Thursday, 30 April 2015

Book ~ "The Third Rail: Confronting Our Pension Failures" (2013) Jim Leech and Jacquie McNish

From Goodreads ~ For all Canadians, a blueprint on the state of Canadian pensions, the crisis we are faced with, and solutions to fix it - from the foremost expert on the subject.

Over the next 20 years more than 7 million Canadian workers will retire. Baby boomers, the 45- to 65-year-olds who account for 42% of the country's workforce, will join the largest job exodus in Canadian history, moving the promised land of retirement. Unless our crumbling pension system is reformed, many of these reitrees will find this dreamland a bewildering and disappointing mirage.

In the early 1980s, consumers were setting aside 20% of their disposable incomes to their retirement plans; today the savings rate is a threadbare 2.5%. Retirement savings plans meant to build Canadians' personal war chests for their final years have failed to live up to their cheery promises of early retirement "freedom" - market returns are low, and financial fees are climbing. Moreover, retirement plans are now being compromised by high pension obligations and a shrinking workforce.

Canada has the capacity to diffuse this ticking pension time bomb with some hard choices, posits Leech. It's time for businesses, governments, unions, and employees to face these options and fix - and ultimately save - our pensions system, taking examples from Holland, New Brunswick, and Rhode Island - places in which new laws have been adopted to repair the pensions programs. 

I work in the group retirement industry and enjoy reading books on financial planning and planning for retirement ... so this book caught my eye and I found it interesting.

This book provides information about Canadian retirement plans available including Canada/Quebec Pension Plan (C/QPP), Old Age Security (OAS), Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and workplace savings plans (defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans).  The authors, Leech and McNish, provide their opinions on how the retirement landscape should be improved because the majority of Canadians aren't saving enough to fund their retirements.

It was interesting to read the three case studies of pensions plans that were failing and managed to turn themselves around:
  1. New Brunswick
  2. Rhode Island
  3. The Netherlands

While I think the authors did a good job in analyzing the current situation and providing recommendations, I think they should have also placed emphasis on the responsibility of individual Canadians to save more.

Part of my job is to talk with people about saving for retirement.  There are many who are on track and will be able to maintain their lifestyles in retirement.  But there are many more who aren't.  In a lot of cases, they assume they are saving enough so it's a bit of a shock for them when I show them that they aren't but then I help them get on track.  I know that some can't afford to save more so I'm glad they are doing what they can.  But there are others who live in la-la-land.  For example, I was talking with a young guy (about 25-years-old) a couple weeks ago.  He makes about $60,000 a year, has no retirement assets saved and was contributing just $40 a month to a retirement plan (he could afford to contribute more but he didn't think he had to).  He was extremely surprised and dismayed when he discovered that he won't be able to retire early at 55 and maintain his pre-retirement lifestyle.  Seriously?!

I think it's great that Canada and various provinces are looking at reform and ways of making us save more for retirement but I also think a lot of it comes down to ourselves.  If you don't also save for your retirement, you can't be surprised when you can't have the one you want when you get there.

Alice Fazooli's, Richmond Hill, ON

I conducted a seminar followed by one-on-ones for a client in Markham this morning and had lunch afterwards at Alice Fazooli's (at Leslie/Hwy 7).

I sat in the dining room

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Free samples at - April 2015

A couple weeks ago, I had answered an emailed survey from SampleSource and there was a box of goodies waiting for me when I got home today.  This is the third box of samples I've gotten from them.

Here's what I got ...

  • Minute Rice Basmatic or Jasmine rice along with a $2 off coupon
  • Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant toothpaste (18ml)
  • Sample of John Frieda Dream Curls shampoo, conditioner (8.3ml) and serum (4.4ml)
  • Sample of Brookside Crunchy Clusters Dark Chocolate & Berry Medley flavours (20g)
  • 2 Sunlight Dishwasher Power Packs
  • Chapstick lip balm - strawberry + banana smoothie - I like it!
  • 2 samples of Breathe Right nasal strips
  • Sample of Burt's Bees daily moisturing cream (2.8g)
  • Sample of Jergens Shea Butter (8ml) along with a $1 off coupon
  • Sample of Emergen-C Vitamin C powder (1000mg) plus a $5 off coupon0ml)
  • Sample of Softsoap fresh glow hydrating body wash (
  • Sample of Truvia calorie-free sweetener
  • Sample of Robax and a $5 coupon
  • Ziploc space bag

Looks like some fun stuff!

Book ~ "Miracle Dogs: Rescue Stories" (2014) Liz Stavrinides

From Goodreads ~ 78 million dogs live as pets in the USA. These are the lucky ones. Five to seven million companion animals enter shelters every year and more than half are euthanized due to the lack of space. 

"Miracle Dogs" celebrates and honors the rescuers and the dogs whose lives they’ve saved. It features wonderful stories and photographs of dog rescuers, dog trainers and rescue organizations such as The Gentle Barn and Tamar Geller's Operation Heroes and Hounds, along with celebrity pet owners such as Chevy Chase, Hoda Kotb, Bob Einstein, Amanda Hearst, Jamie Lynn Siegler and Lance Bass. 

Each story includes portraits of the dog and its new family, followed by a concise, compelling narrative detailing the dog’s journey to its new home.

A professional pet photographer, Liz Stavrinides spends much of her time on projects related to animal rescue. "Miracle Dogs" was born out of her desire to collect and share the stories of the dogs she’s met over the years, showcasing the incredible bravery and compassion of both canines and owners. 

Readers will be moved by stories like that of Wyatt, an assistance dog who helped a young boy with autism communicate with the outside world, or Fiona, who was found blind and starving and is now in a loving family. All of them have finally found their furever homes. Stavrinides’ portraits are heartwarming - a loving and poignant tribute to man’s best friend. 

I love reading stories about animals and I loved this book because it was about dogs who had been rescued.  And not only were there stories but there were beautiful photos of the dogs taken by Liz Stavrinides.

The stories include dogs that have been adopted by celebrities such as Chevy Chase, Lance Bass, Peter Marshall and Shirley Jones but also by people who run rescues and regular folk like you and I.  There were stories of people who had lost their pets and these rescue dogs came along at the right time.  Some dogs had had homes in the past and had been cast aside while others had never been in a house before.  Regardless they all found a new home and love.

The one thing that bugged me was in the story about Priscilla and her puppies (one of the puppies is on the cover of the book) ... "Priscilla and her pups were going on the next mission flight to Calgary and Alberta, Canada."  Hello!  Calgary is IN Alberta!

Reading this book made me want to rush out and get a rescue dog!

Here are some of the photos and stories in the book ...

Chevy Chase with Chris and Cody
Jamie-Lynn Sigler with Bean
Caryn Rosenthal with Jax
Lance Bass with Dingo, Foster and Lily

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Knitted dish cloth

I finished a dish cloth this evening.  It is a quick and easy pattern.

I used cotton yarn.

Cast on 4 stitches.

Knit 2, YO, Knit to end.

Turn work.

Knit 2, YO, Knit to end.

Turn work.

Keep doing this over and over and over and over and over until there are 56 stitches.

Knit 1, K2tog, YO, K1, K2tog, knit to end.

Turn work.

Knit 1, K2tog, YO, K1, K2tog, knit to end.

Turn work.

Keep doing this over and over and over and over and over.

Cast off the final 4 stitches.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Book ~ "Worst. Person. Ever." (2013) Douglas Coupland

From Goodreads ~ Meet Raymond Gunt. A decent chap who tries to do the right thing. Or, to put it another way, the worst person ever: a foul-mouthed, misanthropic cameraman, trailing creditors, ex-wives and unhappy homeless people in his wake. Men dislike him, women flee from him.

"Worst. Person. Ever." is a deeply unworthy book about a dreadful human being with absolutely no redeeming social value. Gunt, in the words of the author, "is a living, walking, talking, hot steaming pile of pure id." He's a B-unit cameraman who enters an amusing downward failure spiral that takes him from London to Los Angeles and then on to an obscure island in the Pacific where a major American TV network is shooting a Survivor-style reality show. 

Along the way, Gunt suffers multiple comas and unjust imprisonment, is forced to re-enact the "Angry Dance" from the movie Billy Elliot and finds himself at the centre of a nuclear war. We also meet Raymond's upwardly failing sidekick, Neal, as well as Raymond's ex-wife, Fiona, herself "an atomic bomb of pain".

Even though he really puts the ‘anti’ in anti-hero, you may find Raymond Gunt an oddly likeable character. 

Raymond Gunt's ex-wife, Fiona who he hates, hires him as a cameraman for a Survivor-like show.  He is able to bring a slave an assistant so he hires a homeless guy named Neal and they head off to the island in the Pacific where the show will be taped. Along the way, they encounter many distractions including imprisonment, nuclear war, comas and more.

Gord read this book last year and thought it was hoot and suggested I check it out.  I started out enjoying it.  Raymond is an A-hole but doesn't realize it and I found him amusing.  He is really nasty to others and doesn't care about the ramifications.

I thought the story was fun and was enjoying the writing style ... until the story started getting more and more stupid and boring.  I tried to stick with it but finally gave up at the 67% point after the skin tag incident.  Not my kind of story, I guess.

As a head's up, there is a lot of swearing.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Kids in the Hall 2015 Tour, Toronto, ON

I was a big fan of the Kids in the Hall back in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

They are on tour and were at the Danforth Music Hall ... Gord and I went to the early show this evening.

We were in the second balcony ... no seat was a bad seat

It seemed to be sold out.

They brought back some old favourites along with some new bits.

Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, Dave Foley
Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald
Scott Thompson as Buddy Cole
Bruce McCulloch as Gavin

Factory Girl, Toronto, ON

Before the Kids in the Hall show, Gord and I had supper at the Factory Girl on the Danforth.

We sat on the patio which was so nice.

Gord and I both ordered wings.  I got mine medium with fries and Gord got his cajun with onion rings.

Here are Gord's.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Spring Session - Toronto's Festival of Beer, Toronto, ON

Gord and I went to the spring session of the Toronto Festival of Beer, which is happening tonight and tomorrow.  There were about 30 brewers and food vendors.

It was held in the Paul Quarrington Ice Rink & Splash Pad (at Queens Quay E/Lower Sherbourne Street), which was a nice open space by the harbour, not far from the downtown core.

There were a few people when we got there about 5pm (it was from 4pm to 10pm).

Book ~ "Ontario Beer: A Heady History of Brewing from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay" (2014) Alan McLeod and Jordan St. John

From Goodreads ~ Ontario boasts a potent mix of brewing traditions. Where Europeans explored, battled and settled, beer was not far behind, bringing the simple magic of brewing to Ontario in the 1670s. Early Hudson's Bay Company traders brewed in Canada's Arctic as Loyalist refugees brought the craft north in the 1780s. Early 1900s temperance activists drove the industry largely underground but couldn't dry up the quest to quench Ontarians' thirst. The heavy regulation that then replaced prohibition centralized surviving breweries. 

Today, independent breweries are booming and writing their own chapters in the Ontario beer story. Beer historians and writers Alan McLeod and Jordan St. John have tapped the cask of Ontario brewing to bring the complete story to light, from foam to dregs. 

I like beer and I like reading books about the history of Toronto and Ontario ... and this book combines the two.

The book covers seven time periods:
  1. Exploration and Empires:  1600s - 1775
  2. Brewing and the Two Loyalist Wars:  1775 - 1815
  3. Upper Canada Becomes Canada West and Expands:  1815 - 1860
  4. Victorian Expansion and Industrial Brewing:  1860 - 1900
  5. Temperance, Prohibition and Regulation:  1900 - 1927
  6. Control, Consolidation and the Rise of National Brewing:  1927 - 1980
  7. The Brewery Next Door:  1984 - 2014

Each chapter provides a high level overview about what was going on in the different eras.  It was interesting to read about the changes in beer production (flavours and styles) over the years and how tastes have changed but have remained the same.  I found the last chapter especially interesting as it talked about what is happening today.

Here are some interesting bits of information ...

After prohibition in the late 1920s, public drinking places reopened.  Concessions had to be made to prevent the harassment of the modern women who wished "to seek out new entertainments outside of the home" and separate beverage rooms for women were created.  Female servers were subjected to official inquiries about whether they were sources of immorality (male servers weren't).  The beer-drinking women who chose to stay at home when drinking faced public disapproval when purchasing alcohol and risked being subject to commentary in the press.  Imagine!

Until 1955, Ontarians had to sign for their beer purchases when buying at the Beer Stores (then the Brewers Retail stores).  You could buy up to 10 cases a day and no ID was required.  In 1955, a resident in Brantford was visited by the police after the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) reported on a review of his recent liquor purchase history.  When the police checked it out, they discovered it was for a family gathering.

In 1867, Ontario had about 150 breweries.  That number was greatly reduced over the years due to prohibition and breweries consolidating leaving a handful of major players.  Happily the little guys are back and the craft brewing industry in Ontario is thriving ... Gord and I have a couple craft brewers within walking distance of home.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Burrito Bandidos, Hamilton, ON

I had an enrolment seminar to conduct in Hamilton today. I had lunch at Burrito Bandidos on King Street W.

I ordered a large chicken burrito.    I love burritos and this one was delicious!  It was jammed with tomatoes, beans, rice, chicken, cheese, salsa and burrito sauce.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Bean Bar, Hamilton, ON

I had a plan refresh seminar and one-on-ones to conduct in Hamilton today.  I had lunch at the Bean Bar on King Street S.

It was quiet when I got there at noon but packed up really quickly.

I ordered the Crispy Chicken Breast Sandwich with chipotle mayo and Roasted Mini Potatoes.  The sandwich and the potatoes were delicious!  I ended up leaving about half the potatoes because there was so much food.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Book ~ "Where They Found Her" (2015) Kimberly McCreight

From Goodreads ~ At the end of a long winter, in bucolic Ridgedale, New Jersey, the body of an infant is discovered in the woods near the town’s prestigious university campus. No one knows who the baby is or how her body ended up out there. But there is no shortage of opinions.

When freelance journalist and recent Ridgedale transplant, Molly Anderson is unexpectedly called upon to cover the story for the Ridegdale Reader, it’s a risk, given the severe depression that followed the loss of her own baby. But the bigger threat comes when Molly unearths some of Ridgedale’s darkest secrets, including a string of unreported sexual assaults that goes back twenty years.

Meanwhile, Sandy, a high school dropout, searches for her volatile and now missing mother, and PTA president Barbara struggles to help her young son, who’s suddenly having disturbing outbursts.

Told from the perspectives of Molly, Barbara, and Sandy, Kimberly McCreight’s taut and profoundly moving novel unwinds the tangled truth about the baby’s death revealing that these three women have far more in common than they realized. And that their lives are more intertwined with what happened to the baby than they ever could have imagined.

The body of a baby is found on the university campus.  Still recovering from the loss of her own baby, Molly is a reporter for the local newspaper and she is sent to cover the story.  She uncovers disturbing information about the locals and she wonders if it's related to the death of the baby.

Sandy is a teenager whose mother, Jenna, has disappeared.  Sandy has always been the responsible one taking care of Jenna (rather than the other way around).  Has Jenna taken off  to party with one of her many men or has something happened to her?  Sandy's having a hard time getting answers and is trying to stay focused on passing her GED.

Barbara is the devoted mother of two and married to the town's police chief.  Her teenage daughter, Hannah, is perfect and abides by Barbara's strict rules.  Suddenly her young son, Cole, is starting to have behavioural problems which distresses Barbara, who assumes it must be someone's bad influence on him.

This is the second book I've read by this author and I liked it and found it interesting.  The story is told through Molly's newspaper columns, Molly's transcripts from a couple years ago when she was treated for depression after the loss of her baby, Jenna's diary from when she was a teenager, and narrations (first person perspective when it is Molly's voice and third person perspective when the focus was on Sandy and Barbara).  It gets a bit convoluted sometimes so you have to pay attention.  The chapters are labelled so you know whose voice it is.

I found there were too many pages devoted to Molly feeling guilty that she lost her baby.  The present day story would be moving along and then we would be dragged into the past yet again reading Molly's transcripts about feeling guilt ... once would have been enough for me to get what she was feeling.  As a head's up, there is swearing (F-bomb, etc.).

I liked Molly and Sandy and was cheering for them.  I didn't find Barbara likable at all (I don't think I was supposed to) and I found her to be a nutbar ... she jumped to some crazy absurd assumptions and then acted on them.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Burrito Boyz, Toronto, ON (Adelaide W)

My pal, Trish, saw Kingsman: The Secret Service tonight (it was good).

Before the movie, we met at Burrito Boyz (John/Adelaide W) for supper ... it's where we always meet before we see a movie.

Trish ordered the combo meal ... burrito, pop, chips and salsa.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Feline diabetes

When we took Morgan and Crumpet to the vet in October 2013 for a check-up, Crumpet was the perfect weight and Morgan was overweight (he's always been a tubby boy).

I noticed in March 2014 that Morgan had lost a lot of weight quickly so took him to the vet.  He had lost four pounds since October!  I asked for bloodwork to be done (he was going to be 12 in August) and it came back that his glucose level was high.  A urinalysis showed that he had become diabetic.  The normal blood glucose level for cats is 4.4 - 6.6 mmol/L ... his was 28!

Cats will generally show a gradual onset of the disease over a few weeks and it may escape notice for a while. The condition is unusual in cats younger than seven years old. The first obvious symptoms are a sudden weight loss (occasionally gain), accompanied by excessive drinking and urination; for example, cats can appear to develop an obsession with water and lurk around faucets or water bowls. Appetite is suddenly either ravenous (up to three-times normal) or absent. The back legs may become weak and the gait may become stilted or wobbly.  Owners should watch for noticeable thinning of the skin and apparent fragility: these are also serious and indicate that the animal is metabolizing (breaking down) its own body fat and muscle to survive. Lethargy or limpness, and acetone-smelling breath are acute symptoms indicating likely ketoacidosis and/or dehydration and demand emergency care within hours.

Here's my boy in mid-April 2014 when we discovered he was diabetic doing what he does best.

Being nosy

We learned how to treat his diabetes.  We had to give him insulin shots twice a day.  Here's what's involved when you have a diabetic kitty:

The used needles go into this container and
we drop them off at the vet when it's full