How a hotel discount taught me about public pension investing

I am here in Memorial Hall at Confederation Centre of the Arts this morning for one of the biennial public meetings of the CPP Investment Board, the agency that invests Canadians’ public pension funds.

When I turned 50 I joined CARP, née the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, because the hotel discount I could get from being a member was more than the membership fee; this put me on CARP’s mailing list, and an alert came over the wire last week to come to this meeting.

Beyond my personal stake in being able to eventually retire in part funded by my CPP contributions, I’ve no particular interest in investing or pensions or the issues of retirement. Indeed, being in a room filled with fiscally-minded retirees is vaguely uncomfortable.

But I’m a sucker for the arcane meeting, and so I’m here.

Two Documentaries

Overheight Must Turn is a documentary about a low-clearance train bridge in Durham, North Carolina and the trucks that run into it (a cavalcade of which you can see on the 11foot8 YouTube channel) despite the warning signs and signals. Watching the tops of innumerable Penske rental trucks get peeled off is entertaining in its own right, but the documentary also explores larger issues of why people don’t pay attention and why systems fail.

Minka is a documentary about the Japanese farmhouse of the late Associated Press foreign correspondent John Roderick, also the subject of Roderick’s 2007 book. I read the book several years ago and loved it; the film, which was made largely after Roderick’s death, is a rumination on architecture, love, memory, and death. At its heart is a narration by Yoshihiro Takishita, and his smile, his humour and his soul enlivens the film.

Both documentaries are worth watching.

It wasn’t the coffee maker, it was the grinder…

Over the last year my morning espresso macchiato has been descending into chaos: rather than incisive wonder, it was putrid swamp.

I cleaned the coffee machine. I cleaned the grinder. I experimented with my tamping style. I experimented with timing. I switched beans. I cleaned the coffee machine again. I cleaned the grinder again.

But the swamp water kept coming.

Then, last week, I spotted containers of Urnex Coffee Grinder Cleaning Tablets on the shelves for retail sale at Receiver Coffee; I asked Chris, personable owner of Receiver, whether they might help, and he gave me a small sample to try.

They worked wonders!

The swamp water is gone, and the incisive wonder is back. It’s like I have a whole new grinder, and a whole new coffee machine.

You can buy the tablets at Receiver Coffee Brass Shop for $19.00 a container; that’s enough to do a lot of cleaning, as you only need a capful or two.

Highly recommended.

Photo of Urnex Grinder Cleaner

How YouTube Has me Pegged

Over the last year I’ve replaced a lot of my TV watching time with YouTube watching time: over the lazy holiday Monday yesterday, for example, I watched (an embarrassing) 75 minutes of YouTube (I know this because, helpfully, YouTube now includes a “Time Watched” counter in its mobile app).

Other than the increasing commercialization of YouTube via subtle sponsored content–”Siemens offered us a trip to Berlin, so we took them up on it”–the thing that bothers me the most about YouTube is the irrelevance of its advertising. I’m shown a steady diet of car and truck ads, for example, for cars and trucks I have no intention of purchasing. And ads for banks when I have no intention of switching banks.

For a while I experimented with turning off YouTube’s “ad personalization” feature, but that only made things worse, as I ended up with an unending torrent of video game and Christian Heritage Party ads.

To figure out why I’m seeing all the car and banking ads, I took a look at my Google Ad Settings (anyone who uses Google can do this), and here’s what I found Google thinks about me and my interests:

  • 45–54 years old
  • Male
  • Air Travel
  • Amsterdam
  • Audio Equipment
  • Bars, Clubs & Nightlife
  • Boating
  • Books & Literature
  • Business & Productivity Software
  • Business News
  • Business Services
  • Car Rental & Taxi Services
  • Celebrities & Entertainment News
  • Cleaning Services
  • Comedy Films
  • Computer & Video Games
  • Computer Components
  • Computer Hardware
  • Computer Peripherals
  • Computers & Electronics
  • Cooking & Recipes
  • Country Music
  • Coupons & Discount Offers
  • Credit Cards
  • Cycling
  • Distributed & Cloud Computing
  • Dogs
  • Domestic Services
  • Extreme Sports
  • Family
  • Family & Relationships
  • Folk & Traditional Music
  • Food & Grocery Retailers
  • Gardening & Landscaping
  • Home & Garden
  • Home & Interior Design
  • Home Automation
  • Indie & Alternative Music
  • Investing
  • Jazz
  • Mobile Phones
  • Mountain & Ski Resorts
  • News
  • Office Supplies
  • Outdoors
  • Parenting
  • Performing Arts
  • Politics
  • Price Comparisons
  • Printers, Copiers & Fax Machines
  • Restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Social Networks
  • Travel
  • TV & Video
  • TV Documentary & Non-fiction
  • Urban Transport
  • USA
  • Vehicle Shopping
  • Visual Art & Design

Given that I’ve no interest in “Mountain & Ski Resorts,” “Domestic Services,” or “Jazz,” I don’t have a lot of confidence in Google’s AI and its ability to ferret out what makes me me. Of course there’s always the possibility that Google’s AI is so smart that it’s discovered an interest in snowboarding that even I don’t know that I have.

Regardless, somehow “Vehicle Shopping,” “Investing” and “Credit Cards” ended up on the list, and I’m going to remove them and see whether the stream of ads I see changes in reaction.

Here’s a list I pared down, using “if I must see ads, at least they should be about this” as my criteria:

  • 45–54 years old
  • Air Travel
  • Amsterdam
  • Books & Literature
  • Cycling
  • Folk & Traditional Music
  • Home Automation
  • Indie & Alternative Music
  • Mobile Phones
  • Office Supplies
  • Performing Arts
  • Restaurants
  • Travel
  • TV & Video
  • TV Documentary & Non-fiction
  • Urban Transport

While I was allowed to remove my gender–who wants to see ads targeted specifically at men?–Google does not allow me to remove my age.

Bells of Peace

St. Paul’s Anglican Church participated in the Bells of Peace initiative today, ringing its bell 100 times to mark the centenary of the end of World War I.

The church generously offered the opportunity to ring the bell to all comers, so Oliver and I lined up, at sunset, with a diverse group, parishioners and otherwise, for our chance.

The stairway up the bell tower turned out to be far more civilized than I imagined, and it was an easy climb up the stairs. We were each given the chance to ring the bell twice; I recorded Oliver’s second go.

St. Paul's Anglican Church Bell Tower

Textile artists aren’t often thought of as creating fine art…”

The Guardian ran a story today about Catherine’s piece, along with those from 18 other women, being added to the permanent collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.

In the article Catherine makes the point that the inclusion of her piece is significant not only for the Centre seeking to reduce the gender disparity in its collection, but also for its inclusion of textile works as art:

I’m proud they have chosen a piece of mine,” says Miller, pointing to “Making Lists”. Fashioned from silk and thread, the installation resembles a mobile with pieces fluttering through the air, from a canopy overhead.

Each silk panel contains a written list.

Lists provide a picture of our everyday life, whether I have to go pick up my son, pick up an onion on the way home or phone my mother.”

Miller says having “Making Lists” picked for the show (and the collection) came as a pleasant surprise to her.

Textile artists aren’t often thought of as (creating) fine art. But, I think those rules might be breaking down over the last few years. In the past, textile art and people who work with textiles, which in North America are mostly women, weren’t perceived the same way as those who did oil on canvas.”

You have until June 2, 2019 to see the exhibition Who’s Your Mother? Women Artists of P.E.I., 1964 to the Present at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.