Wednesday 31 October 2012

Top Ten Reasons to hate French numeration

Other than the Bablyonian language Βαβυλών no language has worse names for numbers than French

French starts normally (that is, like almost every other planetary language) with words that mean 1 through 10 (une, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix). Notice the dark storm cloud of trouble. The French are so precious with their language so why would they use the English word "Six" to represent 6? Trouble lay ahead.

Like all romance languages we go into the special word name numbers: onze, douze, treize, quatorze, quinze, seize. That's 11 through 16, using word roots based on 1 through six elevated to the decimal of ten. Excellent syntax!

Then it all goes pear shaped. 17, 18, 19 are represented by words that translate as ten-seven, ten-eight, ten-nine. There is a brief moment of quiet and heuristic algorithmic sanity as we reach the verbal plateau "vingt". We are at the word for twenty.

From here on in French number names bear more resemblance to downhill skiing and children's Christmas wishes than they do to the brilliant mathematical logic that one otherwise associates with French intellect. BONUS- it's in "You do the math" format...

21= Vingt et un (translation Twenty plus one)
31= Trent et un (translation Thirty plus one)
41= Quarante et un (translation Fourty plus one)

The concatenation of numeraux Français continues thusly, more nursery rhyme than Principia Mathematica, until we arrive at the whopper of all number word names:
soixante-et-onze – translation: sixty and eleventy!!! If my child came home and stated the total of some mathematic operation was sixty plus eleventy, I would have him or her sent for testing for developmental handicaps.

Now their number name system degenerates into "you do the math” concatenations, viz
"soixante-dix-neuf" sixty-ten-nine (79 in any language normally used to express mathematics)
The penultimate point of derivation is reached at
"quatre-vingt-dix-huit" A name which means four, twenty, ten, eight. But you have to be French to know that means four TIMES twenty PLUS ten PLUS eight.

If the French hadn't given us soixante-neuf it would be impossible to forgive them.

For now, I say 34 and one half. Anytime, anywhere. You have my email address. Smooches

Friday 26 October 2012

An Open Letter to the Art Gallery of Ontario

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure with your repugnant marketing campaign that accompanies the Frida Kahlo exhibit as described in the Toronto Star's Oct 20, 2012 article "Unibrows rule in Toronto in celebration of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo"

Your actions here are repugnant because:
  • It endorses a commercial view of the beauty ideal for women, in particular mocking natural facial hair
  • It was clearly developed by wealthy and privileged women who conform to the ideals of fashion magazine attractiveness
  • It is racist toward all woman of Latin American, Mexican, Spanish and South American descent, who are differently hirsute
  • It trivializes the work of an artist who struggled her entire life to have a successful career from under the shadow of Diego Rivera
  • It rips off the work of a Canadian artist, namely the film “Stupidity” by Albert Nereneberg
  • It is not even clever

You are a tax-funded institution and are only entitled to your suck at the public teat if you conform to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is racist and anti-women, and steals from artists.

The person responsible for this abhorrent promotion must be fired, an apology issued, and a donation made to a Latin American women's art collective.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Deconstructing Dad -The Music, Machines and Mystery of Raymond Scott

Raymond Scott is a great musical Powerhouse of the 20th century. In our previous posting we literally looked at Scott's Powerhouse - the inventive jazz work, the staple of Bugs Bunny cartoons, and its entree into 21st century musical vernacular.

After a successful career as the house bandleader on Your Hit Parade, Scott moves to the East Coast and begins a career in electronic music composition. And reveals himself a musical genius on a par with Frank Zappa and an electronic instrument genius on the order of Robert Moog. In fact, Robert Moog saw Raymond Scott's Electronium prototype as a boy. This inspired his own work.

Scott's son Stan Warnow and some chums have put together an amateur film which documents his tortured relationship with his father, his father's glamorous musical career, his father's womanizing, and the sadness at the end of his life that this shining invention would never be completed.

What is interesting about Raymond Scott is that other synthesizer inventors built keyboard-based instruments that could be played by a musician. Raymond Scott's devices were sequencers which actually composed the music they played.

Raymond Scott - Portifino

RAYMOND SCOTT - Cindy Electronium (1959) - Art Monad 144- モナド - 人生の花

And today ex-Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh owns the Electronium Raymond Scott's manufactured for Motown's Barry Gordy. They hope to restore it.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Powerhouse - A Catalogue raisonné of the compositions of Raymond Scott

Powerhouse is a jazz suite in three movements by the American composer Raymond Scott. Due to the nature of Scott's musicality Carl Stalling appropriated Scott's work into his cartoon soundtracks for the Merrie Melodies he was doing at Warner Brothers.

The Raymond Scott Quintette is really the Raymond Scott Sextette. But Scott thought Sextet was vulgar.

Of special interest of this performance in Your Hit Parade is the use of a pair of matched "wobulator" video effects to compliment the live performance. The first is clearly a Lissajous figure which is a type of signal generated by an oscilloscope reacting to the sound frequencies of the audio being performed. The fact that there are three displays indicates some form of studio effect.

In addition, there is the second figure that is almost certainly a dancer wearing a black leotard with white striped fabric highlights. This figure is doubled.

I am prepared to offer the opinion that the Lissajous figure and the dancer were performing in a second studio, and that all this was mixed together, displayed on a video monitor, recorded by a second camera pointed on that monitor, and mixed into the studio feed as broadcast.

Powerhouse performed by Lisa Preimesberger, Philip Everall, Jude Traxler, Andy Kozar and Matthias Kronsteiner live at the weekly Power Concert at Manhattan School of Music

This tube is awesome because you can witness the music being played. Especially the hysterically funny percussion section.

Merrie Melodies powerhouse Feat. Mack and Tosh, the original Ambiguously Gay Duo.

Notice that, while Scott uses trombones and other horns to drive his melody, here Carl Stalling uses a string section. A far more deft handling. Also, and I hate to be pedantic, but Merrie Melodies were musically-driven cartoons. Whereas Looney Tunes were cartoons featuring incidental music.

The "Phil- harmonics"

The very kles-matic work of Raymond Scott

Then finally, Carl Stalling gets an entirely different third movement out of Scott's work with
Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a half Century

Top Ten reasons not to have Canadian Mutual Funds in your RRSP

  1. Fox's Paradox:
    • I want my fund manager to make enormous profits trading in the stock markets
    • Any fund manager that actually can make enormous profits trading in the stock markets would spend her days making herself rich
    • Therefore no fund manager who can make enormous profits would work at a mutual fund
  2. There are no Index Funds that can match the Index
  3. The funds do not hold what they say they do. My Global Commodities market is invested 40.7% in Canadian Stocks and 39.1% in US Stocks. That's 79.8% in North American stocks. That's not Global
  4. On Jan 3rd of every year your fund loses 4.5% of its value – the cumulative drag of the MER (Management Expense Ratio) and the previous 12 months of inflation
  5. Holding US funds in your Canadian investment account incurs currency exchange fees:
    • When you buy the funds
    • When the fund pays dividends
    • When you sell the funds
    • You even pay exchange fees when you receive your annual distribution
  6. Holding a mutual fund in an RSP means that you cannot claim a loss on your taxes
  7. The highest performing mutual funds charge "loads". A front-end load is a fee to buy the fund; a back-end load is the fee to sell a fund
  8. The CDIC (Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation) does not cover mutual funds
  9. By definition mutual fund managers churn their holdings – they buy and sell every day, typically turning over 90% of the fund portfolio in a year. If a stock isn't worth buying and holding for 5 years, it's not worth buying and holding for three months'
  10. I'll leave the last words to Rob Carrick of Report on Business "Plenty of mutual funds are run by faceless nobodies who come and go with all the impact of a tree falling in a forest."
    ROB, Mar 17 2009

Disclaimer: This is not investment advice. This is the story of how I pick my stocks. I cannot recommend these stocks for you. My invitation is that you use this story as an inspiration to develop your own portfolio that meets your risk profile, the type of stocks you can understand, and that are recommended by professional writers and market analysts. I am an amateur investor. I enjoy the hobby, and invite you to enjoy it too.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

My baby takes the morning train

After the slump of 2008 I was fed up with my mutual funds. They were supposed to be a tax sheltered way to grow my savings. They were supposed to be indexed to the stock market. They were supposed to provide for my in my old age. But the answers were "No" "No" and "No". Not only were my fund managers squandering my capital every year – they were charging me from 1.75 to 3 percent of my assets to waste my money.

Then I noticed the fund compositions were so far off base as to be nearly fraudulent. I bought a global precious metals fund. "Global precious metals" meant all Canadian Mining funds. I bought a Global Commodities Fund. "Global Commodities" meant all Canadian Oil, Gas and Mining Companies

By 2011 it was clear that I would have invested more wisely if I'd stuck all my money in the g-string of an exotic dancer named Bambie. Bambie outperformed the stock market. Bambie gave me short-term growth. Over and over again. And Bambie was aging me so quickly that I was never going to outlive my RRSP.

Plus with Bambie I had no problems with timing the market. With Bambie, it was always the right time to get in. And she always told me when it was time to get out!

So in late 2010 I began to formulate a plan. I had accumulated enough in my retirement account that I was going to open a self-directed RRSP. Farewell MERs! Hello per-trade commissions. Farewell Index funds that don't perform the Index. Hello, Bre-X.

In other words this Fox was going to let the herd of Canadian investing sheep follow their advisers over the cliff. This Fox was about to become a wolf. In the coming months I will explain market fundamentals as I understand them. Several principles will come to the fore. I can explain to you how you develop an investing style that lets you pick stocks that you already know how to make money on. It's very probable you can take your own money, and make money with it, than the average mutual fund manager. Let me give you a simple example...

I'm into Canadian Pacific Railways.
First of all – I like trains. I travel by train. I live near the major GO transit line into Toronto. My office looks out onto the Canadian Pacific mainline that travels from Atlantic to Pacific in this great country.

I read about trains every few days. Mostly hobbyist stuff. Old pictures of steam engines, or the electric railway systems of the 1930s. Well guess what? The railway business model hasn't changed since 1840. In other words, my hobbyist interest has given me a fundamental understand of the practical base of the economic model of railroading.

Let's look at those fundamentals:
  • A class of ship called "salties" send coal and iron ore to Asia to be made into consumer goods
  • Container ships send the finished goods back to North America
  • The containers are offloaded onto specialty railcars
  • The containers are taken off the railcars and put onto truck trailers at inter-model yards
  • The trucks drive the trailers to the discount retailers such as Walmart
How can this market be disrupted?
  • Rising fuel costs have increased the cost of sending coal and steel and finished goods by ship so much that ships now practice slow steaming. It now takes a ship twice as long for each leg of the journey
  • What this means is that new pressures will force Chinese companies to re-offshore (also called "onshoring") their factories back to North America.
  • This is bad for shipping but it means good manufacturing jobs coming back. And it means everything still travels by train.

Looking at the matter from a completely different perspective, the barrier to entry is almost impossible to override. Currently there are seven "Class 1" carriers - Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Union Pacific, BNSF Railway, and Kansas City Southern.
The CP railway enterprise owns 14,000 miles of usable track. If you want to compete with CP you have to buy 14,000 miles of land, and lay 14,000 miles of track.

Then comes the sweetest plum of all. Canadian Pacific has been under-performing for a quarter-century. Activist shareholders have succeeded in forcing the CP Board to appoint ex-CN Chair E. Hunter Harrison as the new chair of Canadian Pacific.

And this concludes our lesson. This makes CP a "story stock". They used to be in the toilet. Now they hired the greatest mind in railroading. That makes for a good story.

I look forward to sharing with you the story of how this stock play unfolds.

Canadian Pacific Railways
Ticker – CP

Wall Street is bullish on Railway Stocks

Disclaimer: This is not investment advice. This is the story of how I pick my stocks. I cannot recommend these stocks for you. My invitation is that you use this story as an inspiration to develop your own portfolio that meets your risk profile, the type of stocks you can understand, and that are recommended by professional writers and market analysts. I am an amateur investor. I enjoy the hobby, and invite you to enjoy it too.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Top 10 impacts of a Presidential Election on mutual funds

I am fine-tuning my RRSP mutual fund portfolio. That means I am moving to a self-directed LIRA at a discount brokerage. Noticing, as I did, that I was doing this on the cusp of a Presidential Election, I thought my readers would appreciate it to know how this impacts market valuation. Behold - Let's look at the Top Ten impacts of a Presidential election on the stock market...

  1. Even if investors see a rosy pattern shaping up, the question nags: Is it likely to hold up this year? After all, 2008 was a presidential election year, yet the S&P lost a heart-sinking 33.5 percent over the last seven months. Investors learned the election-year rule of thumb has exceptions, and painfully sore ones at that.
  2. On average, the third year of a presidency is by far the best year for stocks. That's not to say it's always the best year. "However, as can be remembered vividly, this approach did not work at all in 2008," warns Citi's Tobias Levkovich. (Source: Citigroup)
  3. Volatility spikes in the 2nd year, then levels off . According to Goldman Sachs' Jose Ursua: "Volatility often sees a first post-election blip (as markets digest changes) and then a gradual increase towards the second year of the cycle."(Source: Goldman Sachs)
  4. Equity returns, worldwide, are better explained when considering US election-related variables U.S. election cycles explain more than just U.S. equity returns. From Goldman Sachs' Jose Ursua: "In particular, the election cycle in the US helps to explain a sizable fraction of non-US equity returns, both in other developed markets and in emerging markets." (Source: Goldman Sachs)
  5. Since 1900, only 5 presidents have seen stocks rise more than 50% during their term. The exclusive club includes Calvin Coolidge, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. (Source: Bespoke Investment Group)
  6. When stocks rise significantly during a presidential term, the incumbent usually wins re-election in a landslide. From Robert Prechter: "We deem an election a landslide victory if the incumbent competed for and won re-election by defeating the nearest competitor with an electoral vote margin of 40% or greater...We define a large positive stock market change as a net gain of 20% or more in the preceding three-year period...We conclude that a large net positive stock market change during the three years prior to the election is highly likely to be associated with a landslide victory for the incumbent as opposed to a landslide loss." (Source: Robert Prechter)
  7. You can figure out who will be president based on the 3-month stock market performance preceding an election. From S&P Capital IQ's Sam Stovall: "An S&P 500 price rise from July 31 through October 31 traditionally has predicted the reelection of the incumbent person or party, while a price decline during this period has pointed to a replacement. Since 1948, this election-prognostication technique did an excellent job, in our view, recording an 88% accuracy rate in predicting the re-election of the party in power (it failed in 1968). What's more, it recorded an 86% accuracy rate of identifying when the party in power would be replaced (it failed in 1956)." (Source: Stovall's Sector Watch)
  8. Lately, President Obama's approval rating has been tightly correlated with stocks
  9. Let's bust one myth: namely, that Republican presidents are better for stocks. It is not true. In election cycles since World War II, the Dow Jones industrials have posted bigger average returns under Democratic presidents. (Source: Stock Trader's Almanac)
  10. How have stocks fared from Election Day to year's end? When a Democrat wins, stocks have lost 1%, while rising 4% if a Republican wins. Source( Bespoke Investment Group)


Business Insider
ABC News
Christian Science Monitor

Monday 15 October 2012

Going "Pro-Rogue"

Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty has prorogued parliament and resigned as Premier. Prorogation is an interesting method of managing the House. It is the end of a parliamentary session that lets the government of the day suspend parliament for a period of time of their own choosing. In this case it will be used to shut down parliament until the Liberal party has elected a new leader several months hence.

All of this is made possible in a parliamentary democracy such as Canada due to the presence of a federal Governor General and provincial Lieutenant Govenors, all of whom serve as the representative of the Queen. Which is to say, the Queen has granted permission for this to occur.

In the 19th Century every sitting of the House would be prorogued for an average of 6 months. This let the MPs return home on the limited transportation systems of the day, and return to the capital to govern during favorable traveling weather. By the 1980s, a typical prorogation would be a conventional 22 days.

In the current century there were several controversial periods of prorogation where it was painfully obvious the House was being adjourned to prevent the government from being turfed out via a "non-confidence motion".

For those living in the United States it's hard to fathom. Imagine the President having a governing body whom he could ask to shut the Congress and Senate down until he was in a mood to deal with them again. But that is what has happened here, in the Canadian Province of Ontario. The House will not meet again until the Liberal Party has elected a new leader, and fought an election. Whoever wins will call the House back to session sometime in mid-2013.

UPDATE: Ontario has a new Premier - Kathleen Wynne. She recalled the Legislature Feb 19 for a Speech from the Throne. Parliament is back in session. The Liberals keep their minority government. NDP opposition leader Andrea Horvath will continue to prop the liberals up. PC Leader Tim Hudak will continue to be irrelevant.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Ship STEFANIA 1 travelling the Welland Canal

Stephania 1 is a "salty". Unlike a potato chip, that means she steams from the Great Lakes down the St Lawrence and out to sea. And from there to far off lands. She's also a bulk carrier, which means she might have wheat in her holds, or coal, and something else that is consumed in industrial quantities but is so low in value it must be shipped by sea.

She sails out of Valetta, Malta.

When I was a boy we would sit along the banks of the Welland Canal, eat fried chicken from a striped cardboard bucket, and wave at the seamen. Sometimes they would toss change at us and you have these incredibly exotic coins with beautiful animals and strange script.

The video is long at 14 minutes.