Sunday, May 1, 2016

Part One: Selling news is not like selling pickles

Selling news is not like selling pickles. People want pickles. This is not to say that people don't want news. They do, they just don't want to pay for it. Never have.

Two-bits worth of pickles costs two-bits. Fair enough. But two-bits worth of news costs maybe a nickel. Why? News is subsidized by advertising. In a traditional newspaper the editorial content and the advertising copy exist in a symbiotic relationship. Despite their great differences, journalism and advertising live side by side on the pages of a newspaper in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Today that relationship is under stress. The parasite, the advertising, has found a new host: the Internet. Here, think Alphabet and Alphabet's biggest division, Google. According to Reuters:

"Alphabet Inc easily beat Wall Street's quarterly profit forecasts on Monday, helped by strong mobile advertising sales . . . Google's advertising revenue increased nearly 17 percent to $19.08 billion, while the number of ads, or paid clicks, rose 31 percent . . . Advertisers pay Google only if someone clicks on their ad." (These are the fourth quarter results ending Dec. 31, 2016.)

Clearly there is money to made on the Internet from advertising. But I could have told you that. When I took a buyout from The London Free Press I tried to start a blog at the paper as an experiment. The editorial department was not at all interested in my experiment. Although I was promised a blog, they dragged their feet, I looked elsewhere.

Soon I had a blog supported by Blogger, the blogging platform owned by Google. I decided to run AdSense. One ad appears beside my posts and another ad runs immediately after. If a reader clicks on an ad, AdSense and I split the payment. AdSense claims the lion's share. I find this only fair as Google charges me nothing to post my thoughts.

I haven't earned a lot from my blog, but I have earned a little and more importantly I have gained a little window into how money can be made online. When I left the paper, I had asked to have a blog with the paper but there was a stumbling block: I wanted to be paid. I didn't want a lot but I was offered nothing. There was no money to be made on the Internet, I was told.

A few months ago, after the monthly breakfast of retired local media types, I picked up the entire restaurant tab plus tip. I found it strangely satisfying to be able to pay for dozens of breakfasts with money earned from posting information to the Net.

I was a little surprised that after more than seven years in retirement, the media line about the Internet had changed very little. The spin from the media still seems to be that there is no money to be made online. I don't believe even one panelist admitted that decades ago newspaper management took their collective eye off the ball or should I say dot and fumbled the future. How to fix that colossal  failure of imagination is the question demanding to be answered.

And the answer will not be found in treating newspapers like pickle factories. The American food giant Smuckers bought the Southwestern Ontario pickle producer, Bick's, once located in Dunnville, Ontario. I say once located in Dunnville as Smuckers closed the plant and merged the business with its Stateside operation. Smuckers chopped lots of jobs and saved a lot of money. Nothing is left of Bick's but the name. Economies of scale made it all profitable.

In the media world giants also rule. Canada's newspapers have been bought, closed, moved and merged. Reporters, editors, and oodles of support staff, even advertising staff, have lost their jobs. In many Canadian communities nothing is left of the local paper, a paper that may have been a going concern for more than a century. In many cases even the name of the local paper is but a memory.

But, unlike the big pickle maker the media giants have discovered economies of scale did not make it profitable.

End of Part One.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

More dining on a budget in retirement

As I have often said in the past, dining at home during retirement doesn't have to break the bank. Watch the sales and build the menus around these items. The little potatoes were not a dollar for enough for both my wife and me.

The small tomatoes were also on sale but I had to buy a big box of the things. I've been finding ways of including them in my dinners every night. I don't want to have to toss some because they were kept too long. Tonight I grilled all the vegetables after rolling the tomatoes and potatoes about in a little garlic flavoured olive oil.

The fish is sole purchased frozen at Costco packaged in a gigantic plastic bag of a size only Costco would carry. Each fillet is individually wrapped and none has any sign of frost-burn. We keep them frozen until needed and then let them thaw in a sink filled with cold water.

I put a layer of Sole fillets in a small baking dish, topped this with a tight row of asparagus and then finished off with another layer of Sole. I brushed all with olive oil combined with the zest from one lemon. I heated the oil mixture for a couple of minutes on the top of the stove before brushing on the sole and asparagus.

The romaine lettuce was, you guessed it, on sale. We bought a three pack and I cut one head in half tonight and grilled both halves after wiping each with a little oil and vinegar dressing. Before serving, I sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese on the fish and on the romaine plus I put a few chopped chives on the fish and added a squeeze of lemon juice. (My wife grows chives in her small garden. Chives grow like weeds. We will never run short when it comes to chives.)

And how did it taste? Good, very good. And like I said it didn't break the budge.

Thanks to the strong flavour of the Parmesan, the garlic and the asparagus, we decided our red house wine would go just fine. Recently, we got a few 4 litre boxes of Peller Estates French Cross blend on sale for $30.95. You may laugh but at that price we are only paying $5.80 for a 750ml of wine. That's the amount found in most bottles. Being old enough to recall the wines available in the '60s has its advantages. For us the wine quality bar is set awfully low.

That said, I do have a nice Chateauneuf Du Pape aging in the cellar. I'll crack it open when the time is right. And yes, I got it from the sale bin at the LCBO. It wasn't cheap but it wasn't all that expensive either. It had been knocked down in the double digits. It was the last bottle in the store and was being dumped to make room for more product. It will make a fine wine to serve guests.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Stuff I found of interest today: April 12, 2012

First Link

The London Free Press has often run stories maligning the healthcare in Canada. According to the local paper, generally the Americans are much better off than those of us north of the border. I contacted the source of one of the Free Press stories, the Commonwealth Fund, and they said their findings had been given a right-wing spin by the London paper. For that reason and others, I am quite interested in healthcare stories. Which brings us to my first link:

A new study shows, that the average life expectancy of the lowest-income classes in America is now equal to that in Sudan or Pakistan. Yes, in the United States being poor is so hazardous to your health. I assume some of the same rich-live-longer findings would also hold in Canada but would the spread be as dramatic?

Second Link

When it comes to retirement stories, I have begun following Wade Pfau. This fellow is not just another opinionated blogger. Pfau has credentials. Today, I am posting links to two of his posts:

Retirement income planning has emerged as a distinct field in the financial services profession. But because it is still relatively new, the best approach for building a retirement income plan remains elusive. There are two fundamentally different philosophies for retirement income planning. Pfau says one approach is probability-based while the other puts safety first.The second Pfau post to which I am linking is:

Retirement plans can be built to manage varying risks by strategically combining the following retirement income tools in different ways. You should be familiar with all these tools for creating a successful approach to retirement.

Crayola inspires everyone interested in art.

Third Link

Do you have children? Yes? Check the Crayola Website. I've granddaughters and the Crayola post is chock full of good ideas. I went to art school and I still found the Crayola site informative.

Today I learned about Koru painting created by the Maori people of New Zealand. Koru symbolizes new birth and growth. The colourful painting on the left shows fern plants ready to unfurl.

In the coming days I will post more links to the Crayola Website.

Monday, April 4, 2016

More than a dozen fruits, vegetables and nuts daily but no meat

Pasta with pesto, green beans, potatoes, broccoli, walnuts, pine nuts and more. 

Today was a no meat day. My doctors at the stroke prevention clinic have advised me to go meatless every other day. When I do have meat, it usually fish or chicken. Red meat is a once a month treat. Eggs are simply out. I have ice cream with cake on my birthday. My cholesterol levels are down across the board with the bad cholesterol down dramatically. The diet seems to be working.

The right ventricle of my heart is enlarged and the tricuspid valve is leaking. This is all the result of a genetic disease called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). It sounds bad but if one could choose which part of one's heart is going to fail, choosing the right ventricle is the right decision. The left side of my heart is in pretty good shape as I had the mitral valve repaired robotically some years ago.

The ARVC has disrupted the electrical system of my heart and left me requiring an ICD/pacemaker. An ICD is an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. If my heart should begin beating rapidly, it hit 300 bpm once, my ICD shocks the heart forcing it t return to its proper rhythm. I have only had about four shocks and they all were delivered a few hours apart. Such an event is called an ICD storm. My meds were increased and the problem has not returned.

My pacemaker is another matter. It runs almost 100 percent of the time. I have a complete heart block. I run on battery power. I'm a bit like a Tesla automobile. At some point the battery will need to be replaced. At that point, a new unit, complete with a new battery, is put into my chest.

With so much going wrong with my heart, I don't want to add traditional heart disease to the equation. I watch my fats, I eat lots of fresh fruit, lightly cooked vegetables plus a few nuts every day. My diet may be restricted but it doesn't feel that way. I actually eat a far more varied diet today than I did before my ARVC was discovered. I love food, I enjoy cooking and my diet makes me happy. 

Cooking new and imaginative creations is fun. The results, when they turn out, are a mixture of art and craft. When my wife and I sit down for dinner, the meals often look beautiful and taste wonderful. And our meals don't set us back a bundle either. We buy stuff in bulk when its on sale. We have a PC Points card and we try and buy the stuff with bonus points when those products are also on sale. We charge everything with a credit card that returns us one percent of the value of our food expenses. And we are not too proud to price match. 

We try to avail ourselves of every trick. It seems to work. My wife and I are both retired and yet our food expenses are not hard on our limited budget.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Treasures mark path to mindfulness

Most of those at the party missed the small bouquet of artificial flowers.  Not my
granddaughter. The six-year-old got my camera and saved the moment with a picture.

What does a Harvard Graduate School of Education article and a little six-year-old girl have in common? Answer: Both promote a positive approach to life reinforced by the seeking of small treasures in daily life.

The Harvard folk have a name for this: Mindfulness. One exercise to develop mindfulness is to remain constantly alert for small moments of beauty throughout one's day. My oldest granddaughter has a word for these beautiful things, these beautiful moments: treasures.

She constantly sees treasures in her world. She stops her little bike to pick up walnut shells split and emptied of  meat by a squirrels. She finds the intricate sculptural shapes inside, once secret but now revealed to the world by the hungry squirrels, beautiful and worthy of careful inspection. The shells grab her attention and make her smile as she rolls them in her hand to quietly inspect their inner beauty.

I have a small, orange pail filled with her collected shells. This pail makes me smile. The pail is one of my treasures