we have all seen, all it takes is an incident like the sub-prime and you're back to zero (if you are lucky).

I'm sure a lot of you will disagree and the math says I'll come out ahead if I invest instead, but as I mentioned earlier. I love to sleep.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Red Light/Green Light = Family Day

Remember a game you used to play as a kid called Red Light / Green Light. You'd all walk across the gym floor towards a wall but when the teacher said, "Red Light" you stop. "Green Light" and you'd advance. Then "Red Light". You stop again. What power that teacher much have felt!

I was struck by a comment I heard today that made me realize that Ontario's Family Day is alot like that game. The comment was something like "I thought we were supposed to do something with the family". The Government tells you it's Family Day then all of a sudden we think it's mandatory to do something family oriented? As if we don't already do family stuff 365 days of the year we need bureaucrats to tell us so.

McGuinty, thanks for the holiday. I really do appreciate it. But everyone else start thinking for yourselves, your family will love you for it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

iMac Upgrade

I finally got around to upgrading to the latest OS, 10.6 aka "Snow Leopard".

For $39 I consider it free. As one should expect it was pretty uneventful. Pop in the DVD and 45 minutes later it's done. On the surface nothing seems different but as I understand it's all under the covers. e.g. full 64-bit support and a host of other technical upgrades. I did notice however that apps like iPhoto and Safari run significantly faster and can you believe it, I got back 50Gb of space. When is the last time a Microsoft upgrade needed less space?

That's probably how things should be. Same look and feel but only better.

If you haven't done it already, go for it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Creating CO2

This is my latest aquarium project.

It's called a carbon dioxide (CO2) reactor. It's a device used to dissolve CO2 into the water. It's hooked up to a 1.5 juice bottle filled with yeast, sugar and water. All that's needed to generate the CO2.

Plants need light and CO2 in order to thrive, and you want a lush healthy planted aquarium you need both in large quantities. Approximately 5 watts of light per gallon. And about 20-30 ppm of CO2.

CO2 ussed by plants for creation of organic compounds, this process is commonly known as photosynthesis. Although fish exhale CO2 through respiration it's hardly enough to make any impact, in fact it only contributes to about 1ppm.

The powerhead is used for agitation and thus dissolve the CO2 bubbles into the water while inside the plastic tube, but I found this wasn't happening too efficiently because the bubbles were actually large enough to float to the top of the water and escape. So I added a recirculation tube that keeps the CO2 moving in and around at high speeds and chopped up into little tiny misting bubbles (see the video). After about a week there are pretty significant results.

Here's a video of it. I actually shot it in high-definition 1080p but my darn version of iMovie is old and wont export in HD. I'll update it to HD after I upgrade.