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#400 – A Ratty Year Ahead?

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rat year

And another book is complete.

Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Rat!

I’ve written a book. Sort of.

I’ve written close to 400,000 words in 500 and 1,000 word blog-chunks in the past almost 8 years.

A typical novel is about 50-70,000 words … so actually … I’ve produced the equivalent of 6 or 7 books.

Today is blog post #400 that this Man On The Fringe has pecked out since June of 2012.

I bring this up because I’m a guy who notices numbers.

We all notice numbers in our lives…

… our age, our school grade level, the cost of our house and car, the number of kids or pets we have, our height, our weight, our credit card balance. Everything we care about seems to have a number equivalent. In Genesis, the bible says it all began with Three Dog Night singing, One Is The Loneliest Number (you can fact-check that on the Google).

So… 400 is just a number, right? Or is it?

400

400 is the:

  • number of seconds that it takes to properly hard-boil an egg
  • the number of metres around an Olympic track and field oval
  • the number of days in a Mayan year
  • magical temporary illusion in which the Sun and Moon in Earth’s sky appear as if of similar size … the Sun is approximately 400 times the size of the Moon but also is approximately 400 times further away,
  • sum of multiplying 20 x 20 in the year 2020  – if you consumed enough hallucinogen.

But 400 in China is probably a bad thing…. it contains the number 4, the unluckiest number of all.

Why is the number 4 bad luck in Chinese? Because it sounds like “Si”, death in Chinese.

But in my mind, any number, like a birthday count, maybe isn’t as important as what it signifies… some evidence, a message, a passage… a road-map of our days and lives.

And so 400 for me is more a marker of the days, months and years where I’ve transformed from a mid-50’s aged medical lab worker and barely empty-nester into an early-60’s “retiree” with more irons in the fire than perhaps at any time of my life.

I blog, I run and swim, I yoga and tutor, I write and sing songs, I chop vegetables and wash dishes, I cook and play guitar, I read and grow plants, I toddler wrangle, and the list goes on… I could count up the things that I do and give you a number… ah yes, back to a number…

Seven and a half years ago, this blog began as a regular Joe’s viewpoint into a vaguely unique world surrounded by intelligent women in almost all areas of my life, into a chaotic free-for-all look at anything and everything that catches my eye and ear and imagination. As it moves forward it also takes on shades of my own aging process… gulp!

aging

It’s a blog but it’s also a journal or diary, a chronicle and a confessional, a mess and a masterpiece, a diatribe and a rant, a story of a life in weekly fragments.

It’s an internal dive where I discover (or unearth) ideas and beliefs that may have never surfaced save for the notion of sitting for hours in front of a computer keyboard and producing something from a blank screen and a blank mindspace.

Writing, whether it’s in a blog post or lyrics for a song, is a probing flashlight where I find myself … my past, my present and my future.

OK… #400 – I’m leaving behind the Year of The Pig, and transitioning into this Year of the Rat (I was born in the Rooster Year).

The rat is clever and resourceful and takes advantage of opportunities others might not see. Rats are quick, alert, full of energy, and they adapt to changing environments and circumstances.

It will take some ratt’ish energy to get through my next blog and life “book”.

Thanks for reading and encouraging me along this meandering path and may your 2020 year contain no rat traps!

rats2

 

 

 

 

Summer Boys’ Prayer – The Song

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Beach Boys.jpg

Well east coast girls are hip
I really dig those styles they wear…

.

January in the Great White North… This is a time of year (in Canada at least, no crazed Aussie wildfires here) where bone-chilling temperatures and piled up banks of snow make many of us so-called Brave Northerners actually pine for warm tropical beaches and … as we kick the snow off our boots …

… musically… a slingshot release to the warm halcyon days of summer, short-sleeves and bikini-on-the-beach kinda songs … the idealistic Beach Boys kind of music.

Light, breezy, romantic, carefree, fun … and in my mind at least, filled with incredible harmonies, lots of reverb, and Fender Rickenbacker and Stratocaster electric guitars.

And the Northern girls with the way they kiss
They keep their boyfriends warm at night

This week’s set of lyrics is my ode to what we might think of as simpler and arousing formative times … the awakening of puberty …

… simpler times when one of the joys of this young boy’s summer was lingering with a couple of friends at the school playground across the field from my house where we could hear the nearby crack of baseball bats hitting balls and the smell of newly cut grass filled our noses.

Not yet old enough to drive, we’d head to the park after supper around 6:30 or 7 at night and hang out at the swings and monkey bars, anxiously waiting for a pair or threesome of our favourite sweet lasses to arrive at the “meeting place”.

boy and girl on swings.jpg

Sometimes they’d show and sometimes not, but either way, the childhood, child-like anticipation of the great titillating flirt-to-come was deliciously exciting and naughty.

I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California
I wish they all could be California girls

So let’s get to the childhood fun while the gettin’s hot!

SUMMER BOYS’ PRAYER

by Larry Green

Better hurry now
cuz the sun is getting low
and the girls we know have to be home
before the streetlights start to show

My two pals and me
grab the patch by the swings
make sure we have our fav spots laid out
get our best chance for a summertime fling

Racy game of anticipating
swearing out stories while we’re waiting
they know we’re here baying at the moon
they know we’re preying and hope they’ll be here soon

Just Summer boys
Wishin’ and dreamin’
in the church of passionate hopes
where pipe dreams are playin’
that’s our summer boys’ prayer
the summer boys’ prayer

There’s a flowery scent in their hair
at this sticky air time of the year
with rumours that drive us lads crazy
we’re workin’ real hard to get past maybe

Renato loves Adele’s brunette bob
I dream of how Cathy’s long blonde falls
And Frank well he just doesn’t care
cuz if they’re cute he digs them all

Bridge

Blood heads to new places
inside there’s a heat to this stirring…

Just Summer boys
Wishin’ and dreamin’
in the church of passionate hopes
where pipe dreams are playin’
that’s our summer boys’ prayer
the summer boys’ prayer

boy girl flirt

The Year of UPedNESS*

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money kids

I’m excited. I can’t help it.

It’s not easy to admit out loud that you like money. But I do.

All that “Money is the root of all evil” and “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed” weighs on my sense of guilt.

But you know… I already feel guilty about everything I do, say, and eat in today’s world of rampant guilt-shaming.

I could be a Jewish mother… Oy vey iz mir.

So thank you, I know I’m not perfect. *shocked face*

If I was to make a resolution for 2020, it would be to repel the inner sense of guilt that pounds many of us, like a tsunami wave striking warm, sandy shores.

I’ve even come to admire and like mega-billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They harbour a sh*tload of money, and yet, they have a heart and a desire to make the world a better place using their money as a resource for all people.

My heart wants money AND my heart desires to make the world a better place. Those two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

guilt trip.jpg

Let’s get started, shall we?

If you don’t care about money and your financial future, well …. you might want to toddle off and get yourself a latte or green tea or something that is totally unrelated to numbers and money. This post perhaps isn’t for you today.

Right… now I know you haven’t left me, because, of course you DO care about your years ahead and want to know what you’ll do with those delicious mega-millions you’ve saved and invested. Am I right? I said, am I right?

This is my annual $$ letter describing my occasional successes… and oh-so-rare (ha!) failures where it comes to investing. Welcome!

Last year when I pulled this money blog post together, I used a lovely sweet term that I adore. FUCKedUPedNESS.

FUCKedUPEedNESS described my investment acumen over the 2018 year.

I sang a lot of “crying” songs in 2018… (I’ll Do My) Crying In The Rain, Grown Men Don’t Cry, Cry Me A River… you get the idea. Bottom line: I lost money on the markets.

No need to cry this past year, for 2019 was a year of financial sunshine, lollipops and rainbows cascading out my back-end and the word now reads: UPedNESS!

The year of all things screwy except investing.

Despite all the tariff battles and other nasty economic troubles, I found big profits in APPLE, MICROSOFT, ROYAL BANK, STARBUCKS and DISNEY.

Five years ago I was buying Apple at $99 per share, today it sits just above $300 a pop. Over that time, quarterly dividends have added a delicious shot of income along the way too.

Please go out and buy another iPhone and/or Apple Watch and make me a happy dude!

apple watch xmas.jpg

This is the good news that made 2019 a banner year in the markets.

Of course, I made/make spectacular blunders too.

My purchases of PIZZA PIZZA and B&G FOODS (yup, the folks who bag up your Ho Ho Ho Jolly Green Giant veggies), GILEAD SCIENCES (Hepatitis C cure), L BRANDS (how could Victoria’s Secret lead my manly eyes astray?!), IBM (yes even venerable IBM has been a stinker!) have made me look like a novice figure skater who spends more time on his ass than upright.

I try to learn from my missteps and get back up and attempt another Triple Lutz.

Here are a few words I shared with my kids recently (I invest a few dollars on their behalf as well) in the “financial” letter I send to them each year:

This end-of-the-year letter is so much more enjoyable to write than last year’s. Hallelujah!

But why you ask?

Of course you know why… the financial returns in ALL of your accounts (and mine too!) are significantly improved over last year.

And while I’d like to accept accolades and praise for my investing prowess, as Warren Buffett said: “A rising tide raises all boats”. Despite uncertainty in all directions, markets as a whole have risen bigly in 2019.

The one thing I will accept credit for is keeping risk levels low in all of our accounts by only purchasing shares in well-run, low’ish debt, profit-making companies. And almost all pay a reasonable and rising dividend as a bonus. High flyers and hot tips are not in my playbook.

So… how did I fare this year? *drum roll*

The average return across my RRSP, TFSA and Locked-in RRSP was… +24.6%. This compares much more favourably to last year’s losing -1.8%.

Investing is a game that’s best viewed from 10,000 feet… no over-the-top glee when the short-term returns are positive and no deep-in-the-dumps despair when they turn downwards (as they always will).

So here’s the view of my investment returns from 10,000 feet.

  • 1 year              +24.6%
  • 3 year avg.     +10.3%
  • 5 year avg.     +10.2%
  • 10 year avg.   +14.6%
  • 12 year avg.   +15.4%
  • 18 year avg.   +14.6%

In the 18 years (I’ve been investing far longer than this) that I’ve maintained reasonably accurate records of my investing process and proceeds, I’ve sadly ended 3 of those years with a negative number looking back at me.

This keeps me humble. We should all stay humble. And kind.

Highest one year return +67.5% (2009)… Lowest one year return -37.1% (2008).

Going forward into 2020, I’m searching high and low for bargains in which to park some dollars. While I continue to hold the shares of my “winners” (above), the idea of purchasing more at these levels is just not very attractive.

On the other hand (there’s always another hand, just watch Fiddler On The Roof), a few quality companies that come close to making me pull the trigger are :

  • Canadian Tire (CTC) 
  • McKesson Corp (MCK)
  • Amazon (AMZN) 
  • FedEx (FDX)
  • ABBVIE (ABBV) 
  • Manulife Financial (MFC)
  • CVS Pharmacies (CVS)
  • Whirlpool Industries (WHR)

But for now… I’d rather hold some extra cash until markets subside a bit.

I’ve said here before that my long-term investing goal is to bring in a batting average of 15% returns. That number comes and goes of course, but over 10 to 18 years, I get around the bases in the manner that I’m aiming for.

I’ll never be Babe Ruth. I’ll never be Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

But also, I’ll never stop dreaming in lots of directions, and looking for a fine balance between my world’s opposing cultures of self-interest and giving to others.

Remember that investing in life is about time, money and energy. Take a few deep breaths and choose your investments with intent in all regions of your life.

I wish you well in your drive for material comfort in 2020, and also… I hope you find a way or two of giving back in some material way to others. Yeah, this is just me being a sh*t disturber and perhaps… pushing you gently over the cliff-edge of guilt (along with me)…

Cheers to you for another year of stupendous UPedNESS!

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Sensuous Solstice

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NEW YEAR … old RUTS! Begone!!

rut stuck.jpg

I get stuck in the “rut” of trying to always write song lyrics that recite a story of some sort… what I think of as Harry Chapin songwriting… a narrative that has a beginning, a middle and an end.

It’s not a bad thing at all, but I think an assortment of approaches is good too…. would you agree?

Ruts in any endeavour, any area of our lives, are a monotony danger, and certainly one I rush away from the furrow’s edge in the other direction to avoid.*run away screaming*

Easier said than done though.

Freshness and new approaches help maintain an active and energized mind, an inner enthusiasm, a mini-orgasm of excitement …

This week, in another of my ongoing series of musical lyric blogs, I’m avoiding the “rut”, the story approach, and aiming for a less narrative-directed, more sense-based set of musical poetry.

When I think of airy, sensual music, a couple of examples come to me like Van Morrison’s Into The Mystic, or almost anything by Leonard Cohen.

Or how about a more recent feathery song I’ve been drawn to by a group of talented young musicians called Darlingside and their song, Hold Your Head Up High

How it rambles ’round the moon
A let-go-of balloon
Nothing is forever, everything is soon
And my father as he stands
A perfect cartoon man
Heavy-sighed and open-eyed, I heard him speak
Hold your head up high
Hold your head up high

Rise it up, it’s fine terrain
The time will come again
And misery’s no rest for weary gentlemen
See that humankind is you
Like all the rest, down to
The scratches on the album that you’re singing to
Hold your head up high
Hold your head up high

Through the light and through the shadow
I won’t wait it out, wait it out

So let’s get started here.

A part of our annual cosmic adventure is the ebb and flow of solstices. Solstices are markers of our time, the seasons of our lives. Solstices are important to me.

I feel an acute inner dread as we pass by the summer solstice and set out towards shorter, cooler, autumn and winter days…

… and then finally one day, the magic of winter solstice arrives and the excitement of longer days grabs me affectionately by the shirt collar and tugs me forward … forward to spring and the advent of new birth, new life bursting from the soil.

Enough said … here is my sense-based lyrical ode to the passage of winter solstice.

solstice

SIDES OF SOLSTICE

by Larry Green

smoky hue autumn brew
fizz pop proof of
luge rushing into December’s funnel
grasping winter’s tunnel
this icy pull of magnet pole
slippery tilt and earthly roll

dwarfed days charcoal skies
azure sinew patches carved with penknives
Charlie Brown sugar snowflakes taste
angel arms shivered and braced
smell the eggnog, sip the wine
push hard and harder at sun’s lowly climb

let’s hail this day this morning prize
as tiny ship sails o’er horizon sky
our worldly home comes creaking back
slow on slow escape this astral sandtrap

red hue yellow blue
emerald leafy proof of
running shoes by crocus bloom
discarded fleece Beach Boy tunes
light eons remain to harvest moon
sweet naked arms and torso too

weary, turns refreshed by days
robins and cicadas take flight and chase
bright shadows no longer freezing
perfume-infused dandelion breezing
the time that comes again again
forever comes again

let’s hail this day this morning prize
as tiny ship sails o’er horizon sky
our worldly home comes creaking back
slow on slow escape this astral sandtrap

dandelion.jpg