Monday, November 30, 2009

Canadian Recession Over ?

Info from canada.com
OTTAWA — The end to the recession didn't come with a bang but with a whimper.

Nevertheless, the news Monday that the Canadian economy eked a slim gain in the last quarter made it official: The nine-month ordeal is over.

The data from Statistics Canada showed the economy grew at an annual rate of 0.4 per cent in the third quarter, far lower than the one per cent growth economists had forecast and the two per cent the Bank of Canada had called for.

Yet it marked the country's emergence, at least numerically, from a period in which the financial crisis threatened the world's banking system, stock markets plunged into an abyss, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians were thrown out of work.

Economists welcomed the news, although they cautioned that the data on gross domestic product, or GDP, contained troubling signs.

"The Canadian economy is erratically grinding out of recession, led by broad-based gains in domestic spending," said BMO Capital Markets economist Douglas Porter.

The numbers were "not exactly a clanging endorsement of the 'end of recession' story . . . but they set the table for a much better fourth quarter."

For all the pain it brought, this recession was in fact less severe than those experienced in the early '90s and early '80s in terms of duration, the unemployment rate and the decline in economic growth.

It was the domestic economy that saved the day.

"Canada didn't have the credit problems that they had in the U.S. and elsewhere," said Diana Petramala, an economist at TD Economics.

"That allowed Canadian businesses and consumers to take advantage of low borrowing rates that other countries couldn't capitalize on,"she said.

That availability of credit helped fuel a dramatic turnaround in the national housing market, and should help push the economy ahead as recent home buyers buy furniture and carry out home renovations, she said.

Furthermore, she said, Monday's data showed a sharp rise in domestic demand, in terms of personal consumer expenditures and a 25 per cent increase in business investment in machinery and equipment, a rate of growth not seen since 1997.

Yet that's where the troubling signs emerge. All that spending by businesses, governments and consumers barely nudged our economic output.

"Canadians are spending, but not on what we make at home," cautioned Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets. Instead the spending went to imported goods.

"We tend to focus on the fear that our exports will be restrained by the higher dollar but we could also see the impact of the strong currency on importers gaining market share in the Canadian domestic economy."

"It's likely to be an ongoing area of concern."

The result was barely discernible annualized growth of 0.4 per cent, a far cry from the 2.8 per cent growth recorded by the U.S. in the third quarter.

"We're out of the recession but the jury is still out on the pace of growth for 2010.

"We may face a somewhat less than typical first year of recovery, largely because of the strength of the Canadian dollar but also because of the potential for growth t next year to disappoint in terms of the global economy," Shenfeld said.

Q3 GDP (% change from previous quarter / annualized / year-over-year):

First quarter 2008 -0.2 / -0.7 / +1.7

Second quarter 2008 +0.1 / +0.3 / +0.7

Third quarter 2008 +0.1 / +0.4 / +0.3

Fourth quarter 2008 -0.9 / -3.7 / -1.0

First quarter 2009 -1.6 / -6.2 / -2.3

Second quarter 2009 -0.8 / -3.1 / -3.2

Third quarter 2009 +0.1 / +0.4 / -3.2

Source: Statistics Canada

UK wrap up

I should have done this earlier...some of the details are getting hazy.



The remaining days in London we stayed at a friend of mines place in Parsons Green. One of the nights we headed South West to Putney Bridge. We hit a number of pubs of all shapes and sizes. Half way through, we stopped at a fish and chippy and the dude serving us thought our whole "fly to England to visit pubs" thing was hilarious (he thought it was so funny he threw me an extra piece of fish). And, what did I do ? I ate it...and what did that do ? Filled me up...so the pints were not flowing down. I had to switch (only for a night, so it was ok). I went to rum and coke. At the first place I ordered it, Todd brought me my drink...i tasted it...it was spiced rum...i asked " Bacardi" ? Nope....."Captain Morgan" ? Nope....what then ?



SAILOR JERRY....yes folks....Sailor Jerry. Sounded like Capt. Morgans slower step brother...and yes, it is a real beverage http://www.sailorjerry.com/ This had us laughing for the rest of the weekend.



Once we were done with the pubs and needed food, we went to find a fish and chippy, but at that time the places that were near were closed. We tried pizza, but it was closed as well. What was open ? Fried Chicken....nope good stuff either (even in our condition it was...meh). Funny enough, I was lazy enough to take a taxi to the chicken joint, but was adamant about walking home after we had the grub. We walked through a park heading south from Fullam Broadway. We were informed the next day for a nice lady in the pub that we were CRAZY for doing such a thing. Sensible people do not do such things late at night unless we were asking to get mugged. I'm thinking, we're big enough that people probably kept their distance from us thinking we were the bad boys. Don't worry, nothing happened to us and to be honest, I didn't see one person in the park (it was well lit)



The next day we decided to try and find one of Ramsays pubs, so a 2 second look at the phone when I had internet at the Duke and we were off. Too bad I forgot within 10 seconds what stop we were supposed to get off at. So we jumped on the train and took a wild guess. I thought it was quite far east so we just stayed on the train. It's interesting from a sociological perspective to see how things change the further you get east. We went as far as Upney and thought that was far enough. Yes...Upney (are those bullet holes in the sign?). We got off and wandered...and there was nothing near the station...it didn't take long until we turned around. We wasted about 3 hours traveling that day. Oh well, we saw some interesting sites. We ended up getting off at Whitechapel which is where we should have got off the first time around. We hit a few places and then ended up back in Parsons Green (MISSING THE SUNDAY ROASTS AGAIN !!! dammit).

Monday we headed out again looking for a couple specific pubs. One of them being the Gunmakers. I follow this one on their blog (the owner Jeff does a frequent blog and he's quite the beer lover). It took us a while to get there but we made it....TOO LATE FOR LUNCH dammit ! But I did meet Jeff and I tried the pints he recommended. Landlord and Purity. Both very nice.

Jeff also gave us directions to another pub...I'm not at all sure if we followed his directions right, but we ended up at a place called the The Hat & Tun. Here we tucked into a few pints and we met a group of interesting fella's. One guy was a Jeweler, another was a digital photo fixer (this guy worked for all the big names), 2 guys who owned an online travel company (one of these guys just had a baby a few hours previous and was de-runk), and a furniture guy (who may sell our stuff, who knows). We hung we these guys and then joined two of them off to a couple other pubs.

It was a good last night there.

The next day we woke up sluggishly and had to get on the road. We had to drive the car back to Crawley...this was entertaining. We made it back without incident and with time to spare. Got back to Gatwick with 4 hours to our flight, so enough time to hang and have some lunch.

Flying back....as said in previous post, Air Transat is like a cattle car. I was hoping to gawd that my row was full of either kids or Pygmies. It wasn't. It had a husband and wife....a rather LARGE husband and wife....I think they saw the look in my eye when I saw that was my row. I sat down and it wasn't too bad. Dude next to me leaned towards his wife and I leaned to the isle so, i thought, it wouldn't be too bad for the flight (thank gawd the inflight entertainment was working). 1o minutes into the flight the couple starts to get bitchy. The two sitting next to each other are not comfortable. The flag down a flight attendant and ask (which I rolled my eyes) if there was a row with empty seats. The flight attendant politely told them that the flight was sold out and there were no extra seats. The woman proceeded to bitch about the small seats and that her husband has a bad back (he was like 26 or something ??? Maybe it's not his back, maybe it's his MASSIVE gut lady), and that they wouldn't be able to eat properly (I laughed a bit when this was one of their concerns). The flight attendant did what would have...shrugged. I tried to be polite and lean over as much as possible...I did make a comment to them that "what did you expect from a charter cheap flight ?" and then they bitched more about flight delays and cancellations...again, what would you expect ??
Most of the flight was uneventful, until it was the ladies 3rd, 4th or was it her 8th trip to the bathroom. After was seemed like the millionth time, the dude clued in and moved to her seat against the window. She came back...I got up...and she sat down...but couldn't fit so she lifted the arm rests, sat and then brought them down...but not all the way. CAUSE HER ASS AND THIGHS WERE SPILLING INTO MY SEAT !!! and I mean REALLY SPILLING....I gave her a look like "how am I going to sit down?"...she rolls her eyes and then leaned on her husband. So I said "WTF" and sat my ass down, forcing my ass into the seat and pushing against her...she gave me the "hey you're being rude" look...i didn't care....if I was going be pressed against this woman for 4 hours, I was going to make it uncomfortable for her as well. So...I just threw my shoulders back and went to sleep. I could care less if I was snoring.
Look...I'm not insensitive...I'm a bit on the hefty side...BUT I KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT when I fly charters. If you are Overweight and you can't fit between the arm rests, fly with a regular carrier (another good way to signal this is if you need the seat belt extenders). Suck it up. It will cost you more, but you'll be comfortable and you won't piss off the people next to you. OR, buy an extra seat so you can spill into it. OR...you'll just have to endure pissed off people and long uncomfortable flights. Maybe save the money from the trip and join a local boot camp.

Needless to say, I will think long and hard about flying with a charter next time (I won't be stingy with my points that's for sure).

It was a great trip. I don't think there will be another for quite some time (unless I get really really lucky).















Update....

Just a quick update. What I'll do tonight: I'll finish telling the tale of the last few days in the UK and the flight home. Also, just got home from a quick road trip to BC where I did an opening gig for Trooper (I'll give you the highlights).

At home we put up the Christmas tree and outside lights. The boy was freaked when he saw the tree (he digs lights).

More later

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Seinfeld Reunion - Curb your enthusiasm

You gotta love Larry David. His show kicks ass. The whole season was funny with the Seinfled crew. Here's the final episode with the show. GEORGE IS GETTING ANGRY !



The Muppets KICK ASS !

Sunday, November 22, 2009

UK Pub Tour - Day 2, 3 and 4

The next day I got up, shook off the cobwebs and jet lag...laughed about the chicken bones strewn about the room and proceeded to get myself ready for day 2. We had a room booked at the Chelsea Football Club Hotel (as you may recall, we stayed at this place last time). Even though we wanted to hit new areas, it's hard to pass up a great deal for an awesome hotel (140$ CDN all in), also, it's near my buddies place (he's an architect in London and also likes his pints).

It took most of the day to get to the place and check in (I also did a few hours of work while I had a good Internet connection).

I met up with my buddy in Parsons Green at the White Horse. This is a great looking pub (and well known in the area for having a great selection of beers). I meet my friends and we headed upstairs for some supper. I of course sampled the fish and chips (very nice) and we sat and chatted while throwing back a Czech beer Staropramen. It's a light tasting beer that goes down nice (and quick....). My friends girlfriend wasn't feeling well so she left early and left us to sample a few more pints. We ended up killing the night there and I stumbled back to the hotel (even though a few places were open, I didn't really feel like hitting the 'night clubs').

The next day was slower day, we headed back to the same area to a Pub called the Duke (see previous trip). I think I only had a couple and then headed back to the hotel (yes...can you believe I went to do some work). After working we hit the pubs close to the hotel and I even broke with tradition and had a Pizza for dinner. The even was an early one...I believe I packed it in around 9pm.


The next day we packed up our shite and headed to my friends place in Parsons Green (he had given me the keys to stay at his place for the remainder of the trip....he was off to Spain to propose to his girlfriend). This was awesome. It was 1) FREE 2) FREE and 3) FREE. And did I mention it was FREE ? Also, it was near a train station, and PUBS !.

After we were squared away we decided to head west into an area we had never been. We worked our way to Putney Bridge. We stopped in at a fish and chippy who gave us directions to pubs (he liked our story and why were there so much he gave me an extra piece of fish for free...did i mention i like free? ). We tried to hit every pub we could (at times my phone would connect to free Internet so I could check the map for more near by pubs). It was interesting to see the price differences from pub to pub. The best prices are obviously in the 'old man pub locals'.

We slowly made our way back to the pad (hitting the Duke before it closed....the Duke would strangely become our 'go to' place for the next few days...the Bartender started to recognize us and what we drank).

More to come.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nov 09 - UK Pub Crawl Night One.

Firstly, I'll apologize for the pictures. I took all the pictures with my iphone; some are good some..meh. This will just be a recap of the first night...I'll do the rest later.

We began this pub crawl looking for the cheapest flight we could find. For some reason Air Canada is not lowering their prices in slow season, which makes no sense, so the best we could do there is over a G. So, we sucked it up and went with Air Transat. There's a couple things to note when booking with a charter: 1) you're at the mercy of their flight dates 2) the flights are cheap...but there is a very good reason for this.

Normally, we book to leave on a Wednesday and Come back Monday. Due to the fact that we went with Air Transat (price of the flight was 549$ all taxes in) we had to leave on Tuesday Nov 3rd and return the following Tuesday. The extra couple days were ok, since we were saving cash on the flight and for three days we crashed at a friends pad so we didn't have hotel costs (remember...I'm thrifty..and the reason I can do these trips frequently is I don't go crazy with the cheese whiz with cash, I find deals and I have a fantastic and understanding wife).


The flight left on time...and let's get back to the comment I made about "the flights are cheap and there's a reason" .... I refer to these planes as cattle cars. They fit an extra 2 seats in each row, so when I sit in the seat, my hips hit the arm rails in each side..I fit without too much issue and the seats are ok...not great, but not hard as rocks. Leg room is ok (I made sure I had an isle). Now, the issue comes with your shoulders. I'm not a small person so my shoulders kind of exceed my seat area. But, being in a isle I can lean to the side so it's not that big of a deal. Really, it's not that bad.

UNLESS.

You get a flight like ours (going and coming home). Going, there was no in flight entertainment...nothing...it wasn't working. For me, not a big deal, I stayed up late the night before ans was planning to sleep the whole way there (which I did...ish). Also, I got a linebacker of a grandma who sat next to me and just shoved herself in and threw her shoulders back. Again, not so bad cause I could manage (and I slept...and snored...so I didn't really care). Coming home was a different story (I'll save that for later).

The flight was uneventful (mostly cause I slept) and the food is what you would expect from a low budget airline.

We landed at around 11:30 am at Gatwick. This is a first for me; usually I fly into Heathrow. Since we were at Gatwick we decided to stay a night in Crawley (it's a new town pretty much connected to Gatwick). We took a quick taxi ride to our hotel which was conveniently located on the high street near pubs of course. We stayed at the Gatwick George Hotel. This place is well worth a stay. It's clean, quiet, at the center of high street and CHEAP ! We paid 90$ CDN all in for a night. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but the place is huge and seems to be well run.




Once we checked in and freshened up (usually consists of a blast of spray to the pits and a splash of cold water to the face) we headed out...not for beer just yet...we needed to line our stomachs. We hit the fish and chippy...right around the corner (perfect location). Once the days meal was down, we headed out for our first pint. First up was the Brewery Shades. Cute little place. I decided this year I was going to get into the traditional ales and not partake of the big names (I did pretty good). My first pint was Greene King Abbot Ale. Nice and refreshing.
After the first pint, we set off to get a UK phone. Believe me, if you're traveling for an extended time, bring your phone for emergencies ONLY. Buy a local phone. You can usually pick one up with minutes, ready to go for about 40-60$ CDN depending on the features. In some cases you can just buy a sim card. This is much better than getting home and getting a 1000$ bill in the mail.


After we got wired up we headed to the next place. The Rat & Parrot. This would not be considered an 'Old Man Pub'. It had a nice looking long bar. The interior was large and very open inside (it had a similar long bar on an upstairs). This pub struck me as possibly a place where the young crowd would gather on a Friday/Saturday night and get boozy. It was probably a frequent stop for the local police...nothing to back that up...just a feeling given the looks of the interior. We had one from here and moved on.

Next was the Old Punch Bowl. This is a bit more of an upscale pub. Very nice interior with comfy couches and chairs. Nice high chairs and tables, and friendly staff behind the bar. We decided to take a bit of a break and stay for more than one. We sipped a few here and watched the sun go down. Most of the pubs weren't very busy since it was a Wednesday night and to this point no one had been too receptive to chatting. So we stuck to ourselves and discussed the plans for the rest of the week.


After downing a couple, we decided to move onto the next place. We did a U turn, wandered by a place that was obviously more of a night club, and headed back toward the hotel. We stopped at the The Jubilee Oak. Again, not an old man pub. This one is part of the Wetherspoons Chain. Even though I want to go to more 'Local-Old Man Pubs' I'm certainly not a Pub Snob and I was thirsty and they had a 'Real Ale' special on. We bellied up to the bar and tucked in to some of the cask ales they had on tap. At this point, we were at 'Chatty' mode. There was enough ale flowing that we weren't content to just chat with each other. It didn't take long until we had a couple new friends. I have no idea what their names were, but they were friendly guys. local builders out 'on the lash'. Along with these two funny guys was a dude at the bar who, as I recall, was farther than we were. His voice sounded like Bill Nighy which made me laugh so I just kept him talking (I snapped his picture). I think at some point he tried to hit me up for cash...not really sure...but all I did was just continue to laugh and tell him to keep talking. This went on for a few pints. Then for some reason, I decided to head to another pub with slow talking Bill Nighy dude while Todd stayed with the 2 builder dudes. (it's funny how after that many pints any semblance of common sense starts to disappear...not saying we put ourselves into precarious situations, it's more...I have no idea who this guy is and maybe he's a crazy serial killer..but, he seemed alright and the other pub was around the corner so WTF, let's go). I'm not sure what the name of that pub was...I only had one and the body told me it was time to go. I made my way back to the George..surprisingly, no problem finding the hotel even though when I walked out of the pub my first reaction was 'WHERE THE F**K AM I?". Also, no problem finding my room through the maze inside the building. I walked into the room to discover one of the most horrifying sites I have ever seen. Todd in his underwear with a bucket of Fried Chicken strewn all over. And damned if I couldn't get a picture (I have no idea what I was doing...I managed to get 3 pictures of my head...well I did have a few pints in me at that point). I believe we shut the night down around midnight.
It was a good start !

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back


I'm back. Back from a week in the UK. I'm back for my second day of work and just a quick post (I'll do the update tonight maybe). We hit some interesting pubs and places this time around and got up to our usual 'too many pints'-ness. Just one quick note before I go (I'll elaborate later)....DO NOT BOOK A FLIGHT ON A CHARTER IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE....there's a reason they are cheap.

'nuff said for now....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

UK Nov 2009 - The last 'mancation' of the year

I'll be leaving today for my last 'mancation' for the year... tonight. For those who don't know, the 'mancation' is what my wife calls my trips to the UK to visit pubs. Along for the ride is the same person who's done a few of these with me.
Like previous trips, we always had good intentions of coming up with a plan and possibly hitting a new place, but it looks like we're up to our usual 'fly by the seat of our pants' approach. I will be booking a hotel for the first couple nights just to be sure we have a roof over our heads. Also, we'll be crashing at a friends place for a few days.

I'll try to update when I get there (I'm planning on hitting a pub that has a blog to see if I can get my smiling face posted...we'll see what happens).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Iphone Pic - Little guy takin' a break from Trick or Treatin'

I just downloaded the Tiltshifter for the iphone camera and this was the first picture I took. I need to work on it a bit but it's a neat app.