Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top Ten Tax Tips for 2014

This holiday season, I instructed my crack team of investigative reporters to search the web for the Top Ten Tax Tips for 2014. We are to tax tips what Trivago is to hotel bookings.
Folks, I am pleased to say that once again, they have out done themselves. Here are their top ten tax tips for 2014.....

1. Grow a mustache during Mowvember, don't shave it off, and when the Tax Man comes around to collect he won't recognize you.

Also, it's not a bad idea to head south over XMAS and get a really good sun tan (see above). That's either me or Pancho Villa, but either way, the Tax Man won't know who it is.

2. Convert a room in your house into an office.

This one could be a winner, however, in my case, it didn't work out so well. First, the wife kicked me out of the house because my office was so messy, and then, my boss fired me because I never showed up at work.

3. Pay off your mortgage and borrow to invest in the Toronto Stock Exchange.

That wasn't going too badly for me, that is, until the great crash of 2008. Now, I don't own my house, and, my stock portfolio is equivalent to the value of a Grande at Starbucks.

4. Write off your work wardrobe as a uniform.

I tried this when we lived in Denver and I looked like the above picture. My argument was that I would never consider wearing a white shirt, a suit, or a sport jacket, and those silly pants with cuffs if I wasn't at work. Did I mention that the Tax Man didn't agree. Well that's not the point. Just because I looked so good in a suit doesn't mean that the Tax Man won't believe that you wouldn't be caught dead in that outfit outside of the office.

5. Become a minister in the Universal Life Church, Churches don't pay taxes.

I already used this one so that I could marry the girl of my dreams, not to save taxes. In those days I didn't earn enough to pay taxes anyway. Maybe that's why she wouldn't marry me.

6. Don't forget income splitting. It can have a dramatic effect on the sum of your tax payable and your spouses' tax payable.

This one sounds good, but when I spoke to my accountant, he informed me that you had to have some income in order to split it. I guess writing a blog isn't quite as lucrative financially as I thought it was going to be.

7. Home school your kids and forgo paying school taxes.

This one works perfectly. You quit your job, you home school your kids, no one pays you, you pay no taxes. Well, almost perfectly except for that one about no one pays you. 

8. Move to a farm, lots of tax break for farmers

This one sounds good. I tried it myself in the '70's. Me and my friend John went to Vegas, with the Beauty, I might add, and while she played the slots, we concentrated on Craps and spent 8 hours at the table raising money to start up a marijuana farm in Mexico. By the end of our run, we had a crowd chanting Marijuana Farm, Marijuana Farm, Marijuana Farm, Marijuana Farm. Needless to say, we lost all of our money and our Marijuana Farm dream went up in smoke. If someone else tries this, let me know if it works.

9. Start up a Not For Profit, they don't pay taxes.

I did this, I had children, that automatically makes me a Not For Profit. For some reason, that type of Not For Profit is not recognized by the Tax Man.

10. Pay Your Taxes and Be Happy That You Can

Hey, that works! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

In Flanders Fields, Remembrance Day, 2014

At the Tallis Choir presentation, Songs of War & Remembrance, in which our own Tiff sings Alto, they performed a choral version of the poem In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae (1872-1918). I thought I would share the introduction to that poem from the playbill.

"No other war in history has produced more soldier poets than the First World War. The stupefying paralysis of the Trenches made imaginations soar above the abyss. Perhaps the most famous English poem, In Flanders Fields, was written by a Canadian soldier, John McCrae. Forced by the sheer magnitude of the casualties to bury his best friend himself, McCrae mused that the brilliant blood-red French poppies seemed to spring up in profusion on the unmarked graves. Its greatest popularity was in Canada where grieving families were denied the graves of their sons and planted poppies and wore freshly-cut blooms in their lapels in remembrance. Their profusion today around November 11 recalls a time when every family had a death to remember."

The poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Wikipedia credits the public domain handwritten poem as being obtained from

Monday, October 20, 2014

World Series Prediction Time

If there is any doubt in anyone's mind, I love numbers. So, I was hoping to do a statistical analysis of the Kansas City Royals vs. the San Franciso Giants to determine who would win the World Series.


Regretfully, the overall stats are like looking in the mirror, they're the same. Here are some key stats for each team:

So, now what can we use to make a prediction?


 Let's look at pitching staffs. since a big difference between the regular season and the playoffs is that the starting pitching staff is reduced to 2 or 3 pitchers versus 4 or even 5 in the regular season, let's only look at the announced starters and the overall performance of the bullpen.

Let's focus on:
       Quality Starts, which is measured as a game in which the pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs;
        Team Holds which is a measure of how well the middle relievers maintain a lead when the starting pitcher leaves the game;
        Saves, which is measure of how well the "closer" ensures a victory when the team enters the last few innings with a small lead.

Here are some differences. KC has almost a 10% edge in Quality Starts. But, SF has an almost similar edge in the bullpen. On the other hand, SF has a better WHIP number (less base runners usually means less runs scored), and if we ignore Peavy's stats from Boston and only look at his San Fran stats (starting end of July), Peavy had an ERA of 2.17 and a WHIP of 1.04. If those are the stats, then San Fran is a clear winning on the mound.

My prediction: San Francisco wins the World Series 2014.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Paul Krugman Praises Obama Presidency

We in Canada watch with fascination how effective the spin media is in the U.S. Granted, we don't get Fox News, or MSNBC as part of our normal viewing package, so, we are not as effectively inundated with propaganda, but, we do get to see the effect of all this rhetoric after the spin.
I have watched with fascination how the U.S. opinion polls have cast a pox on the Obama Presidency, and quite frankly, never quite got it. I look at the state of the world when he took power, and where things are at today, and I think, who could have done better, or even as well. Then, when I throw health care into the mix, this is a successful Presidency.
But, you argue, what about ISIS. Can we really put that on Obama? Is that not a problem with a war weary world, and, two disastrous governments, both in Syria and Iraq? Did anyone really want the U.S. to go into Syria to overthrow Assad? That worked out so poorly in Iraq, a much more strategically valuable property, that it just didn't make sense. And, is Maliki Obama's problem? Could he possibly have left troops in Iraq when the democratically elected Maliki government wouldn't guarantee them the same safety as U.S. troops were guaranteed everywhere else in the world where the remained after a conflict (i.e. Europe after WWII or even Afghanistan).
Of course, all of this falls under the category, "It's Complicated", and one thing that doesn't work well with the U.S. electorate is "It's Complicated".
So, I was delighted when Paul Krugman, a serious critic of the Obama administration was
interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine and rated the Obama Presidency as one of the most successful in history. He details where the presidency has succeeded, and, ends the article with the following paragraph:

"Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don't care about the fact that Obama hasn't lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn't quite say, a big deal."

I'm not sure that history will look back and call it one of the most successful, but, I do think that when you look at the state of the U.S. when he took office, and the country today, it has to be considered a success. Could Obama have turned the ship around faster, could he have done a better job of letting his nation know that things were moving in the right direction, could he have countered the likes of hallucinatory Fox News and Rush Limbaugh better, I suppose so. The political machines learned a lot from the swift-boating of Kerry in 2004, and that sort of attack was ineffective in every presidential campaign since then. I suspect the next president will learn a lot about the communication mistakes of the Obama Presidency and we won't see the likes of that going forward.

Here's what Howard Kurtz, now with Fox News, formerly with CNN had to say about the Klugman article. 

I couldn't seem to be able to insert the video, so, here is the url:


Monday, September 29, 2014

Choosing a Mayor and a City Councillor in Mississauga

For the first time in forever (actual since the amalgamation of the current city in 1978), we have to vote for a different Mayor. Hurricane Hazel is retiring at the young and dynamic age of 93.

Also, in my ward, our City Councillor is retiring after 26 years.

Who to vote for and how to choose the candidate that's right for you and me, when all we get is noise from the Toronto Ford Focused Mayoral Fiasco, that is the question.

I was planning on going to a debate next week, Oct. 7, and I've been reading websites and a fairly decent article in Mississauga Life to learn more about the views and strategies of Steve Mahoney (who was my City Councillor when we moved to our then new home in Mississauga in 1979), and Bonnie Crombie.

I know Rogers is pretty good about broadcasting debates, and this morning, I finally found the website that lists what debates are on, and when.

Here it is

Here is a snapshot of what you will find on the Mayoral Debate page..

So, if like me, you're not sure yet who you want for your next Mayor, set your PVR and watch. I have set my PVR to start recording on Saturday at 4pm and record until 11pm, which gets me 3 different Mayoral Debates. I'm not sure which candidates will be at which, but hopefully it will primarily be Crombie and Mahoney.

In either event, I am still planning on attending a Crombie vs. Mahoney debate on Oct. 7.

I've also set my PVR to record the City Councillor debate for my Ward. There appear to be 4 serious candidates running, and, regretfully, I know nothing about any of them.

Hopefully, I will know who I want to vote for following these activities.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I also got caught with my phone pictures hacked

So today, I was minding my own business when I got an email from a law firm asking if I wanted to be part of the class action suit concerning my pictures being hacked. I couldn't believe it, my pictures were hacked. Oh no.
So, I googled myself to find the pictures. Oh my goodness, I've been hacked. Here's what they got:

Here I am admiring the exciting street markers while on vacation. Now I'm starting to feel violated.

Here I am rushing to a meeting with a potential wardrobe consultant, who, everyone suggests that I need.

Here I am outside the wig store testing to see if my new hair piece will stay in place on a windy day.

Here I am enjoying a fun filled day at Disney Paris.
Enjoying the shows at the amusement park
And, having lunch.

Oh no, they caught me changing. What a violation of my privacy!

Now I'm angry. I AM joining the class action. I don't care if it's my fault for using the word password as my password, it's my password, so why can't I use password!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Protecting Your Passwords From Those Nasty Hackers

So, the Russians hacked 1.2 billion user names and passwords affecting 420,000 websites. AH HAH! I guess my kids aren't laughing at me anymore with all of my passwords stored in my desk drawer in a three hole punch binder with 27 tabs for each letter of the alphabet and one for websites that start with a number, like 407etr our local toll highway or 4Team, my software that syncs my outlook calendar and contacts to gmail which then syncs to my iphone.

As further paranoia, I do not have any software "safe" apps to hide my passwords behind on my iphone or my laptop. I think those can also be hacked.

My passwords are only in my desk drawer.

However, when I go out of town over night or whatever, I often need a password to help me get on a site while away from my desk. So, and hold onto your hats, I have a piece of paper in my wallet with all my often visited websites / passwords. Of course this isn't very safe, so, I encrypt them. I know, I'm nuts, but I'm happy.
So, if you are thinking of being nuts like me, let me show you how to easily encrypt your passwords by using a substitution algorithm, and, keep only the encrypted words on the web.
First, select a sentence that you can use as the encryption master. Now, everyone has a sentence that stays with them throughout the years. It needs to have enough unique letters in it to enable you to decode it with minimal effort. Let's make it simple for this example. Let's choose:

Many of you may know that this phrase is famous for using every letter in the alphabet, and that just makes my task easier. You probably shouldn't choose this, as, it's way too easy to hack. Try the first few lines of your favourite poem or song. Something like.."give me a head of hair, long beautiful hair" or something like that.

Now, let's go back to the quick brown fox and build the substitution code. Beginning with t, then h, then e, then q, etc., we substitute the alphabet beginning with the letter a. So, your code would then look like:

It's that simple. So now, lets say your gmail password is IamHandsome. Here is the encrypted version of that code: BtnKtfqsxnu .
Now you can carry around a sheet of paper that says...

gmail = BtnKtfqsxnu

And, if for some reason you are away from your desk, and you need to get onto gmail, but you forgot your password, simply decode BtnKtfqsxnu and you will know that your password IamHandsome.

Now, immediately go and change every one of your internet passwords, make them all different, save them to paper, and code the important ones and keep them in your wallet.

You're welcome.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lest We Forget: The Shameful History of Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party in Their Refusal to Acknowledge and Deal With Aids

It's World Pride 2014 week, which, this year will be hosted by my neighbour city, Toronto.

Therefore, I thought it would be a good time to remind ourselves of the shameful behaviour of all of us, with respect to AIDS, led by President Ronald Reagan and his immoral majority.

On January 20, 1981, Ronal Reagan became the 40th president of the United States.

 On June 5, 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report describing cases of a rare lung infection in five young, previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles. A month later, on July 3, 1981, the New York Times reported similar symptoms in 41 gay men in New York and California. By the end of 1981, a total of 270 reported cases of severe immune deficiency among gay men, and 121 of those individuals had died.

By the end of 1981, has the Reagan Administration said ONE WORD about this burgeoning epidemic. NO.

No official word was heard from Washington until April 13, 1982 when U.S. Representative Henry Waxmen (D- California), convened the first congressional hearing on HIV/AIDS, which, by this time, it was estimated that tens of thousands of people might be affected by the disease. The results of these hearing were the allocation of $10 million for AIDS research (as it became known), and $5 million to CDC for surveillance.

By December of that year, the CDC was reporting cases of AIDS in infants who had received blood transfusions.

By the end of 1982, has the Reagan Administration said ONE WORD about this burgeoning epidemic. NO.

Meanwhile, things deteriorate in 1983 to the point where on December 6, 1983, a congressional subcommittee releases The Federal Response to AIDS, a report criticizing the U.S. Government for failure to invest sufficient funding in AIDS surveillance and research. As at the end of 1983, there were 2,807 reported cases of AIDS in the U.S., and 2,118 deaths.

By the end of 1983, has the Reagan Administration said ONE WORD about this burgeoning epidemic. NO.

1984 continued to be a difficult year for the gay community, however, one bright light was on April 23, 1984, when Dr. Robert Gallo and his colleagues reported that they had found the cause of AIDS.

By the end of 1984, has the Reagan Administration said ONE WORD about this burgeoning epidemic. NO.

In 1985, the U.S. Congress allocated $70 million for AIDS research. By the end of that year, at least one HIV case had been reported in every region of the world.

By the end of 1985, has the Reagan Administration said ONE WORD about this burgeoning epidemic. NO.

On September 17, 1986, President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, vowing in a letter to Congress to make ADS a priority. That's five years and 28,712 cases resulting in 24,559 deaths already recorded in the U.S. alone.

On August 18, 1987 the FDA sanctions the first testing of a candidate vaccine against HIV. By the end of 1987, there were 50,378 cases of AIDS reported with 40,849 deaths.

The year 1988 concluded with the FDA allowing the importation of unapproved drugs for persons with life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and after numerous protests, introducing new regulations to speed up drug approval.

1989 showed little progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS with the end of year statistics reaching 117,508 reported cases, and 89,343 deaths.

GOODBYE President Reagan, and SHAME ON YOU.

On  November 7, 1991, Earvin "Magic" Johnson announced that he was HIV positive.

By 1992, AIDS became the number one cause of death for U.S. men ages 25 to 44.

By 1996, with worldwide education in place, new AIDS cases in the U.S. declines for the first time since the beginning of the epidemic.

By 2011, a landmark research study shows that putting healthy people living with HIV on antiretrovirals can limit their transmission of the virus by 1996.

Also, by 2011, more that 1.1. million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and more than 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS around the world.

Here is a graph of the growth of the disease from 1981 until 1999.

Now, just imagine if President Reagan had put the might of the U.S. behind AIDS research when the epidemic first showed its ugly head in 1981 instead of ignoring it for 5 years. That would mean that it would be 5 years earlier that solutions started to kick in, and, in those 5 years, let's say, 1995-1999, that's 3,157,575 fewer HIV cases contracted in the U.S., and 1,913,190 deaths. That's more U.S. casualties then the total number of U.S. soldiers who died in all the wars fought in the 20th century.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Brooklyn? One of the most popular baby names? Sounds like an Abbot and Costello dialogue to me

According to the Associated Press, Brooklyn is one of the most popular baby names in the U.S. More than 6,600 girls born in the U.S. in 2013 were named Brooklyn.

I wonder what Abbott and Costello would say about that.

Abbott: So, I heard you’re going on a long weekend with your new girlfriend
Costello: True
Abbott: So, what’s her name?
Costello: Brooklyn
Abbott: I want to know her name, not where you’re going.
Costello: Brooklyn
Abbott: O.K., so you’re going to Brooklyn?
Costello: Virginia
Abbott: I see, you’re going to Brooklyn with Virginia. Why didn’t you just say her name was Virginia in the first place. And where are you going specifically.
Costello: Puritan Virginia.
Abbott: Yikes Costello, first of all, that’s very rude. Secondly, it’s none of my business. Please answer my question.
Costello: I’m telling you, Puritan Virginia. Have you never heard the expression Virginia is for lovers.
Abbott:  Are you and Virginia in love?
Costello: I don’t know, never been there.
Abbott: So, you’re taking someone for a long weekend whom you’ve never met?
Costello: Of course I met her.
Abbott: Who?
Costello: Brooklyn
Abbot: Nevermind
Costello: That's her dog.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ontario Election Post-Mortem, Rating the Pollsters

The Ontario 2014 election is now history, and, every pollster predicted a Minority Liberal government. There was also a general consensus that the voters were not engaged and it could be a disastrous turn out. They were wrong on both counts. The results were a Majority Liberal government and a 3% increase in turnout from the 2011 election.

So, let's see how the pollsters actual did now that we know the results. To refresh your memory here are the results.

Now, let's see what the pollsters said was going to happen.

Abacus Data:
Their last poll was June 9. They showed Liberal support trending
down (WRONG), Conservative support trending up (WRONG), and
NDP support trending up around 30% (WRONG).

EKOS Research :                
Their last poll was June 11, and they got it mostly right. They had Liberal support on the rise towards 39% (RIGHT), Conservative support on the decline at around 31% (RIGHT), and NDP support on the rise at around 23% (CLOSE ENOUGH).

Forum Research:    
Their last poll was June 10, and, it showed Liberal support on the rise and above 40% (CLOSE ENOUGH), Conservative support on the decline at around 33% (CLOSE ENOUGH), and NDP support on the rise at 19% (CLOSE ENOUGH).

Their last poll was June 11. They showed an almost 3 way dead heat. They had Liberal support on the decline at 33% (WRONG), Conservative support on the rise at 31% (WRONG), and NDP support on the rise at 30% (WRONG).

So, if RIGHT is an A, CLOSE ENOUGH a B, and WRONG an F, here is the grade for each of the four poll takers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Comparison of the Big 4 : Spoiler Alert, a Minority Liberal Government

Here's what we're all projecting, a Minority Liberal Government:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ontraio Election By The Numbers: FINAL Predictions

updated June 11 6:15pm after release of Ipsos Reid final poll

Polling may still be on going, however, the day before election day ban on publication means that we know everything we're going to know from the pollsters.

The final two polls, one released by Ekos Research on June 11th, and one released by Forum Research on June 10th, show the Liberals pulling out front at the expense of the Conservatives (as per Ekos), or at the expense of the NDP (Forum Research)

Prior to tomorrow's election, we thought it would be interesting to have a look at what each pollster predicted, from their first poll of the campaign, to their last poll. Maybe that will give us some insight into the minds and hearts of the voters.

First, there's Abacus Data. Their first poll was published on May 20 and their last poll was published on June 9. What the four polls showed was a slight increase in Liberal support, a slight decrease in Conservative support, and, a slight increase in NDP support. Graphically, it looks like this

Ekos Research didn't quite see it the same way. They began the campaign with a significant Liberal lead, and, they ended the campaign with the Liberal about where they were at the beginning of the campaign, but with Conservatives slightly lower, ane with the NDP slightly higher in support.

Next comes Forum Research. Their initial poll, published May 3rd, showed the Conservatives with a lead in support, but, by June 610th, their last poll, the Liberals were on the rise gaining 3% from the Conservatives, while the NDP barely moved (up 0.5%).

If you're not confused yet, here comes Ipsos Reid. Like Forum Research, their early polling showed the Conservatives with a substantial lead, but with the Liberals and NDP almost neck and neck. In their last minute internet poll, they are showing continued decline for the Conservatives, a plateauing for the Liberals, but a surprise rise in popularity for the NDP. You will notice that they saw this spike in NDP support on May 22, with a dramatic decline a week later. Nevertheless, let's say the spike is real and there is a 28% support for the NDP, how does this change things? Not much. What the Conservatives gains from the NDP taking votes away from hotly contested Liberal / NDP ridings, they give back in hotly contested Conservative / Liberal ridings with their 4% drop since June 6. (updated 6pm June 11)

Depending on who you believe, it appears that we will have another Liberal minority government. However, if Abacus is correct, and the NDP really do have 28% support, or as Ipsos Reid is now saying, 31%, then, could the Conservatives split the left leaning vote enough to take control of the Ontario Government? Not according to my math. (updated 6pm June 11)

Despite the uncertainty, this pollster will stick with the summary math and predict a Liberal minority as follows:

We will know for sure tomorrow night. Remember to vote! It's your province and your opinion counts.